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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.

Ash, PricklyAsh, Prickly OtherAsh, Prickly Southern

aka Angelica tree, Northern Prickley Ash, Pellitory Bark, Suterberry, Toothache tree, Yellowwood
(Zanthoxylum americana syn Xanthoxylum americanum) [Mill]
(Xanthoylum fraxineum) [Willd]
(Xanthoxylum Carolinianum) [Lamb]

NOT to be confused with tree ashes (Fraxinus species) and not to be confused with "Prickly ash" (Aralia spinosa).


CONTAINS: Alkaloids (chelerythrine [anti-microbial and fagarine], magnoflorine, nitidine, lauroflorine), coumarins, lignans (one is asarinin which has anti-tuberculosis properties), fat, sugar, gum acrid resin, a bitter alkaloid (possibly berberine) and xanthoxylin. Berries contain a volatile oil.

A temperate zone genus of trees and shrubs of the Americas, Africa and Asia. The North American species are mainly the ones employed as medicines. A member of the Rue family (same family as bitter orange). It is native to North America, from east to central Canada, and the United States to Alabama and Georgia.
An aromatic shrub or small tree with short paired spines, compound leaves with 5-11 leaflets (hairy when young and smooth when old with resinous dots), tiny greenish-yellowish flowers appearing in April-May on last year's wood before the leaves appear, and fruit with red-greenish berries covered with lemon scented dots which appear in August-October. It is found growing in moist woods, thickets, along river banks. A traditional Native American remedy for toothache, it was introduced into mainstream medicine in 1894 by John Nash who used it for typhus and cholera epidemics (tincture of the berries was also used both in typhoid pneumonia and in typhyus fever). The bark and berries were included in the list of Canadian medicinal plants of 1868. It was widely used during the 1849-50 epidemics of Asiatic cholera and typhus. It was official in the US Pharmacoepaea from 1820-1926 and in the NF from 1926-47. Berries were official in the NF from 1916-47. It is often combined with Z. clava-herculis (Southern Prickly Ash) as they have similar properties. It was once part of "Trifolium Compound" used to treat syphilis and speed up tissue repair and was once included in "Hoxey's Cancer Cure". In Vedic medicine it is considered "fire + air" .
Astrologically ruled by Mars.
The name is taken from the Greek "xanthos" meaning yellow and "xylon" meaning wood.

PROPAGATION: By seed in autumn or root cuttings in late winter.
NEEDS: Fertile soil in sun or shade. Remove deadwood and cut back in late winter or early spring. Rarely bothered by pests.
HARVEST: Bark is stripped in spring and dried for use. Fruits are collected in summer and dried for later use.
PART USED: Bark (acrid, pungent, aromatic) and fruit (berries are stimulating, antispasmodic and carminative, acting mainly on mucous tissue and obstructions in all parts of the body.)
SOLVENT: Boiling water and dilute alcohol.


NOTE: Acts slower than cayenne but the effects are longer lasting when taken in small and frequent doses. Believed to be similar in action as mezereum and guaiacum and is taken for the same complaints. Possible direct nervous system stimulant possible, operating on the pituitary-hypothalamic pathway and action may be achieved through stimulation of the glandular system. Added as a stimulant to herbal combinations believing it to be superior to cayenne, black pepper and ginger. As a stimulant astringent is similar to bayberry bark. Spicy, warm, diffusing. Was once popular to stimulate mucous surfaces, bile and pancreas activity.

