Jamaica is known for its beautiful beaches, smiling people and sweet reggae music, but the little island offers much more than just the typical tourist scene. The Caribbean climate enlivens the growth of lush jungles and rich vegetation. With the plants comes the medicine, so it is no surprise that Jamaica has deep roots in bush medicine and herbal healing. One revered herb that comes to us from the Jamaican bush doctor is Piscidia erythrina, or Jamaican Dogwood.
Bush doctors used Piscidia for insomnia, pain, anxiety, nervous tension, acne, uterine disorders, hysteria, and neuralgias like sciatica, toothaches, and migraines. Also, it was used as an external wash for any skin complaint. To cure a headache, crushed leaves are tied around the head so one can inhale the essence. For a sprain, the leaves are beaten and tied around the injury as an anti-inflammatory.
Western medicine and Piscidia
Although currently underutilized by western medicine, many naturopaths and herbalist still use Piscidia today. Piscidia’s rich phytochemistry of isoflavones, glycosides, tannins, resins, organic acids, volatile oils, and β-sitosterol explain its versatile actions. Piscidia was also popular in early 20th century America amongst the Eclectic doctors who opposed “conventional” medicine’s use of harsh modalities such as bleeding, chemical purging, and mercury-based medicines. The Eclectics used Piscidia to control pain, especially if opium was not tolerated. It can reportedly even relieve cluster “suicide” headaches and migraines that are unresponsive to other medications.
Piscidia is also a strong antispasmodic because of its isoflavones. Studies show it reduces cramping better than any other botanical and is reportedly 20x stronger than the closest competition, Viburnum opulus. Eclectics found it relieved the spasmodic element of pertussis, asthma, violent whooping coughs, and bronchitis. It is a beneficial addition to cough syrups as it helps control nighttime coughing and promotes a restful sleep.
The Eclectics used Piscidia for all women’s woes. Conventionally, this is supported because of the isoflavones. It is recommended for dysmenorrhea and endometriosis, and especially when hormone imbalance is involved. Piscidia increases blood flow to relieve uterine stagnation, deliver nutrients, remove debris, and additionally reduces excessive flow by preventing small veins from breaking. For PMS, patient reports indicate Piscidia can be more effective than synthetic OTC drugs. The Eclectics recommended it paired with Viburnum for false labor pains and threatened abortion. Piscidia helps control erratic pains and promotes rest but does not interfere with normal uterine contractions. Piscidia synergistically harmonizes and promotes the effectiveness of other herbal uterine remedies like Cimicifuga, Viburnum, Senecio, Helonias, Pulsatilla, and Dioscorea.
Although no human studies have been conducted, animal studies report that Piscidia possesses weak cannabinoid and sedative activities, as well as antitussive, antipyretic, anti-inflammatory, and antispasmodic actions. In a comparative investigation on mice CNS activity, Piscidia erythrina produced pharmacological effects between the sedative action of Valeriana and the anti-anxiety activity of Passiflora. The sedative qualities can pacify an overactive nervous system to resolve insomnia, pain, irritation, anxiety, tiredness, and depression.
Jamaican Dogwood was also recommended for many other ailments – it increases secretions, strengthens a weak heart, slows the pulse, increases arterial tension, relieves burns, mites, scalds, eye afflictions, hemorrhoids, toothaches, periodontal membrane inflammation, and alveolar abscess. It was also given during any inflammatory fever and for rheumatism. Additionally, Piscidia’s isoflavones enhance vitamin and mineral absorption. β-Sitosterol is an anti-inflammatory and immunomodulating constituent that interferes with hyperplastic prostatic tissue growth factors and is supported by extensive research to relieve benign prostratic hyperplasia (BPH).
Like so many of our most powerful medicines, Jamaican Dogwood is potentially toxic. One should always consult a naturopathic doctor for proper dosing before adding it to any health plan.
Lindsay Chimileski grew up in Newtown, Connecticut. After graduating high school in 2005, she received her bachelor’s in Human Development and Family Studies from the University of Connecticut in 2009. Then she found her true calling, naturopathic medicine.
Currently, Lindsay is attending University of Bridgeport’s College of Naturopathic Medicine with anticipated graduation in 2013. She is studying Chinese Medicine and becoming a licensed acupuncturist as well. Lindsay also studies bush medicine with shamans and Rastas in the Jamaican jungle each spring. The naturopathic and acupuncture clinic at UB serves the community with affordable health care. It also reaches out through several satellite sites, including one in the greater Danbury area.
Lindsay is not a doctor and not giving any medical advice, just spreading the word of natural living, and the pressing health revolution. Lindsay is a citizen writer for NaturalNews.com and has her own blog at HarmoniousVibrations.Blogspot.com. Visit her blog for more health tips and information on naturopathic medicine.