Jamaican Dogwood: 4 Key Benefits, Dosage & Safety

Jamaican dogwood is an herb that has been used as a traditional remedy for hundreds of years. This herb has been used for treating nerve pain, insomnia, anxiety, and nervous …

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Written by: Daniel Powers, MS
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Jamaican dogwood is an herb that has been used as a traditional remedy for hundreds of years.

This herb has been used for treating nerve pain, insomnia, anxiety, and nervous tension.

So, what are the benefits of Jamaican dogwood, how does it work, and is it safe?

Read on below.

health benefits of Jamaican Dogwood

What is Jamaican Dogwood?

Jamaica dogwood, known as Piscidia piscipula, is a tropical tree that’s found in Florida, the West Indies, and throughout Central America.

This tree has a long history of use in traditional medicine and has been used for treating nerve pain, migraine, sleeplessness, anxiety, and nervous tension.

Today you can find Jamaican dogwood supplements readily available online or in stores. They are typically sold as a tinctured extract of the root bark.

Despite its long history as traditional medicine, there is limited modern research showing the benefits of Jamaican dogwood.

Health Benefits of Jamaican Dogwood:

Jamaican dogwood has been reported to be effective in treating nerve pain, anxiety, and insomnia.

While this herb has not been well studied in the lab, it does have a long history of traditional use.

benefits of Jamaican dogwood

1. May Help With Pain Relief

Jamaican dogwood is thought to have pain-relieving effects.

However, this herb has been minimally studied.

There is quite a bit of historical usage for pain relief as it was used heavily by Eclectic physicians who described it as follows:

“In susceptible patients, it will control pain and relieve general distress. It is distinctly a nerve sedative, and overcomes nervous excitability and also reflex irritability. It is an antispasmodic of much power in mild cases.” 


Jamaican dogwood has been used traditionally for reducing pain, although further research is needed to confirm this finding.

2. May Help With Insomnia

Jamaican dogwood is also known for its ability to induce deep, restful sleep.

One animal study showed that it has sedative activity and has the ability to influence the central nervous system.

This animal study also looked at other herbs like Valerian and Chamomile, they found that dogwood was in the middle between these herbs in its effects (a mix of sedative and anxiolytic effects).

It is mentioned in historical medical texts that it “relieves pain, overcomes spasm, allays nervous excitability, and induces sleep. It is a favorite remedy in prolonged insomnia, particularly in the aged, and in those of an excessively nervous temperament”.


Jamaican dogwood may be beneficial in promoting sleep. Human studies are needed to prove this finding.

3. Antispasmodic Properties

Jamaica dogwood has also been used historically for its antispasmodic effects.

Research shows that isoflavones contained within Piscidia have spasmolytic principles.

Eclectic physicians used this herb for individuals with asthma, reflexive coughs, and other types of spasmodic ailments.

Dogwood’s antispasmodic properties may help in the treatment of pain that involves constricted muscles, such as in low back pain.


Research shows that Jamaican dogwood may have antispasmodic properties.

4. Anxiolytic Properties

Jamaican dogwood appears to have the ability to influence and relax the nervous system.

This gives this herb its well-regarded anxiolytic (or nervine) properties.

The Eclectics noted that it’s a “nerve sedative, and overcomes nervous excitability and also reflex irritability”).


Jamaica dogwood may be beneficial in influencing and relaxing the nervous system, however, additional research is required to confirm these findings.
Jamaican dogwood health benefits

Jamaican Dogwood Safety:

Safety Class: Not defined

Interaction Class: Not defined

Jamaican Dogwood is a herb that should be used with great care. It should not be used by pregnant or nursing women.

The use of herbs is a time-honored approach to strengthening the body and treating disease. Herbs, however, contain components that can trigger side effects and interact with other herbs, supplements, or medications. For these reasons, you should take herbs with care, under the supervision of a qualified health care provider.

Jamaica dogwood can be toxic. Symptoms of Jamaican dogwood overdose include numbness, tremors, salivation, and sweating. Seek immediate medical attention if you experience any of these symptoms after taking Jamaican dogwood.