Bark induces good free capillary and arterial circulation, stimulates the stomach, the lymphatics, the serous and mucous membranes and, when chewed, the salivary glands. Affects spleen, stomach and kidneys. Berries and seeds are considered slightly more stimulant than the bark and considered to be more easily absorbed by the stomach, thus stronger in action.
Berry tea has been used for sore throats, tonsillitis and as a diuretic.
Has been used when skin extremities are cold and in chronic conditions like rheumatism, neuralgia, and paralysis. Improves circulation to the hands and feet while bringing a sense of warmth to the stomach and intestines due to increased blood supply; helps poor or weak digestion with swollen abdomen and flatulence. Has also been used for cramps.
Spicy, warming, stimulant, carminative, tonic, diaphoretic (promotes perspiration and is due to the presence of zanthoxylin), alterative, general tonic and invigorator, relieves pain, lowers fever, stimulates circulation (equalizes circulation), improves digestion, controls diarrhea, anti-rheumatic, warming for all "cold" conditions, deobstruent, antispasmodic, nervine, sialagogue, a tonic for convalescence from fevers and other diseases, blood purifier, hepatic, emmenagogue, rubefacient, astringent, anthelmintic.
As an alterative is used in a variety of conditions but notably glandular fever.
Berries increase the flow of saliva (sialagogue) and will moisten a dry tongue often found in liver malfunctions. Has been used in cases of paralysis of tongue and mouth. Also for violent colic.
Has been used internally for rheumatism, arthritis, lumbago, toothache, fevers, peripheral circulatory problems, diarrhea, indigestion, weak digestion,abdominal chills, chronic skin conditions, flatulence, neural and gastrointestinal flaccidity, gonorrhea, cholera, dystentary, neuritis, ulcers, accumulations in joints, joint pain, sciatica, relieves stomach pain (gastralgia) and dyspepsia caused by coldness and vomiting, stops diarrhea.
A blend used for detoxifying and nurturting the system in cases of arthritis, cancer, post-operative trauma, neural degeneration, heart disease, senility and Addison's disease is: red clover, chaparrel, licorice root, Oregon grape root, stillingia, burdock root, cascara sagrada bark, sarsaparilla root, prickly ash bark, buckthorn bark and kelp; 1-3 capsules taken 3 to 4 times daily with plenty of liquid.
Has been used externally for chronic joint pain and rheumatic problems. Usually used in decoction form for rheumatism (1 oz. of bark boiled in 1 pint of water). The bark of the root and berries was used in a whiskey tincture for rheumatism (1 to 2 tsp taken 3 times daily). [NOTE: whiskey tincture was obtained by steeping the inner bark in whiskey]
Sometimes combined with bayberry (Myrica cerifera) and ginger (Zingiber officinale) for circulatory insufficiency.
Has been combined with Black Cohosh (Cimicifuga racemosa)> for tinnitus.
Has been combined with Guaiacum officinale, buckbean (Menyanthes trifoliata) and cayenne (Capsicum annuum) for rheumatic compaints (see below).
Has been combined with angelica root or rosemary for circulatory problems.
Has been used for asthma.
Has been used for treating paralysis of the throat and mouth.
Contains bacteria-killing chemical that can help prevent tooth decay (twigs were often chewed); a concentrated tea could also be swished about in the mouth.
The Illinois-Miami used the bark to draw off pus; it was also used for oozing or ulcerated external conditions.
The Winnebego used a decoction for gonorrhea.
Called "Hantola" by Western tribes; the bark of the root was preferred in decoction for colicky conditions, gonorrhea, syphilis and rheumatism.
Used by the Algonquin for rheumatism; the inner bark and boiled roots were infused or decocted and sipped during the day; the inner bark was steeped for hours in bear's oil and applied as poultices.
The Chippewa used a decoction of the root as a gargle for sore throat as well as drinking it; it was also employed in similar fashion for quinsy and swollen or ulcerated throat; the root decoction was also used as a bath to strengthen legs and feet of weakly children, especially if the limbs were partially paralyzed.
