Erythrina piscipula L.
Ichthyomethia americana (SessÃ© & Moc.) S.F.Blake
Ichthyomethia communis S.F.Blake
Ichthyomethia piscipula (L.) Hitchc.
Piscidia americana SessÃ© & Moc.
Piscidia communis (S.F.Blake) Harms
Piscidia erythrina L.
Piscidia inebrians Medik.
Piscidia toxicaria Salisb.
Robinia alata Mill.
Common Name: Jamaica Dogwood
Cultivated tree with a wide, dense crown
Photograph by: Jenny Evans
Jamaica dogwood is a large, deciduous shrub or tree growing up to 15 metres tall[
The tree is gathered from the wild and used locally as a medicine and source of timber. The root bark is also sometimes exported for medicinal use.
The plant is toxic - overdose symptoms include numbness, tremors, salivation, and sweating.
The bark and the leaves are used as a fish poison[
Central America - Belize and Guatemala, through the West Indies to Florida in S.E. USA.
Lowland forest or thickets, at elevations below 300 metres in Guatemala[
]. Mostly in rather arid areas on sandy or gravelly soils, or in woodland on limestone in Jamaica[
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The dry bark, especially of the root, contains a range of medically active compounds including isoflavones, organic acids, beta-sitosterol and tannins[
]. It contains various narcotic substances, one of which has been named piscidin[
]. The bark, especially that of the root, is reported to have a strong and disagreeable odour resembling that of opium, producing a burning sensation in the mouth[
]. The herb should be used with caution since it is toxic - overdose symptoms include numbness, tremors, salivation, and sweating.
The bark is analgesic, antispasmodic and sedative[
]. It calms mental activity and so is chiefly used in the treatment of insomnia and overexcitability[
]. It has also been used to treat muscle spasms (especially in the back); spasmodic respiratory ailments such as asthma and whooping cough; nerve pain; toothache and period pain[
An extract of the bark, applied locally, has been used to relieve toothache, and to cure mange in dogs[
The heartwood is yellowish brown, the sapwood gray[
]. The wood is close-grained, hard, very heavy, very strong and durable[
]. The grain is fairly roey; the texture medium[
]. The wood is rather difficult to work; takes a high polish[
]. It has been used for boat and vehicle construction, posts and piling[
The wood is used as a fuel and to make charcoal[
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