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erbal Medicine Materia Medica

Jamaican Dogwood

© David L. Hoffmann BSc (Hons), MNIMH

Piscidia erythrina


Names: Fish Poison Tree.

Habitat: W. Indies and S. America.

Collection: The bark is collected in vertical strips from trees growing in the Caribbean, Mexica and Texas.

Part Used: Stem bark.


  • Isoflavones; lisetin, jamaicin, ichthyone, and therotenoids rotenone, milletone, isomilletone
  • Organic acids, including piscidic acid, its mono- and diethyl esters, fukiic acid and its 3'-0-methyl ester
  • Miscellaneous; [[beta]]-sitosterol, tannins
Actions: Nervine, anodyne, anti-spasmodic.

Indications: Jamaican Dogwood is a powerful sedative, used in its West Indian homeland as a fish poison. Whilst not being poisonous to humans, the given dosage level should not be exceeded. It is a powerful remedy for the treatment of painful conditions such as neuralgia and migraine. It can also be used in the relief of ovarian and uterine pain. Its main use is perhaps in insomnia where this is due to nervous tension or pain.

Ellingwood considered that "the agent, in doses from half a drachm to a drachm, will produce quiet and restful sleep, when the insomnia is due to nervous excitement, mental worry or anxiety, and in elderly patients, neurasthenics and children." In addition he recommends it for the following patholgies: pain, general distress, inflammatory fever, rheumatism, spasmodic cough, bronchitis, phthisis, dysmenorrhoea, intestinal colic, gall-stone colic, renal colic, labor pains, facial neuralgia, ovarianneuralgia, sleeplessness, delirium, hysteria, toothache.

Combinations: For the ease of insomnia it is best combined with Hops & Valerian. For dysmenorrhoea it may be used with Black Haw.

Preparations & Dosage: Decoction: put l teaspoonful of the root in a cup of water, bring to the boil and simmer gently for l0-l5 minutes. This should be drunk when needed.

Tincture; take l-2 ml of the tincture as needed.

About The Author
Whilst working in conservation and lecturing in ecology and the eco-crisis for the University of Wales, David Hoffman became convinced that to heal the world, to embrace planetary......more
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