Jamaican Dogwood

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
Diseases: Neuralgia(3), general pain(3), insomnia(3), migraine(3)
Parts used: Bark


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 medicinal herb 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 is widely used by today as a strong herbal pain killer without the unfortunate side effects of opium and its derivatives.

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). He also writes, ‘It can be used in the relief of ovarian and uterine pain’. However, he mentions it’s main use is perhaps, ‘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 behavior 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: Jamaican dogwood is safe for most in reasonable doses, however, pregnant or breast feeding women never should use this herb. Also, in patients already taking sedative drugs, be extra cautious about dosage.

Dosage: 2-4ml of tincture 3 times daily.


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.

Hoffman, David. Holistic herbal. Element Books, 1988.