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Table of Contents > Herbs > Jamaica Dogwood
Jamaica Dogwood
Botanical Name:  Piscidia erythrina/Piscidia piscipula
 
Overview
Plant Description
Parts Used
Medicinal Uses and Indications
Available Forms
How to Take It
Precautions
Possible Interactions
Supporting Research

Overview

Jamaica dogwood (Piscidia erythrina/Piscidia piscipula) is best known as a traditional remedy for treating neuralgia (severe, stabbing nerve pain), migraine, insomnia, anxiety, fear, and nervous tension. As early as 1844, Western scientists discovered that Jamaica dogwood had pain-relieving and sweat-promoting properties. More recent scientific studies have also revealed that bark extracts of this plant have anti-inflammatory, sedative, and anti-spasmotic (helps relieve smooth muscle spasms along the digestive tract) effects in animals.

It is important to note that Jamaica dogwood is a highly potent herb with potentially toxic effects if used in large amounts. Jamaica dogwood has been used extensively throughout Central and South America as a fish poison. This herb also contains a substance known as rotenone that has been used in insecticides to control lice, fleas, and larvae. However, rotenone is believed to be relatively harmless to warm-blooded animals including people (when used at recommended doses).


Plant Description

Jamaica dogwood is native to Central America, Florida, and the West Indies, and can now also be found in Texas, Mexico, and the northern part of South America. The plant's characteristic pods bear four projecting longitudinal wings. The bark is yellow or grayish brown on the outer surface, and lighter colored or white on the inner surface. The Jamaica dogwood's distinctly acrid and bitter taste causes a burning sensation in the mouth, and the bark gives off an unpleasant odor.


Parts Used

The medicinal part of the Jamaica dogwood plant is the bark.


Medicinal Uses and Indications

Animal studies have shown that Jamaica dogwood may promote sleep, relieve pain, reduce smooth muscle spasms, relieve cough, and reduce fever and inflammation.

A professional herbalist may recommend Jamaica dogwood for the following health problems:

  • Anxiety
  • Cough
  • Dysmenorrhea (painful menstruation)
  • Insomnia
  • Headache
  • Nerve pain
  • Toothache

It is important to note that there has been little to no scientific research on Jamaica dogwood, so the safety and effectiveness of this herb is relatively unknown. Jamaica dogwood is a potent herb and should be used only under the guidance of a qualified healthcare professional.


Available Forms

The Jamaica dogwood root bark is sold in pieces about one to two inches in length and 1/8 inch in thickness. There is considerable variation in the chemical constituents of Jamaica dogwood from different geographic regions. Jamaica dogwood is also available in liquid extract and tincture forms.


How to Take It

Pediatric

Children should not use Jamaica dogwood.

Adult

  • Dried root bark: 1 to 4 g (or equivalent in decoction) three times daily
  • Fluid extract: (1:1 in 30% alcohol) 1 to 2 mL three times daily; or 2 to 8 mL per day (1:1 in 60% ethanol)
  • Tincture (1:5 in 45% ethanol): 5 to 30 drops (1 to 2 mL) three times per day

Precautions

The use of herbs is a time-honored approach to strengthening the body and treating disease. Herbs, however, contain active substances that can trigger side effects and interact with other herbs, supplements, or medications. For these reasons, herbs should be taken with care, under the supervision of a practitioner knowledgeable in the field of botanical medicine.

Excessive amounts of Jamaica dogwood can be toxic. Symptoms of Jamaica dogwood overdose include numbness, tremors, salivation, and sweating. Seek immediate medical attention if you experience any of these symptoms after ingesting Jamaica dogwood. Only trained and qualified healthcare providers who understand the pharmacology, toxicology, and proper herbal preparation of Jamaica dogwood should administer this herb.

Under no circumstances should this plant be used during pregnancy and breastfeeding. Elderly individuals should also avoid Jamaica dogwood.


Possible Interactions

Although there are no known scientific reports of interactions between Jamaica dogwood and conventional medications, this herb may intensify the sedative effects of some drugs used for insomnia or anxiety (collectively referred to as central nervous system depressants). Therefore, if you take medicines for sedation or anxiety, you should check with your physician before using Jamaica dogwood.


Supporting Research

Brinker F. Herb Contraindications and Drug Interactions. 2nd ed. Sandy, OR: Eclectic Medical Publications; 1998:86-87.

British Herbal Pharmacopoeia. 4th ed. Great Britain: Biddles Ltd, Guildford and King's Lynn; 1996:139-141.

Della Loggia R, Zilli C, Del Negro P, Redaelli C, Tubaro A. Isoflavones as spasmolytic principles of Piscidia erythrina. Prog Clin Biol Res. 1988;280:365-368.

Newall C, Anderson L, Phillipson J. Herbal Medicines: A Guide for Health-care Professionals. London, England: Pharmaceutical Press; 1996: 174-175.


Review Date: April 2002
Reviewed By: Participants in the review process include: Jacqueline A. Hart, MD, Department of Internal Medicine, Newton-Wellesley Hospital, Harvard University and Senior Medical Editor Integrative Medicine, Boston, MA; Gary Kracoff, RPh (Pediatric Dosing section February 2001), Johnson Drugs, Natick, MA; Enrico Liva, ND, RPh, Vital Nutrients, Middletown, CT; Steven Ottariono, RPh (Pediatric Dosing section February 2001), Veteran's Administrative Hospital, Londonderry, NH; David Winston, Herbalist (September 1999), Herbalist and Alchemist, Inc., Washington, NJ. All interaction sections have also been reviewed by a team of experts including Joseph Lamb, MD (July 2000), The Integrative Medicine Works, Alexandria, VA;Brian T Sanderoff, PD, BS in Pharmacy (March 2000), Clinical Assistant Professor, University of Maryland School of Pharmacy; President, Your Prescription for Health, Owings Mills, MD; R. Lynn Shumake, PD (March 2000), Director, Alternative Medicine Apothecary, Blue Mountain Apothecary & Healing Arts, University of Maryland Medical Center, Glenwood, MD; Ira Zunin, MD, MPH, MBA (July 2000), President and Chairman, Hawaii State Consortium for Integrative Medicine, Honolulu, HI.

Copyright © 2004 A.D.A.M., Inc

The publisher does not accept any responsibility for the accuracy of the information or the consequences arising from the application, use, or misuse of any of the information contained herein, including any injury and/or damage to any person or property as a matter of product liability, negligence, or otherwise. No warranty, expressed or implied, is made in regard to the contents of this material. No claims or endorsements are made for any drugs or compounds currently marketed or in investigative use. This material is not intended as a guide to self-medication. The reader is advised to discuss the information provided here with a doctor, pharmacist, nurse, or other authorized healthcare practitioner and to check product information (including package inserts) regarding dosage, precautions, warnings, interactions, and contraindications before administering any drug, herb, or supplement discussed herein.

 
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Anxiety
Cough
Insomnia
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Migraine Headache
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