Jamaican dogwood (Piscidia communis, Piscidia erythrina, Piscidia piscipula)

While some complementary and alternative techniques have been studied scientifically, high-quality data regarding safety, effectiveness, and mechanism of action are limited or controversial for most therapies. Whenever possible, it is recommended that practitioners be licensed by a recognized professional organization that adheres to clearly published standards. In addition, before starting a new technique or engaging a practitioner, it is recommended that patients speak with their primary healthcare provider(s). Potential benefits, risks (including financial costs), and alternatives should be carefully considered. The below monograph is designed to provide historical background and an overview of clinically-oriented research, and neither advocates for or against the use of a particular therapy.

Related Terms

  • Barbasco (Spanish – Venezuela), beta-sitosterol, bois à enivrer (French), bois enivrant (French), bois ivrant (French), calcium oxalate, chijol (Spanish – Mexico), cocinte, corce de bois de chien (French), dehydromilletone, dogwood, dogwood Jamaica, ehijol, Erythrina piscipula, Fabaceae (family), fish catching coral tree, fish poison bark, fish poison tree, fishfuddle, fishfudle, fishpoison, fishpoison tree, fish-poison tree, flavonoids, flor de papagallo (Spanish), Florida fish poison tree, Florida fishpoison tree, fukiic acid, glucosides, guana hedionda (Spanish – Cuba), haabi, haabin, Ichthyomethia piscipula, ichthyone, isoflavones, isomilletone, jabin, Jamaica dogwood, Jamaica dogwood bark, Jamaica fish-fuddle tree, Jamaican cornouiller, javin, lisetine, malic acid, milletone, mulungfi, murungfi, palo de zope (Spanish – Guatemala), piscerythrone, piscidia, piscidic acid, piscidin, piscidine, piscidone, resin, resin alkaloid, rotenoids, rotenone, sinicuichi, succinic acid, sumatrol, tannins, tartaric acid, ventura, volatile oil, West Indian dogwood, zopilocuave (Spanish – El Salvador).

  • Select combination products: Women’s Best Friend™
    (Goldenseal Root; Jamaican Dogwood Bark; Wild Yam Root; Bladderwrack; Red Raspberry Leaf; Cramp Bark; Ginger Root; Hawthorn Leaf/Bark/Fruit; Arame; Dong Quai Root; Sarsaparilla Root; False Unicorn Root; Peony Root; Uva Ursi Herb; Blessed Thistle Herb; Protease; Rehmannia Root; Lobelia Leaf), Muscle Ease™
    (Magnesium 200mg, potassium 99mg, Jamaican Dogwood [Piscidia erythrina] bark extract 10mg, trace mineral blend [organic alfalfa and pure dulse] 90mg).

Background

  • The Jamaican dogwood tree is native to the West Indies, Florida, and Central America. Its scientific names include Piscidia communis, Piscidia erythrina, and Piscidia piscipula. The bark has a bitter taste and unpleasant odor. It is also called fispoison and fishfuddle because of its traditional use in slowing fish in order to make them easier to catch.

  • Traditional uses of Jamaican dogwood in medicine include pain relief, sedation, menstrual uses, psychiatric uses, gastrointestinal uses, and aid for labor. However, there is a lack of scientific evidence in support of Jamaican dogwood for any use at this time. Jamaican dogwood may be toxic and may cause breathing difficulties, drowsiness, muscular relaxation, and lack of coordination. Medicinal use of Jamaican dogwood is not recommended unless under the care of a healthcare professional.

Scientific Evidence

Uses

These uses have been tested in humans or animals. Safety and effectiveness have not always been proven. Some of these conditions are potentially serious, and should be evaluated by a qualified healthcare provider.

No available studies qualify for inclusion in the evidence table.

*Key to grades:

Tradition

The below uses are based on tradition or scientific theories. They often have not been thoroughly tested in humans, and safety and effectiveness have not always been proven. Some of these conditions are potentially serious and should be evaluated by a qualified health care professional.

  • Acaricidal (pesticide), alcoholism, antifungal, anti-inflammatory, antipsychotic, anxiety, asthma, blood flow disorders, boils (pain), bone fractures, bronchitis, cancer, childbirth, colic (all types), cough, decreased perspiration, delirium, diuretic (promotes urination), dysmenorrhea (painful menstruation), emotional distress, eye problems (eyeball pain), fever, gastrointestinal conditions, headache, hypnotic, insecticide, labor aid, mania, migraine, miscarriage (prevention), muscle relaxant, nerve pain, nervous excitability, neuropathy (nerve damage), pain relief, parasites and worms, renal colic, rheumatism, saliva stimulant, sciatica (leg pain or tingling), sedative, skin infections, sleep disorders, spasmolytic (antispasm), sweating (excessive), tic douloureux (painful facial spasms), toothache, ulcers, whooping cough.

