Benefits Of Prickly Ash (Zanthoxylum Americanum) For Health

Benefits Of Prickly Ash (Zanthoxylum Americanum) For Health


Prickly Ash (Zanthoxylum Americanum)


Prickly Ash (Zanthoxylum Americanum) is known as other name: Northern prickly ash, Angelica Tree, Clavalier, Clavalier d’Amérique, Clavalier à Feuilles de Frêne, Clavalier Frêne, Frêne Épineux, Frêne Épineux du Nord, Prickly Ash, Suterberry, Fresno Espinoso Americano, Pepper Wood, Suterberry, Prickly Ash, Toothache Bark, Toothache Tree, Xanthoxylum, Yellow Wood, Zanthoxylum, Zan...

The Prickly Ash tree is native to North America, where the bark of these American trees has been used as medicine for hundreds of years. The prickly ash or the Zanthoxylum americanum is a tall shrub that may also be described as a small tree and usually grows up to a height of twenty feet. The shrub is distinguished by its barbed stalks and branches. The leaves of the prickly ash are covered with fine hair like materials when they are young and as they mature they become smooth and have spots of resins on the outer surface. When the leaves of prickly ash are crushed, they give out a fragrance similar to the lemon. The shrub bears green colored flowers that appear in bunches on old wood prior to the leaves. Next, reddish brown coarse casings appear on the wood. These capsules enclose black seeds of the prickly ash and the seeds are spicy to taste. In fact, the prickly ash shrub may be found in the region ranging from Canada to Virginia and Nebraska.

Benefits Of Prickly Ash (Zanthoxylum Americanum) For Health
Prickly Ash (Zanthoxylum Americanum) Picture

Eastern Native American tribes valued Prickly Ash Bark as a means to stimulate saliva flow and as a remedy for upset stomach, sore throats, aching muscles, skin infections and other conditions. Native Americans went on to share this knowledge with the new colonists. Eclectic physicians in the United States around the nineteenth century continued the traditional uses of Prickly Ash Bark, primarily as a digestive aid and to strengthen the nervous system. Prickly ash is a great addition to a formula when a tonifying and supportive alterative is needed to rejuvenate the body. Prickly ash is often used to support normal circulation of blood in its vessels due to its inherent stimulatory effect on the body. As a result, it is often used as a supportive aid when more blood is needed in a certain area of the body.

Significantly, even today, numerous herbal medicine practitioners recommend the usage of prickly ash barks and berries as a medication for rheumatism.

Another intimately associated species of the prickly ash tree known as the Z. clava-herculis or the Hercules' club is also known to possess similar remedial properties as the original prickly ash tree or Z. americanum. This variety of the tree is also called the Southern prickly ash tree.

Benefits Of Prickly Ash (Zanthoxylum Americanum) For Health


As mentioned earlier, the prickly ash was initially used by the native North Americans as a medication to seek relief from toothache as well as cure rheumatism. During the 19th century, people in the United States used the prickly ash to induce the circulatory system. Later, it was also found to be helpful in treating arthritis and used it widely to cure the disorder. Between 1820 and 1926, the prickly ash bark was listed in the Pharmacopoeia of the United States (the official body that sets the standards for all prescription and over-the-counter medicines and other health care products manufactured or sold in the US).

Incidentally, most herbalists in the West considered the prickly ash as the main medication for treating arthritic and rheumatic problems. In addition to these therapeutic qualities of the prickly ash, the bark of the tree also helps in inducing flow of blood to the excruciating and stiff joints. By doing so, the prickly ash helps in providing additional oxygen and nourishments to the affected area. At the same time, it also helps in removing the waste materials from that particular region of the body.

Benefits Of Prickly Ash (Zanthoxylum Americanum) For Health
Prickly Ash (Zanthoxylum Americanum) Picture

The other therapeutic uses of the prickly ash include its application to treat disorders such as the dry mouth, tooth decay and toxic shock syndrome or circulatory failures caused by toxins. In addition, the prickly ash or medications prepared with the bark or berries of the tree are useful in relieving gas, curing diarrhea and toning up or neutralizing the digestive system. Externally, prickly ash is also applied to cure leg ulcers and insistent pelvic inflammatory disorder.

The prickly ash is a beneficial medication for treating intermittent claudication (cramping pains) and Raynaud's disease as it enhances the blood circulation in both conditions. This is crucial for the two conditions, which are known to narrow down the arteries in the affected limbs and prevent adequate blood flow to the hand and leg muscles.

Some people use prickly ash as a tonic, as a stimulant, and for “sweating out a fever.”

It is interesting to note that many Native American tribes along the eastern coast of the continent held the prickly ash in high esteem for its usefulness in treating disorders such as stomach upsets, painful throats, throbbing muscles and skin infections. In addition, the prickly ash bark was used by them to induce the secretion of saliva and cure various other ailments.

During the end of the 19th century, eclectic doctors (physicians who chose the best or preferred medication from a variety of sources) practicing herbal medicine in the United States carried on with the conventional use of the prickly ash as the key medication to treat digestive disorders, reinforce the nervous system as well as cure cholera. At the same time, herbalists intensively used the bark of prickly ash to treat rheumatic conditions. Considered to be an alternative in traditional herbal medication, the prickly ash is known to improve the body's aptitude to combat as well as recover from all kinds of physical problems.

It may be mentioned here that the prickly ash tree found in China, which is known as the Zanthoxylum simulans, also possesses the properties of its American relative and is widely used to treat different conditions. In addition to being an effective medication for human use, the Chinese prickly ash is also used to eliminate parasites.

Benefits Of Prickly Ash (Zanthoxylum Americanum) For Health
Prickly Ash (Zanthoxylum Americanum) Picture

Prickly Ash (Zanthoxylum Americanum) Side effects and cautions


Prickly ash bark might be safe for most people, but the potential side effects are not known.

Stomach or intestinal problems including ulcers, Crohn's disease, irritable bowel syndrome, infections, or other digestive tract conditions: Northern prickly ash can stimulate digestive juices and cause irritation. This can make stomach and intestinal problems worse. Do not use northern prickly ash if you have any of these conditions.

There are many herbalists and physicians who also advise that prickly ash or medicines prepared with it should be avoided by pregnant women as the use of the substance may induce menstruation resulting to the hazard of a miscarriage.