Latin: Piscidia piscipula
Parts Used: Root Bark
Taste/Energetics: Bitter, cooling
Properties: Diaphoretic, anxiolytic, sedative, antispasmodic, analgesic
Actions: This is one of my main go-to herbs for pain relief as it has a very marked and direct action that is deeply helpful and synergistic with other analgesic plants. Though it has a marked anxiolytic and even sedative property, I think of it primarily as an antispasmodic and pain relieving herb. It has traditionally been used to paralyze fish to make them easier to catch and that muscle relaxant effect is notable in humans as well. It has been noted to have a narcotic effect and I would imagine in large doses that is possible but I don’t find the effect nearly as strong or narcotic as opium. Otherwise I imagine hordes of people would have easily stripped the South East of all of this tree to turn into drugs at this point. As an analgesic it is quite useful for all types- including neuralgia, muscle cramping, arthritis, migraine, rheumatic complaints and especially for pain that keeps one up at night as it will have a sedative effect as well.
Herbalist SevenSong notes that it is quite useful for a wide variety of analgesic needs and is generally well tolerated with side effects being uncommon. He writes “For me, it is a classic first aid plant. It can be offered to someone soon after they arrive to a first aid station, even while still evaluating the extent of an injury and the dosage can be incrementally increased.”
Dosage: Growing in small parts of the South-East, Central America, South America, Jamaica and Caribbean islands, it is not a common tree and should be treated with respect and only purchased by ethical growers and harvesters. This plant is best taken as a tincture (fairly nasty as a tea) from 1-2 ml up to 3 x/day. As tea 2-4 teaspoons to pint of water decocted for 40 minutes to 2 x/day. Not an herb to be taken regularly- best taken intermittently. It provides symptomatic relief but the larger underlying pain issues should also be addressed.
Contraindications: Not to be taken with opiates, benzodiazapenes or other strong sedative and analgesic medications. Caution should be taken to avoid large doses for those with respiratory distress.
Jamaican Dogwood monograph by 7song