Dosing

The below doses are based on scientific research, publications, traditional use, or expert opinion. Many herbs and supplements have not been thoroughly tested, and safety and effectiveness may not be proven. Brands may be made differently, with variable ingredients, even within the same brand. The below doses may not apply to all products. You should read product labels, and discuss doses with a qualified healthcare provider before starting therapy.

Adults (18 years and older)

  • The following doses have been used: 1-2 teaspoons or 1-4 grams of Jamaican dogwood root boiled in water and drunk when needed; 1-4 milliliters of Jamaican dogwood tincture taken three times daily or as needed; 5-20 drops or 1-2 milliliters of Jamaican fluid extract taken three times daily; 2-8 milliliters of liquid extract of Piscidio; 1-5 grains of solid extract of Jamaican dogwood; and 1-2 grams of dried Jamaican dogwood root bark or decoction three times daily.

  • To treat dysmenorrhea (painful menstruation), 10 drops of Jamaican dogwood has been given hourly.

  • To treat sleep disorders in elderly people or those who have anxiety, 0.5-1 drachm has been used.

  • However, experts recommend avoiding use of Jamaican dogwood in any person unless under the advice of a healthcare practitioner, due to evidence of harmful effects.

Children (under 18 years old)

  • To treat sleep disorders in children, 0.5-1 drachm of Jamaican dogwood has been used. However, experts recommend avoiding use of Jamaican dogwood in children due to evidence of harmful effects.

Safety

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration does not strictly regulate herbs and supplements. There is no guarantee of strength, purity or safety of products, and effects may vary. You should always read product labels. If you have a medical condition, or are taking other drugs, herbs, or supplements, you should speak with a qualified healthcare provider before starting a new therapy. Consult a healthcare provider immediately if you experience side effects.

Allergies

  • Avoid in people who are allergic or sensitive to Piscidia species, their parts, or members of the Fabaceae family.

Side Effects and Warnings

  • Avoid in any person, unless under the advice of a healthcare practitioner, based on evidence of harmful effects.

  • Jamaican dogwood may cause convulsions, drooling, impaired coordination, headache, increased blood pressure, muscle relaxation, nausea, numbness, paralysis, pupil dilation, reduced reflexes, shortness of breath, stomach distress, sweating, and tremors.

  • Drowsiness or sedation may occur. Avoid in people taking central nervous system depressants.

  • Avoid in people with high blood pressure or heart disorders, or in those taking agents that affect blood pressure or the heart.

  • Avoid in people with brain disorders or musculoskeletal disorders, or in those taking agents for these conditions.

  • Avoid in people with breathing disorders.

  • Avoid in people undergoing surgery. Use of Jamaican dogwood should be discontinued at least two weeks before surgery.

  • Avoid in people who are allergic or sensitive to Piscidia species, their parts, or members of the Fabaceae family.

Pregnancy and Breastfeeding

  • There is currently a lack of scientific evidence on the use of Jamaican dogwood during pregnancy or breastfeeding.

Interactions

Most herbs and supplements have not been thoroughly tested for interactions with other herbs, supplements, drugs, or foods. The interactions listed below are based on reports in scientific publications, laboratory experiments, or traditional use. You should always read product labels. If you have a medical condition, or are taking other drugs, herbs, or supplements, you should speak with a qualified healthcare provider before starting a new therapy.

Interactions with Drugs

  • Jamaican dogwood may increase the amount of drowsiness caused by some drugs. Examples include benzodiazepines such as lorazepam (Ativan®) or diazepam (Valium®), barbiturates such as phenobarbital, narcotics such as codeine, some antidepressants, and alcohol.

  • Jamaican dogwood may increase blood pressure. Avoid in people taking drugs that affect blood pressure.

  • Jamaican dogwood may also interact with agents that kill mites or tics, agents that may prevent skin disease, agents that may reduce anxiety, agents that may treat breathing disorders, agents that may treat eye disorders, agents that may treat heart disorders, agents that may treat stomach disorders, anesthetics, antispasm agents, muscle relaxants, and pain relievers.

Interactions with Herbs and Dietary Supplements

  • Jamaican dogwood may increase the amount of drowsiness caused by some herbs or supplements.

