- Family Rutaceae
- Zanthoxylum americanum
- Toothache Tree, Yellow Wood/Yellowwood, Suterberry, Sootberry, False Hercules, False Hercules Club
- An overdose can lead to salivation, increased cardiac function, and elevated blood pressure.
- Do not use during pregnancy.
- Do not take internally if suffering from inflammatory stomach conditions.
Prickly Ash is a member of a temperate genus of trees and shrubs that inhabit Asia, Africa, and the Americas. It is a deciduous shrub, growing to ten feet with thorny gray branches and compound leaves. It prefers moist, shady sites as woodlands. The bark is harvested in the spring, while the berries are collected in summer.
Native North Americans chewed both the bark and the berries to alleviate rheumatism and toothaches.
The Mesquakie used four distinct parts of the plant: the bark of the trunk, the bark of the root, the berries, and the leaves. The bark and the berries are strong expectorants and used to make cough syrups, stop hemorrhages, and treat tuberculosis. The inner bark was boiled with the root of sarsaparilla and another undetermined root to make a tea that was drunk to gain strength during an illness. The berries were mixed with the insect gall of a plant, likely the Canadian Goldenrod, and a tea was made to cure kidney problems. The powdered inner bark was used to treat toothache.
The Comanches used the bark for fever, sore throat, and toothache.
Young Omaha men used the fruits as a perfume. The whole plant has the smell and taste like that of lemons.
The Illinois and Miamis used the bark to “draw off pus”.
It was used in the US during the 19th century as a circulatory stimulant and to treat arthritis.
The dried bark was officially listed in the US Pharmacopoeia from 1820 to 1926 and in the National Formulary from 1926 to 1947. The dried berries were listed in the National Formulary from 1916 to 1947.
- circulatory stimulant
- increases sweating
- mild stimulant
- alkaloids (chelerythrine, nitidine, laurifoline, tembetarine, magnoflorine, and candicine)
- lignans (asarinin)
- volatile oil
- Root bark, berries
- The action of the berries is similar to that of the bark; but, because their principles are more easily absorbed in the stomach, they are considered stronger.
- Anthoxylin is a diaphoretic.
The bark contains stimulants that act as a general tonic and invigorator. It is a true alternative that can be employed in a variety of conditions, especially that of glandular fever. It is also used for low blood pressure, rheumatic disorders, fever, and inflammation.
Ayuvedic medicine uses it for toothache, headache, eye and ear conditions, dyspeptic symptoms, colic, flatulence, worm infestation, diarrhea, fever, coughs, asthma, paralysis, and leprosy.
Western herbalists regard it as a prime remedy for rheumatic and arthritic problems. A tincture is used to stimulate the blood flow to painful and stiff joints, while promoting the supply of oxygen and nutrients to the area and removing waste products.
A decoction, combined with ginger, improves circulation in both intermittent claudication and Raynaud’s disease, conditions where the arteries of the limbs have narrowed, preventing sufficient blood reaching the hand or leg muscles. A lotion can be made from a decoction and rubbed on the legs or hands to improve circulation. Tablets are also available for the same purpose.
It is also used to relieve gas and diarrhea while toning the digestive system.
Topically, it is applied to leg ulcers and chronic pelvic inflammatory disease.
Southern Prickly Ash (Z. clavaherculis) also grows in the US and used interchangeably with the common prickly ash.
A Chinese species called Chuan jiao (Z. bungeanum) is given for “cold” patterns of illness causing abdominal pain.
In South Africa, Z. zanthoxyloides is the traditional West African herb for rheumatic conditions.