Prickly Ash
Xanthoxylum americanum

Parts used: Bark and berries

Constituents:Alkaloids (including berberine), coumarins, up to 4% volatile oils, resin, and tannin.

Actions:Circulatory Stimulant, Tonic, Alterative, Carminative, Diaphoretic, Hepatic, Sialogogue, astringent, and antiseptic.

Botany: Rutaceae (family)

The bark of the Prickly ash tree is one of the best tonic, alterative circulatory stimulants of the North American continent. It is quite safe, when used in small dosages throughout the day, for treating problems of deficient circulation, including chilblains, (a condition of the extremities, in which hot, irritated skin begins to itch, with skin eruptions and cracking of the skin ). This effect of circulatory stimulation warms the body, and so can help other "stuck", or "cold" energetic situations in the body, such as rheumatism, arthritis. Other injuries involving swelling, or wounds, which are slow-healing may also be helped because of improved peripheral circulation. Users of this herb will also begin to see improvement in problems of hemmorhoids, and vericose veins with continued use. Prickly ash bark helps ease the "full" or uncomfortable feeling associated with prostatitis (benign hypertrophy) and with pelvic congestion (of lymphatic origin) in both males and females.

Not only does prickly ash have a great stimulating effect on the cardiovascular system, but it is greatly stimulating to the entire lymphatic system, and thus encourages elimination of toxic metabolites from our bodies.

The volatile oils contained in the bark are probably mostly responsible for the carminative actions of prickly ash.. (actions which help stimulate better digestion). The berries are especially warming and relaxing quality to the upper digestive tract, and so can help in cases of colic, cramping, or stomach upsets. Prickly ash can help stop vomiting fairly rapidly (an effect for which the volatile oils are also mostly responsible.) .

The alcohol extract or the infused oil of Prickly ash can be used externally on joints to improve local circulation. Compounds of both of these forms, used externally, employing (for example), Ginger root, Orange sneezeweed root (Helenium hoopsii), Arnica, and Cinnamon, can help disburse fluids, or reduce pain in cases of swollen joints. The reasoning behind the effect is; if fluids are disbursed, and circulation is improved, then damaged tissue (no matter what the cause), can begin to heal more quickly, as waste products are removed, and oxygen and nutrients arrive.

Prickly ash can be chewed or the extract applied liberally to the teeth and gums to anesthetize a toothache. It can be applied externally as a poultice for helping to heal wounds, or resolving boils (combined with yerba mansa root, plantain leaf, and either finely ground kudzu root, or marshmallow root as a binder.)

Collecting: Collect after flowering, when berries are on the tree. Prune small,live limbs, and strip off the bark. Chop into small pieces. Collect some of the berries at the same time. It is fun to act as "nature's pruner", alleviating the need to kill the living tree to obtain this medicine.

Contraindications: Use either very sparingly or not at all in pregnancy, because of its stimulating properties.

Dosages: Infusion:

Pour 1 cup of boiling water onto 2 teaspoonfuls of the bark, and let steep for 15 minutes. This amount should be consumed three times each day,probably before meals, as it is a digestive aid.

Alcohol/Water Extracts:

This extract should be prepared at a 1:5 ratio, using 75% alcohol (and 25% purified or distilled water).

10-20 drops is taken before meals.


Encapsulate freshly-ground herb powder in size 00 capsules. 1 or 2 capsules are taken three times per day.

Note: Although this herb does not grow in the Southwest areas (yet), it is available through us from Ethical wildcrafters or organic growers. .

If you would like to see which forms of this herb we can supply and for pricing, check our our master herb table

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