PRICKLY ASH (Zanthoxylum americanum) Bark
About this Herb
Prickly Ash is an intriguingly aromatic tree that grows to around 10 meters and, as its name suggests, is covered with very strong prickles! The berries are used in some herbal medicine cultures but most herbalists (including me) just use the bark of Prickly Ash. It is a most interesting herb to work with; the bark quills with yellow curls on its inner sides as if hinting at the potency of the medicine within
Prickly Ash has a rich history of use as a herb for aches and pains, particularly those that are bought about by aging, cold and poor circulation. Prickly Ash has especially been used for rheumatism and arthritis and it is for these kinds of chronic ‘cold’ conditions that it is still mostly used today.
The Native Americans also used Prickly Ash internally for aching joints and would also chew some of the inner bark to cure toothache which is obviously how it got one of its common names (see below for toothache remedy).
The Chippewa tribe made a strong tea of Prickly Ash which they used to bathe the legs and feet of sickly children or the elderly in order to give them additional strength to walk and move about more freely.
The Algonquin tribe would make a very strong tea of Prickly Ash by combining two cups of the fresh or dried herb into 2 litres of water and slowly simmering the mixture over a fire for an hour or so, uncovered, until the liquid had halved. They would then drink freely of this brew in order to work up a good sweat after which they would go and bathe in a nearby river or stream. It was said that this method never failed to give some lasting relief from the deep pain of rheumatism, joint stiffness, muscle paralysis or low back pain.
Prickly Ash also has traditional use to help with ‘stuck’ skin conditions marked by poor circulation, for example it has been used as an internal treatment to aid in the healing of skin ulcers and varicose eczema. Night cramps in the legs have been successfully helped with Prickly Ash in traditional herbal medicine.
In his book American Herbal Medicine, Charles Millspaugh writes about Prickly Ash tincture being used by physicians in the 19th century for patients suffering from peritonitis, distension of the bowels, severe abdominal inflammation and swelling, intense fevers like cholera, typhus and typhoid, and pneumonia. One tsp of the tincture was given in nearly a cup of water (sweetened with honey) each hour and about 12 times this amount was given by enema. ‘The action was prompt and permanent’ Millspaugh wrote, ‘Prickly Ash acted like electricity, so sudden and diffusive was its influence over the entire system. I consider the tincture of Prickly Ash to be superior to any form of medication I know of’.
H Felter writes ‘Prickly Ash impresses the secretions and the nervous and circulatory systems. The bark, when chewed, imparts a sweetish aromatic taste, followed by bitterness and persistent acridity; the berries act similarly. The drug has remarkable sialagogue properties, inducing a copious flow of saliva and mucus. The urine is decidedly increased by it. Swallowed, it warms the stomach and augments the secretion of the gastric and intestinal juices, and probably increases hepatic and pancreatic activity. The action of the heart is strengthened by Xanthoxylum, the pulse slightly quickened, and the glands of the skin are stimulated to greater activity’
F Ellingwood writes ‘Prickly Ash is a stimulant to the nerve centers, and through these centers it increases the tonicity and functional activity of the different organs. It is diffusible, producing a warm glow throughout the system and nervous tingling, as if a mild current of electricity was being administered. It has a direct tonic effect upon the heart, and it mildly stimulates the capillary circulation throughout the entire body, overcoming blood stasis and congestion. It is a remedy for catarrhal gastritis. In general atonic conditions of the digestive apparatus, combined with Hydrastis canadensis (Golden Seal), it has no superior. It has a powerfully tonic influence upon the stomach and digestion, and improves the general nutritive functions of the system’
The British Herbal Pharmacopoeia (BHP) describes the actions of Prickly Ash as ‘circulatory stimulant, diaphoretic, antirheumatic, carminative, sialogogue’. It says it is indicated for ‘cramps, intermittent claudication, Raynaud’s syndrome, chronic rheumatic conditions’ and specifically indicated for ‘peripheral circulatory insufficiency, associated with rheumatic symptoms’. The BHP recommends a dose of 1-3 grams or by decoction and a dose of 1-3 mls of the liquid extract.
Thomas Bartram writes that the actions of Prickly Ash include ‘alterative, bitter, antispasmodic, carminative, tonic, diaphoretic, positive diffusive stimulant to arterial and capillary circulation’. He suggests uses for it including ‘cramp, cramp-like pain in leg on walking, muscular rheumatism, arthritic tendency, Raynaud’s disease, temporal arteritis, toothache (chewed), improves circulation of blood through the brain’. Bartram recommends a tea from a quarter to a half a tsp (1/2 a tsp is about 1 gram) to each cup of water, simmered for 20 minutes, dose half to one cup, or 1-2 mls of the liquid extract.
PRICKLY ASH (Zanthoxylum americanum) Bark C/s
These ingredients have been tested and carefully selected by a certified herbalist.
All tonics, loose teas, herbal leaves, and powders should be refrigerated after seal is broken for longest potency and freshness of herbs. Herbal compounds such as tinctures and capsules doesn’t need to be refrigerated and should be stored in a cool, dark place out of direct light. These methods will guarantee the longest potency and freshness. All herbal compounds will have expiration dates on the item packages effective immediately. If Stored correctly these herbal compounds will last far longer than the recommended expiration date.
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