Herb: Ash


Latin name: Fraxinus excelsior


Family: Oleaceae (Olive Family)



Medicinal use of Ash:

The leaves are astringent, cathartic, diaphoretic, mildly diuretic, laxative and purgative. The have been used as a laxative, making a mild substitute for senna pods. The leaves should be gathered in June, well dried and stored in airtight containers. The bark is antiperiodic, astringent and a bitter tonic. Little used in modern herbalism, it is occasionally taken in the treatment of fevers. The seeds, including their wings, have been used as a carminative. They will store for 12 months if gathered when ripe.

Description of the plant:



Plant:
Deciduous
Tree

Height:
30 m
(98 feet)

Flovering:
April
to May

Habitat of the herb:

Forming woods on calcareous soils in the wetter parts of Britain, also in oakwoods, scrub, hedges etc. It is also often found on acid soils.

Edible parts of Ash:

Immature seed - usually pickled by steeping in salt and vinegar, and then used as a condiment for other foods. The leaves are sometimes used as an adulterant for tea. A manna is obtained from the tree. No further details are given. An edible oil similar to sunflower (Helianthus annuus) oil is obtained from the seed.

Other uses of the herb:

A green dye is obtained from the leaves. The bark is a source of tannin. A tying material can be obtained from the wood (does this mean the bark?). Very tolerant of extreme exposure and relatively fast growing, though often windshaped in exposed positions, it can be grown as a shelterbelt tree. However, it is late coming into leaf and also one of the first trees to lose its leaves in the autumn and this makes it less suitable in a shelter belt. Wood - hard, light, flexible, strong, resilient. A very valuable wood, it is much used for tool handles, oars, furniture, posts etc. An excellent fuel, burning well even when green. There is some doubt over how well the green wood burns with several people claiming that it needs to be properly seasoned.

Propagation of Ash:

The seed is best harvested green - as soon as it is fully developed but before it has fully dried on the tree - and can then be sown immediately in a cold frame. It usually germinates in the spring. Stored seed requires a period of cold stratification and is best sown as soon as possible in a cold frame. Approximately 5% of stored seed will germinate in the first year, the remainder germinating in the second year. Prick out the seedlings into individual pots when they are large enough to handle and grow them on in a cold frame for their first winter. Plant them out into their permanent positions or a nursery bed in late spring or early summer of the following year. If you have sufficient seed then it is possible to sow it directly into an outdoor seedbed, preferably in the autumn. Grow the seedlings on in the seedbed for 2 years before transplanting either to their permanent positions or to nursery beds. Cuttings of mature wood, placed in a sheltered outdoor bed in the winter, sometimes strike.

Cultivation of the herb:

Forming woods on calcareous soils in the wetter parts of Britain, also in oakwoods, scrub, hedges etc. It is also often found on acid soils.

Known hazards of Fraxinus excelsior:

Poisonous to ruminants, it has also caused dermatitis in some people.

Plant information taken from the Plants For A Future.