The Seneca used it as a general tonic.
The Menomini used the bark, root bark and fruits; the ripe fruit was infused in water to make a spray. The liquid was held in the mouth and sprayed on the chest and throat in cases of bronchial conditions or on sores. It was also used as a seasoning in healing mixtures. The root bark was also used in poultices. For swellings the Medicine Man (or shaman) would moisten the teeth of a gar fish with the decoction, then make 3 striking motions with it in his hand saying "wehe" with each motion. On the 4th motion he would say "we ho ho" and strike the swelling and make it bleed so the medicine could enter the flesh. The swelling was struck 3 or 4 times and then a poultice of the decoction placed on the swelling for 4 days. The liquid in which the fruit was soaked was taken for minor maladies.
The Meskwaki used the bark of the trunk, the bark of the root, the berries and the leaves. The bark and berries were used as a strong expectorant and were used in making cough syrups and medicines. It was also used to stop hemorrhages and for tuberculosis. The tea was also employed for kidney problems. They also combined the root of Columbine with the bark of Prickly Ash to be taken when the contents of the bladder were "thick".
Both the Flambeau and Pillager Ojibwa used it for treating quinsy and sore throat. The berries were used for hot tea to treat sore throats and also as a spray on the chest to cool and relieve congestion in cases of bronchitis.
The bark was chewed for toothaches and used externally in poultices with bear's grease for ulcers and sores. A topical stimlant which is said to change the nature of malignant ulcers.
The powdered bark and seeds were sometimes used for intermittant fever.
The Houmas applied the pulp of grated root and bark as well as the inner bark, boiled in water, to toothache. The decoction was also used externally for itch.
A tincture of the berries was used in early Virginia for violent internal pains and for syphilitic conditions. Southern blacks used the bark, boiled in water, for toothache and rheumatism.
Was used by Native Americans for dropsy.
A saturated tincture of the fruits was used for cholera and other bowel diseases.
Used for strengthening the digestive organs.
A tincture of the fruit has been used for typhus fever, pneumonia, and general typhoid conditions.
A combination of extracts has been used for chronic cases and also where a lack of hepatic and pancreatic activity exists. Where chronic muscular rheumatism, lumbago, scrofula, temporary paralysis, chronic female problems and syphylis exists, the following formula was used: 1-10 drops prickly ash, 3 drops goldenseal, 1 drop capsicum in warm water shortly before meals. Also: 1/2 oz. ash, 1/2 oz. each of bogbean and guaiacum chips, 1/3 tsp cayenne (boil in 1-1/2 pints of water for 15 minutes; strain and take wineglassfuls 3 or 4 times daily)
Externally the powdered bark has been applied directly to indolent ulcers and old wounds (see DOSE: external) Also used externally as a liniment for rheumatism and fibrositis. The bark has been applied locally on toothaches, swellings and abrasions.
For sluggish circulation: an infusion of 1 tsp of the bark in 1 cup of boiling water taken in mouthfuls over the course of one day.
As a nerve stimulant: 4 parts prickly ash combined with 1 part Irish Moss and 1 part bayberry bark.
As a nerve tonic: equal parts skullcap, valerian, lady's slipper; 1 tsp of tincture or 2 capsules (size 00).
For arthritis: 6 parts Oregon Grape root, 6 parts Prince's pine (or parsley root), 3 parts sassafras, 3 parts prickly ash, 3 parts black cohosh, 3 parts guaiacum, 2 parts ginger (tea is 1 oz. of herbs to 1 pint of water simmered 30 minutes and 1/2 C. taken hot every 2 hours to induce perspiration). OR: 6 parts yucca root, 4 parts devil's claw, 3 parts black cohosh, 2 parts prickly ash, 2 parts ginger root, 2 parts licorice root; a standard decoction taken 1 to 2 cups 3 times daily. (NOTE: a dose of yucca root taken alone is 1/2 oz. per day).

