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DISCLAIMER: These pages are presented solely as a source of INFORMATION and ENTERTAINMENT and to provide stern warnings against use where appropriate. No claims are made for the efficacy of any herb nor for any historical herbal treatment. In no way can the information provided here take the place of the standard, legal, medical practice of any country. Additionally, some of these plants are extremely toxic and should be used only by licensed professionals who have the means to process them properly into appropriate pharmaceuticals. One final note: many plants were used for a wide range of illnesses in the past, but be aware that many of the historical uses have proven to be ineffective for the problems to which they were applied.

aka Chinese Sumac, Copal Tree, Stinktree, Tree of Heaven, Tree of the Gods, Varnish Tree, Vernis de Japon
(Ailanthus altissima syn A. glandulosa)
Also: A. imberiflora (Australia) and A. excelsa (India)

CAUTION: Gardeners who cut these trees may suffer from rashes.

CONTAINS: Three antimalarial compounds. Lignin, chlorophyll, quassin, resin, traces of volatile oil, several salts, starch, tannin, albumen, gum, sugar, oleoresin, potash, phosphoric acid, sulphuric acid, iron, lime and magnesium. Also contains quassinoids similar to those of Quassia amara.

Native to China. The female trees are used as ornamentals as the male flowers have an upleasant odor. The leaves, when crushed, emit an unpleasant odor. Once classified as Rhus. Is considered a weed in Australia. Each leaflet has 2 glandular-tipped teeth at the base of the underside.

PROPAGATION: By seed sown in fall (germination may be slow); by suckers or root cuttings in winter.
NEEDS: Well-drained soil and full sun to partial shade. Those plants grown as shrubs should be cut back hard in spring to encourage large leaf growth. Tolerates urban conditions.
HARVEST: Inner bark [CHUN PI] is taken in spring and dried for decoctions and tinctures (the fresh bark has a sickening odor and a nauseatingly bitter taste.); root bark; fruits.


NOTE: In Western herbalism it is used for excessive menstruation, but in Chinese medicine it is used for scanty menstruation. No explanation is available.

Bitter (extremely so), astringent, antispasmodic, cardiac depressant, febrifuge, strongly emetic.
Used to lower fever, relax spasms, slow heart rate.
Used internally for malaria, asthma, palpitations, diarrhea, dysentary, hemorrhoids, tapeworms
In Chinese medicine used for dysentary, diarrhea, vaginal discharge, piles, bloody stools, premature ejaculation, and tapeworm (2 oz. bark infused in 1 quart hot water and given by the teaspoonful).
Also used for gonorrhea and leucorrhea.
Used like Eucalyptus for malaria.
Small doses of the oleoresin have been used for dysentary and bowel complaints.
Tincture of the root bark has been used for cardiac palpitations, asthma and epilepsy.
Infusions are often given in orange water or other sweet floral water to lessen the bitterness and resultant sickness.
In India, the bark of the variety A. excelsa has been used as a bitter tonic.

All others buy commercial preparations and follow directions carefully.
Powder = 7 to 20 grains.
Tincture = 5 to 60 drops 2 to 4 times daily.
Infusion = 1 tsp taken cold night and morning (infusion: 50 grams of root bark infused briefly in 75 grams of hot water and then strained).

Leaves were once used as a yellow dye for wool and to make paper.

This species provides a shelter for beneficial insects (thus attracts) lacewings which feed on aphids and mealy bugs. Wood is suitable for cabinet making. Once cultivated in France for its leaves which were fed to the silk-spinning Ailanthus moth (Bombyx Cynthia) which yielded a durable cheap silk although was considered inferior in gloss and fineness of fabric.

At times the leaves have been used to adulterate Senna.

©2000 by Ernestina Parziale, CH