pricklyash large Prickly ash

Prickly ash| Zanthoxylum americanum

general characteristics

general characteristics

Common names include common prickly ash, Northern prickly ash, toothache tree, toothache bark, yellow wood.

It is a large aromatic deciduous shrub/small tree growing up to 33 feet high (10 metres) with greyish bark and thorn like projections, a native of North America. It is not related to the Ash tree (Fraxinus) but is in the Rutaceae or citrus family. I presume the 'ash' of its name refers to the similarity of its leaves to those of true ash trees  It produces flowers of yellow to reddish colour in little umbles along its branches which ripen into deep red berries. The leaves which, have an ash like appearance, have a citrus smell when crushed.


it has a long tradition of use as medicine with many Native American tribes.


The Chinese condiment Szechuan pepper consists of the dried fruits of prickly ash species such as Z.simulans and Z.bungeanum.


Organic prickly ash dried bark and tincture are available to buy in our herbal shop.

harvesting and preparation

harvesting and preparation

The bark is peeled off the branches in spring and cut into small pieces before drying and storing. as always when collecting bark from trunks or branches, never strip bark in rings around the entire structure as it will cause that branch (or worse, the trunk)  to die.

When I gather bark, I like to 'prune' off a few low hanging branches with sharp secateurs and then strip all the bark from them. That way no part of the living tree is open to damage.

Organic prickly ash dried bark and tincture are available to buy in our herbal shop.


therapeutic actions and uses

therapeutic actions and uses

Prickly ash is perhaps best known as a warming, diffusive circulatory stimulant. It promotes blood flow to the peripheral blood vessels and encourages lymph fluids to flow freely. It is also a mild stimulant tonic to the nerves and is a useful remedy for people recovering from a long illness where weakness and frailty are an issue.

Besides its individual medicinal properties, it is a very useful addition to herbal formulas for enhancing and stimulating the actions of other medicinal herbs where it acts as a kind of booster or catalyst.

Prickly ash bark can be useful in many cardiovascular disorders as it increases blood flow to peripheral blood vessels and capillaries (it is a potent vasodilator), alleviating blood stasis and congestion and may help dilate blood vessels somewhat in arteriosclerosis. Hypothermia, cold extremities, Raynauds disease, chilblains, intermittent claudication, varicose veins and haemorrhoids can all be helped with prickly ash. It also has a tonic action on the heart and can help to raise low blood pressure and a decent remedy for those prone to fainting/syncope.

Prickly ash tincture, when combined in equal quantities with ginkgo tincture, can help improve blood flow in sickle cell anaemia.

Improved blood flow to and from the brain can help the symptoms of chronic fatigue syndrome.

It is a good remedy to add to formulas for fevers and to promote sweating.

It is a useful nerve tonic and stimulant and can benefit conditions such as nerve pain (neuralgia), nerve inflammation/neuritis, nerve damage from crushing injuries, numbness and paralysis and multiple sclerosis. Sciatica and pain from disc damage can also be helped.

Pains in the musculoskeletal system caused by conditions such as rheumatism, arthritis, lumbago and back pain may be helped, along with spondylitis, carpal tunnel syndrome, repetitive strain injuries, gout and bursitis.

It increases saliva flow and can help to alleviate a dry mouth. When the bark is chewed it produces a tingling sensation in the mouth and  warmth in the stomach. It was often used as a warming digestive tonic by certain Native Americans.

Prickly ash can provide effective pain relief for toothache,, chew the bark or dab tincture on the teeth for symptomatic relief. The increase in saliva flow also benefits the overall health of the mouth and gums.

Anti-fungal against a broad range of fungal infections including candida and aspergillus.

Ulcers and other skin conditions can benefit from prickly ash as it brings out rashes and speeds up resolution in rash producing infections such as measles. Can be quite drying to the skin so be aware. This drying action can have a positive outcome for healing wet ulcers on the skin and varicose eczema.

Bark tea or tincture can be applied externally to cellulite to enhance circulation of blood and lymph.

Prickly ash bark can be helpful in certain sexually transmitted infections such as gonorrhea and syphilis.

A comprehensive article on prickly ash can be found here.

Another good artcile on native American historical uses of prickly ash bark and berries can be found here.





dosage and cautions

dosage and cautions

* Avoid during pregnancy and breast feeding.

* Avoid with severe digestive inflammation or internal ulcers.

* Use with caution if taking anticoagulant or blood thinning medications.

* Link to info on prickly ash interactions with other drugs/herbs.



Tincture: around 5-10 drops (maximum of 60) or 2 - 5 ml up to 3 times daily in a little water.

Dried herb in tea form: .1/4 - 1/2 a teaspoon of bark simmered in a cupful of water for 20 mins. Up to 3 cups daily.

Both tincture and tea can be applied externally also.

Add 12 to the child’s age. Divide the child’s age by the total.
E.g. dosage for a 4 year old...... 4 {age} divided by 16 {age + 12} = . 25  or 1/4 of the adult dosage.





Child watering plants




© the wild pharma 2013 | tel: +044 [0]1435 831 525 | email : This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. | Terms of using this website