  • Jamaican dogwood may increase blood pressure. Avoid in people taking herbs or supplements that affect blood pressure.

  • Jamaican dogwood may also interact with anesthetics, antianxiety herbs and supplements, antispasm herbs and supplements, black haw, cramp bark, herbs and supplements that may prevent skin disease, herbs and supplements that may treat breathing disorders, herbs and supplements that may treat eye disorders, herbs and supplements that may treat heart disorders, herbs and supplements that may treat stomach disorders, herbs and supplements that kill mites or tics, hops, minerals, muscle relaxants, pain relievers, passionflower, valerian, and vitamins.

Author Information

  • This information is based on a systematic review of scientific literature edited and peer-reviewed by contributors to the Natural Standard Research Collaboration (www.naturalstandard.com).

References

Natural Standard developed the above evidence-based information based on a thorough systematic review of the available scientific articles. For comprehensive information about alternative and complementary therapies on the professional level, go to www.naturalstandard.com. Selected references are listed below.

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  2. Alonso-Diaz, M. A., Torres-Acosta, J. F., Sandoval-Castro, C. A., et al. Effects of four tropical tanniniferous plant extracts on the inhibition of larval migration and the exsheathment process of Trichostrongylus colubriformis infective stage. Vet.Parasitol. 5-6-2008;153(1-2):187-192. View Abstract
  3. Alonso-Diaz, M. A., Torres-Acosta, J. F., Sandoval-Castro, C. A., et al. In vitro larval migration and kinetics of exsheathment of Haemonchus contortus larvae exposed to four tropical tanniniferous plant extracts. Vet.Parasitol. 5-31-2008;153(3-4):313-319. View Abstract
  4. Auxence, E. G. A pharmacognostic study of Piscidia erythrina. Economic Botany 1953;7(3):270-284.
  5. Barker, J. E. Meletis C. D. Naturopathic pain management. Altern Complement Ther 2004;10:188-193.
  6. Caceres, A., Lopez, B. R., Giron, M. A., et al. Plants used in Guatemala for the treatment of dermatophytic infections. 1. Screening for antimycotic activity of 44 plant extracts. J.Ethnopharmacol. 1991;31(3):263-276. View Abstract
  7. Carapia-Ruíz, V. E. Descripcion de dos especies nuevas de trialeurodes cockerell (homoptera; aleyrodidae) de la peninsula de Yucatan, Mexico. Acta Zoológica Mexicana 2006;22(1):75-80.
  8. COSTELLO, C. H. and BUTLER, C. L. An investigation of Piscidia erythrina (Jamaica dogwood). J.Am.Pharm.Assoc.Am.Pharm.Assoc. 1948;37(3):89-97. View Abstract
  9. Della, Loggia R., Tubaro, A., and Redaelli, C. [Evaluation of the activity on the mouse CNS of several plant extracts and a combination of them]. Riv.Neurol. 1981;51(5):297-310. View Abstract
  10. Della, Loggia R., Zilli, C., Del, Negro P., et al. Isoflavones as spasmolytic principles of Piscidia erythrina. Prog.Clin.Biol.Res. 1988;280:365-368. View Abstract
  11. Fernandez-Salas, A., Alonso-Diaz, M. A., Acosta-Rodriguez, R., et al. In vitro acaricidal effect of tannin-rich plants against the cattle tick Rhipicephalus (Boophilus) microplus (Acari: Ixodidae). Vet.Parasitol. 1-10-2011;175(1-2):113-118. View Abstract
  12. Hoffmann, D. The Herbal Handbook: A User’s Guide to Medical Herbalism. Healing Arts Press 1988;
  13. Meolie, A. L., Rosen, C., Kristo, D., et al. Oral nonprescription treatment for insomnia: an evaluation of products with limited evidence. J.Clin.Sleep Med. 4-15-2005;1(2):173-187. View Abstract
  14. Yarnell, E. Abascal K. Botanical Medicines for Headache. Altern Complement Ther 2007;13(3):148-152.
  15. Yarnell, E. Abascal K. Spasmolytic Botanicals: Relaxing Smooth Muscle with Herbs. Altern Complement Ther 2011;17(3):169-174.

The information in this monograph is intended for informational purposes only, and is meant to help users better understand health concerns. Information is based on review of scientific research data, historical practice patterns, and clinical experience. This information should not be interpreted as specific medical advice. Users should consult with a qualified healthcare provider for specific questions regarding therapies, diagnosis and/or health conditions, prior to making therapeutic decisions.