(NaturalNews) 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 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 compliant. 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 under utilized by western medicine, many naturopaths and herbalist still use it today. Piscidia's rich phytochemistry of isoflavones, glycosides, tannins, resins, organic acids, volatile oils and β-sitosterol explain it's versatile actions. Piscidia was also popular in early 20th century America amongst the Eclectic doctors who opposed "conventional" medicine's use of harsh modalities like 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 a strong antispasmodic because of the isoflavones as well. 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 because 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, especially with hormone imbalances. Also it increases blood flow to relieve uterine stagnation, deliver nutrients and remove debris. Piscidia 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. It 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 there are no human studies, 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 recommended for many other ailments as well. 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 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 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.
Sources for this article include 1. Hoffman, D. (2003). Medical Herbalism. Vermont: Healing Arts Press. 2. University of Maryland medical center: Medicinal Reference "Jamaica Dogwood" 3. Robertson, Diane. 1988. Jamaican Herbs: Nutritional and Medicinal Values. Jamaican Herbs Limited. Kingston, Jamaica. 4. Zampeiron, Eugene. 1999. The Natural Medicine Chest. Natural Alternatives Health, Education and Multimedia Inc. NY. 5. Grieve, M. (2010). A Modern herbal: Jamaican Dogwood 6. Brinker F. Herb Contraindications and Drug Interactions. 2nd ed. Sandy, OR: Eclectic Medical Publications, 1998 7. Newall CA, Anderson LA, Philpson JD. Herbal Medicine: A Guide for Healthcare Professionals. London, UK: The Pharmaceutical Press, 1996 8. Leung AY, Foster S. Encyclopedia of Common Natural Ingredients Used in Food, Drugs and Cosmetics. 2nd ed. New York, NY: John Wiley & Sons, 1996 9. 1995-2011 "Jamaican Dogwood" Therapeutic Research Faculty, publishers of Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database, Prescriber's Letter, and Pharmacist's Letter. 10. Costello CH, Butler CL . An investigation of Piscidia erythrina (Jamaica Dogwood) . J Am Pharm Assoc 1948 ; 37 : 89-96. 11. Aurousseau M et al. Certain pharmacodynamics properties of Piscidia erythrina. Ann Pharm Fr 1965 ; 23 : 251-257. 12. Della-Loggia R et al . Evaluation of the activity on the mouse CNS of several plant extracts and a combination of them . Riv-Neurol 1981 ; 51 : 297-310 13. University of Florida: Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences. Florida forest trees: Fishpoison tree (Piscidia piscipula) 14. 2001. Piscidia erythrina. ABC Homeopathy 15. Norton, K.J. 2009. Endometriosis and Piscidia erythrina. http://www.worldwidehealth.com 16. Eric Yarnell, Kathy Abascal. Alternative and Complementary Therapies. June 2007, 13(3): 148-152. doi:10.1089/act.2007.13306. 17. Felter, H.W., & Lloyd J.U. (1898) King's American Dispensatory: Piscidia. Jamaica Dogwood. 18. Ellingwood, F. (1919) American Materia Media, Therapeitcs and Pharmacognosy. Southwest School of Botanical Medicine, AZ. 19. Ayensu, E. (1981). Medicinal Plants of the West Indies. Reference Publications, Inc. Michigan. 20. Della, L., Zilli, C., Del Negro, P., Readaelli, C., & Tubaro, A. (1988). Isoflavones as spasmolytic principles of Piscidia erythrina. Progress in Clinical and Biological Research. Institute of Pharmocology and Pharmacognosy, Univerity of Trieste, Italy. 21. Yarnell, E. (2003). Photochemistry and Pharmacy for Practioners of Botanical Medicine. Healing Mountain Publishing. Washington.
About the author: Lindsay Chimileski: I am a graduate medical student currently pursuing dual degrees in Naturopathic Medicine and Acupuncture, expecting to graduate in 2013. I have a passion for health education, patient empowerment and the restoration of balance- both on the individual and communal level. I believe all can learn how to live happily, in harmony with nature and in ways that support the body's innate ability to heal itself.
Please note: I am not a doctor and not giving any medical advice, just spreading the word and love of natural living, and the pressing health revolution.
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