Pregnancy & Lactation:

Pregnant and breastfeeding women should never use this herb.

Possible Interactions:

Jamaica dogwood has rarely been studied in humans, so there are no known scientific reports of interactions between Jamaica dogwood and conventional medications. However, Jamaican dogwood has sedative effects and may increase the effects of other drugs or herbs used for insomnia or anxiety (called central nervous system depressants).

DO NOT take Jamaica dogwood if you already take medications for anxiety or insomnia.

There is some concern that Jamaican dogwood may combine poorly with anesthesia so discontinue use at least 2 weeks prior to scheduled surgery.


Tincture (1:5): 2–4mL as needed.

Decoction: Add 1 teaspoon of root to 1 cup of water and bring slowly to a boil. Let simmer for 10-15 minutes, then steep for 1 hour. Drink as needed.

Capsules (Dried Whole Root): 2-4 grams of dried root bark.

Jamaica dogwood root bark is sold in pieces about 1 to 2 inches in length and 1/8 inch in thickness. There is considerable variation in the chemical constituents of Jamaica dogwood from different geographic regions.

History & Traditional Use:

Jamaica dogwood is native to Central America, Florida, and the West Indies, and can now also be found in Texas, Mexico, and the northern part of South America. The plant’s characteristic pods bear four projecting longitudinal wings.

The bark is yellow or grayish-brown on the outer surface, and lighter colored or white on the inner surface. Jamaica dogwood’s distinctly acrid and bitter taste causes a burning sensation in the mouth, and the bark gives off an unpleasant odor.

Jamaica (or Jamaican) dogwood (Piscidia erythrina or Piscidia piscipula) has been used as a traditional remedy for treating nerve pain, migraine, insomnia, anxiety, fear, and nervous tension. As early as 1844, Western scientists discovered that Jamaica dogwood had pain-relieving and sweat-promoting properties.

It has been used throughout Central and South America as a fish poison. This herb also contains a substance known as rotenone that has been used in insecticides to control lice, fleas, and larvae. Rotenone is believed to be nontoxic to warm-blooded animals, including people (when taken orally). Because of the potential danger from Jamaica dogwood, you should never use it without a doctor’s close supervision.

The root bark is the medicinal part of Jamaica dogwood.


Jamaican dogwood is a potentially very useful natural supplement for those struggling with pain, insomnia, and anxiety.

However, it is a herb that needs to be dispensed with care.

Double-check with your healthcare provider prior to usage for best results.

1. Della Loggia, R., Tubaro, A., & Redaelli, C. (1981). Valutazione dell'attività sul S.N.C. del topo di alcuni estratti vegetali e di una loro associazione [Evaluation of the activity on the mouse CNS of several plant extracts and a combination of them]. Rivista di neurologia51(5), 297–310.

2. Della Loggia, R., Zilli, C., Del Negro, P., Redaelli, C., & Tubaro, A. (1988). Isoflavones as spasmolytic principles of Piscidia erythrina. Progress in clinical and biological research280, 365–368.

3. Ellingwood, F. (1919.). Piscidia, Piscidia Erythrina. Piscidia, Piscidia erythrina. | Henriette's Herbal Homepage. Retrieved October 4, 2021, from https://www.henriettes-herb.com/eclectic/ellingwood/piscidia.html.

4. Hoffmann, D. (2003). Medical Herbalism: The science and practice of herbal medicine. Rochester, VT: Healing Arts Press.

5. Mills, S., Bone, K. (2000). Principles and practice of phytotherapy: Modern herbal medicine. Australia: Elsevier.

6. Piscidia - Jamaica Dogwood. Piscidia.-Jamaica Dogwood. | Henriette's Herbal Homepage. (1898). Retrieved October 4, 2021, from https://www.henriettes-herb.com/eclectic/kings/piscidia.html

7. Vejux-Tyrode M. (1902). On the Active Principle of Jamaica Dogwood. The Journal of medical research7(4), 405–407.

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About Daniel Powers, MS

Daniel has a master's degree in herbal science from the Maryland University of Integrative Health. He has a passion for herbal medicine and how it can be used to support everyday health & wellness.

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