This week, we'll be exploring the properties of the Jamaican Dogwood. The Latin name for this plant is Piscidia piscipula. It's other names include: Chijol, Fish Poison Bark, Fishfuddle, Fish-Poison Tree, Jabín, Jamaican Cornouiller, Piscidia, West Indian Dogwood. Jamaican dogwood has been used by bush doctors as a traditional remedy for nerve pain, migraines, insomnia, and nervous tension. It was also used as an external wash for any skin compliant. To cure a headache, crushed leaves are tied around the head so one can inhale the essence. As early as 1844, Western scientists discovered that Jamaica dogwood had pain relieving properties.
The Jamaican dogwood is potentially toxic, and has been used throughout Central and South America as a fish poison. In its native lands it is also known as the "Fish poison tree", because the bark and leaves contain a substance that is toxic to fish and amphibians, though not to humans. It affects the fish by inhibiting the fish's ability to absorb oxygen from the water, which quickly kills them, thus making them an easy catch. This herb also contains a substance known as rotenone that has been used in insecticides to control lice, fleas, and larvae.
Jamaican Dogwood is a tropical tree of the pea family. It grows best in warm tropical climates, and is native to Central America, Florida, and the West Indies. It can now also be found in Texas, Mexico, and the northern part of South America.
The tree grows at an average of 12 to 15 meters in height, produces white flowers tinged with red or pink, and has deciduous leaves. The bark is thing and olive gray in color with irregular dark patches. The bark also has an unpleasant odor and a bitter taste. For medicinal purposes only the bark is use.
The main effects of the Jamaican dogwood tree are in relieving pain and anxiety. It has also been found to be helpful specifically with menstrual cramping, conditions relating to fear, nerve pain, migraines, and insomnia.
Jamaican dogwood is usually taken in tea, by tincture, or by fluid extract.
Ailments which indicate treatment with Jamaican dogwood include: toothache, asthma, anxiety, fear related conditions, menstrual cramps, nerve pain, migraines, insomnia
The use of herbs is a time-honored approach to strengthening the body and treating disease. Herbs, however, can trigger side effects and may interact with other herbs, supplements, or medications. For these reasons, you should take herbs with care, under the supervision of a health care provider.
It is not recommended to take Jamaican dogwood if you are pregnant or breast-feeding; if you are taking a narcotic; if you are taking other conflicting prescriptions, or if you are going into surgery.
Latin Name: Piscidia piscipula
Medicinal Actions: Analgesic, Anti-inflammatory, Antispasmodic, Nervine, Sedative
Indications: anxiety, insomnia, asthma, toothache, fear related conditions, menstrual cramps, nerve pain, migraines
Contraindications: While pregnant or breast-feeding; concurrently with prescription drugs or psychiatric medications; going into surgery.
University of Maryland – Jamaican Dogwood
- Jamaican Dogwood Tea -
Cut and chopped Jamaican Dogwood bark
Cut and chopped Sarsaparilla
½ teaspoon Jamaican Dogwood with ½ teaspoon of Sarsaparilla to 1 cup hot water.
Bring to slow boil in closed container.
Add a pinch of cinnamon for flavor
Let simmer for 10 minutes.
Turn off and allow to infuse until cool enough to drink
Drink up to 2 cups a day
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