Common name: Jamaican dogwood
Other names: Florida fishpoison tree, fishfuddle
Latin name: Piscidia erythrina
Affinity: Nervous system
Actions: Hypnotic, nervine, analgesic, anodyne, antispasmodic, sedative
Specific indications: Sharp shooting pains, chronic pain, insomnia associated with severe pain, muscle spasms
Diseases: Neuralgia(3), sciatica(3), insomnia(3), migraine(3)
Parts used: Bark
Energetics: Cooling, drying
Characteristics: Jamaican dogwood is a tree native to the West Indies and the adjacent mainland, also found in Mexico, Florida, Texas, and the Northern portion of South America (Costello et al., 1948). It prefers coastal zones and well drained sandy soils.
History: The herb has an extensive history of use by the Jamaicans’ as a medicine for pain and insomnia (Costello et al., 1948). The fish that are poisoned by Jamaican dogwood are not effected in terms of edibility or taste. It is an ingredient of the Mexican native sedative tea named ‘Sinicuichi’. It has been known by European herbalists for some time and featured in the German drug book volume 5 in 1930. The herb was also used by the Eclectic’s in the 19th century, and in King’s American Dispensatory (Felter and Lloyd, 1898), Jamaican dogwood’s specific indications are; insomnia and nervous unrest; to allay spasm, control pain and allay nervous excitability; migraine; neuralgia. It is also written in this text, ‘(Jamaican dogwood) has rendered good service in neuralgia—particularly sciatica, abdominal neuralgia, renal neuralgia, migraine, and tic-douloureux. It allays the pain of cholera morbus, and the gastro-enteralgia sometimes following enteric fever. It also relieves painful spasms of the muscles and acute articular and other forms of rheumatism’.
Current applications: David Hoffman in his book, Holistic Herbal, states it is a powerful remedy for the treatment of painful conditions such as neuralgia and migraine (Hoffman, 1988). It can be used in the relief of ovarian and uterine pain. However, it’s main use is in insomnia where this is due to nervous tension or pain.
Science: Research is quite inactive into Jamaican dogwood and only a little basic work has been done examining its behaviour in vivo models (Costello et al., 1948), the studies are old (mostly done around the early 1900s). In vivo models it acts as a sedative similar to humans. Apparently relative to the toxicity to fish, it has a comparatively lesser toxicity to rats. There is no known toxicity in humans.
Safety: Moderate. Pregnant or breast feeding women never should use this herb. Also, in patients already taking sedative drugs, be extra cautious about dosage.
Dosage: 10-60 drops of tincture, 2-4 times daily. Start low.
Costello, Christopher H., and Calvin L. Butler. “An investigation of Piscidia erythrina (Jamaican dogwood).” Journal of the American Pharmaceutical Association 37.3 (1948): 89-97.
Felter, Harvey and Lloyd, John. King’s American Dispensatory, 1898.
Hoffman, David. Holistic herbal. Element Books, 1988.