!All others buy commercial preparations and follow directions carefully!
POWDER = 10-30 grains taken 3 to 4 times daily /or/ 0.5-3 grams dried root and 0.5 to 1.5 grams of dried berries taken 3 times daily.
TINCTURE = best given in warm water to avoid stomach upset; 5-20 drops (or 1 to 3 ml, 3 times daily)
INFUSION = 1 tsp of bark cut small or powdered to 1 cupful of boiling water, steeped 10 to 15 minutes and taken a mouthful at a time throughout the day.
DECOCTION = 1 oz bark in 3 pints of water and boiled down to 1 quart; one pint is taken in divided doses over 24 hours.
EXTERNALLY = 1 oz of powdered bark to 4 oz. of olive oil, heated and used as a massage night and morning for rhematism.
OIL = fill bottles full of berries and add grain alcohol; evaporate the alcohol and the oil is what remains.
PLASTER = a thin coating of honey on a cloth and sprinkled with the powdered herb(s), then tape over the area to be treated (used as a counter-irritant)

Tincture of fresh bark: specific to nervous system and mucous membranes (stimulates secretions from all glands with ducts opening into the mouth). Used for after-pain, asthma, coccygodynis (pain in tailbone), dysmenorrhea, earache, fibroma (nonmalignant tumor of the fibrous tissue), headache, hemiplegia, hysteria, pain in the jaw joint, lactation, injured nerves, nervousness, neuralgia, opthahmia, sciatica, toothache, ulcers, painful hemorrhages, neuralgic dysmenorrhea, rheumatism, indigestion from overeating or too much fluid, sluggish capillary circulation, neurasthenia, poor assimilation, insomnia, occipital headache, nervous, frightened disposition with depression.
DOSE = 1 to 6th potency.

(Zanthoxylum spp)

Indian Pepper
aka Crocodile wood, Indian-Ivy-Rue, Satin Wood
(Zanthoxylum rhetsa)

A deciduous thorny tree native to Coromandel coast of India, Malaya, southeast Asia and the Philipines. The one-celled fruit is reddish-brown and crinkled when ripe. The fruit splits open to release a single seed. All parts are aromatic and contain coumarin derivatives and alkaloids. The corky bark has a lime-pepper flavor and is added to foods as a seasoning and cooked in syrup or honey and combined with ginger, mustard seed and onions to make a sweet relish. In the southern portion of Vietnam, the leaves are used like hops in making rice beer. When green the whole fruit tastes like orange peel and is used as a spice. The seeds taste like lemon with a burning sensation as an after effect - they are used as a substitute for pepper. It is exported from southeast Asia to China and Iran for spice and medicinal use.

Japanese Prickly Ash
aka Fagare, Japanese pepper, San-Sho, Sichuan pepper, Spiny Shrub
(Zanthoxylum piperitum)

A small tree native to the mountainous regions of China, Korea, Manchuria and Japan with brownish prickly bark and paired spines; flowers small and yellow-green with male and female on separate trees; fruits have 2 valves each with 1shiny black seed.
Parts used are leaves, bark, fruit, and fruit pericarp [hua jiao]. Leaves are harvested during the growing season and used fresh.

Spicy, warming, stimulant, acting mainly on spleen and stomach; lowers blood pressure, diuretic, antibacterial, antifungal, locally anesthetic.
Has been used internally for digestive complaints associated with "cold".
Fruits are stimulant, stimulate gastric activity, remove excess gas, expel intestinal worms.
The bark has been used to reduce fevers.
The sap of the young leaves has been used to treat insect stings and cat bites.

Leaves are used to flavor soups and meat dishes.
Boiled with sugar and soy sauce it is used as a condiment.
The bark and unripe fruits are ground and used as a flavoring in Japan, China and Hawaii.
The ground dry-roasted fruits are one of the ingredients in Chinese Five-Spice powder.
The bark as well as whole unripe fruits and separated seeds are ground and used for seasoning (considered harmful if consumed habitually).

Shiny Bramble
(Zanthoxylum nitidum)
[ru di jin nui]

CONTAINS: diosmin, 6 alkaloids in the root bark (nitidine chloride, 6-ethoxy-chelerythrine, oryntidine, orychelerythrine, N-desmethylchelerythrine, skimmianine).
Nitidine chloride and 6-ethyxy-chelerythrine exhibited anti-tumor activity against Erlich ascites tumor. Nitidine chloride also showed anti-tumor activity against leukemias L1210 and P388. It also showed activity in Lewis lung tumor system. A simole reaction product of nitidine (methoxydihydronitidine) was obtained as an artifact and showed similar activity.
The seeds contain 41.1% linalool, 25% beta-phellandrene, 4.3% methyl-cinnamate, 2.6% phenyl ethyl acetate and carbonyls.

