Herb: Prickly Ash


Latin name: Zanthoxylum americanum


Synonyms: Zanthoxylum fraxineum


Family: Rutaceae (Rue Family, Citrus Family)



Medicinal use of Prickly Ash:

Prickly ash is a warming, stimulating herb that is beneficial for the circulation. It was highly regarded by the native North American Indians who used it especially to alleviate rheumatism and toothache. All parts of the plant, but especially the bark and roots, contain the aromatic bitter oil xanthoxylin. This has a number of applications in medicine, especially in the treatment of arthritic and rheumatic conditions, digestive problems and leg ulcers. The fruit has a similar medicinal action to the bark. The bark and roots are irritant, odontalgic and antirheumatic. Along with the fruit they are diaphoretic, stimulant and a useful tonic in debilitated conditions of the stomach and digestive organs. They produce arterial excitement and are of use in the treatment of fevers, ague, poor circulation etc. The fruits are considered more active than the bark, they are also antispasmodic, carminative, diuretic and antirheumatic. The pulverized root and bark are used to ease the pain of toothache. One report says that it is very efficacious, but the sensation of the acrid bark is fully as unpleasant as the toothache. Chewing the bark induces copious salivation. Rubbing the fruit against the skin, especially on the lips or in the mouth, produces a numbing effect. A tea or tincture of the bark has been used in the treatment of rheumatism, dyspepsia, dysentery, heart and kidney troubles etc. A tea made from the inner bark has been used to treat itchy skin.

Description of the plant:



Plant:
Deciduous
Shrub

Height:
4 m
(13 feet)

Flovering:
May to
June


Scent:
Scented
Shrub

Habitat of the herb:

Found on upland rocky hillsides and on moist low-lying sites, in open woods, on bluffs or in thickets.

Edible parts of Prickly Ash:

Seed - cooked. It is used as a condiment. A pepper substitute. The fruit is rather small, about 4 - 5m in diameter, but is produced in dense clusters which makes harvesting easy. Each fruit contains a single seed.

Other uses of the herb:

The fruits have been used by young men as a perfume. Wood - soft. It weighs 35lb per cubic foot. Of little use.

Propagation of Prickly Ash:

Seed - best sown in a greenhouse as soon as it is ripe in the autumn. Stored seed may requires up to 3 months cold stratification, though scarification may also help. Sow stored seed in a cold frame as early in the year as possible. Germination should take place in late spring, though it might take another 12 months. 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 in early summer. Cuttings of half-ripe wood, July/August in a frame. Root cuttings, 3cm long, planted horizontally in pots in a greenhouse. Good percentage. Suckers, removed in late winter and planted into their permanent positions.

Cultivation of the herb:

Found on upland rocky hillsides and on moist low-lying sites, in open woods, on bluffs or in thickets.

Known hazards of Zanthoxylum americanum:

None known

Plant information taken from the Plants For A Future.