The root is anodyne, carminative, detoxicant. It has been used in decoction for arthralgia (painful joint), backstrain, bruises, burns, rheumatism, snakebite, stomachache, tetanus. The above ground portion of the plant has been used as an analgetic and anti-rheumatic. The plant has also ben used as an insecticide, larvicide, and piscide (including eels and mudfish - the macerated plant is placed in holes).


Szechuan pepper¹
(Zanthoxylum bungeanum)
[hua jiao]

Leaves and fruit have been used medicinally and are anthelmintic, aromatic, astringent, carminative, emmenagogue, stimulant, sudorific. The pericarp (seeds) are pulverized and mixed with water and have been taken for abdominal pain, ascariasis (intestinal worms and particularly round worms), chills, diarrhea, dysentary, nausea, stomachache. Seeds in a vinegar infusion are said to expel "worms" from the ear. It is sometimes sold as Szechuan pepper, but is not the real thing.

Szechuan pepper²
aka Flatspine Prickly Ash
(Zanthoxylum simulans syn Z. podocarpum)
[ye hua, jiao ye] [ma kou pi yao]

CONTAINS: Aesculetin, dimethyletheis, limonene, linalol, linalyl acetate, and sanshool.

The leaf is considered carminative, stimulant, sudorific.
The fruit is considered carminative, diuretic, stimulant, tonic and useful for stomachache.
The seeds are considered antiphlogistic (counteracts inflammation) and diuretic.
A decoction of the root has been used for snakebite, and for digestive diseases.
The stem and root bark have been decocted for arthritis, bone ache, gas, pain, rheumatism, snakebite, sore throat and swellings.

Winged Prickly Ash¹
(Zanthoxylum alatum)

A spiny shrub or tree native from central China through India and southeast Asia - also cultivated in the Philipines and Japan. All parts are highly aromatic and used in folk medicine. The bark and fruits are insecticidal and also used as fish poisons. The seeds are much used in China and India under the name of "Chin Pepper".

Winged Prickly Ash²
aka Chinese Pepper
(Zanthoxylum planispinum)
[zhu ye jiao]

Has diverse uses. 7 to 14 seeds have been decocted for abscesses, arthritis, ascariasis, bruises, enteritis, gastritis, rheumatism, snakebite and swellings. A decoction of the root has been used for the same purposes as the seeds.

Indonesian Lemon Pepper
Zanthoxylum acanthopodium

Fruits sold as spice in Sikkim.

Zanthoxylum armatum
Native to various parts of Kashmir to southeast Asia; used to clean teeth and relieve toothache, to flavor food and to poison fish.

Zanthoxylum capense and Z. zanthoxyloides
No Images Available

Used medicinally in South Africa.

Zanthoxylum schinifolium and Z. simulans

Interchangable with Z. piperitum in Chinese medicine.

aka False Hercules (club), Hercules Club, Sootberry, Yellowwood
(Zanthoxylum clava-herculis syn Z. carolinianum)

A tree or shrub to 30 feet native to the central and southern portions of North America. The bark has large triangular corky knobs. It is found growing on poor soils from southern Virginia to Florida, and Texas to Akansas and southeast Oklahoma. The fruit appears from August to October. It is used the same as Northern Prickly Ash (Z. americana).


Has been used to stimulate circulation, the lympatics and the mucous membranes.
Has been used for chilblains, leg cramp, varicose veins, ulcers, rheumatism and skin diseases.
The wood has been used for toothache.
A folk remedy for cancer.

©2000 by Ernestina Parziale, CH