“The action was prompt and permanent… Prickly ash acted like electricity, so sudden and diffusive was its influence over the entire system. I consider the tincture of prickly ash to be superior to any form of medication I know of.”4Charles Millspaugh, American Herbal Medicine.
Prickly Ash Berries are not only edible, but a common ingredient in Chinese cuisine known as Szechwan pepper. The berries can be harvested any time there are leaves present, i.e. from mid-spring to late fall, so green, red, dark blue or black, they are all good.
Prickly ash, commonly referred to as northern prickly ash, is an herbal supplement often used to treat toothache, joint pain, arthritis, circulation problems, and more.1 Some have even suggested that it has anti-cancer properties.2
Prickly ash comes from the plant family of the Rutaceae genus. The perennial plant grows as either a shrub or a tree that can grow up to 26 feet in height. The plant has dark brown branches with prickles that are up to a half of an inch long—thus the name prickly ash.
The twigs of the prickly ash shrub/tree have a strong smell, mimicking that of lemon peel. The small leaf buds are red and woolly, and greenish-yellow flowers appear in spring before their dark green leaves emerge. In late summer the fruit ripens, turning from its original green color to reddish-brown.
Prickly ash is native to Missouri. It grows in most areas of the state (except for in the Ozarks region), as well as other areas in Eastern North America. It is commonly found in moist ravines, thickets, and woods, as well as upland rocky bluffs and hillsides and open wooded areas.
There is also an Asian version (which has some of the same properties as prickly ash) called crow prickly ash.1
Also Known As
- Angelica tree
- Chuan Jiao (traditional Chinese medicine)
- Toothache bark
- Toothache tree
- Yellow wood
Historically, many Native American tribes used prickly ash as a medicinal herb. They used an infusion of the bark to treat everything from itchy skin to back pain as well as cramps, fevers, colds, lung conditions, toothaches, sore throats, pain from childbirth, and colic in babies.3
In the 19th century, Charles Millspaugh described the use of prickly ash in his book American Herbal Medicine. In it, he identified prickly ash as a remedy for pneumonia, cholera, typhus, typhoid, and more.4
What Is Prickly Ash Used For?
Prickly ash is commonly used to promote blood flow throughout the body, specifically for the treatment of rheumatism. Rheumatism (including various types of arthritis) is any disease involving pain and swelling or inflammation of the joints, ligaments, and muscles.5
Prickly ash is said to help improve rheumatism and alleviate joint pain by inhibiting hormones called prostaglandins that stimulate inflammation.5
Prickly ash is said to have numerous functions and benefits:1
- Antidiarrheal agent
- Antifungal agent
- Antinauseal agent
- Antirheumatic properties
- Appetite stimulant
- Blood and lymphatic circulation stimulant
- Carminative (gas relief)
- Digestive aid
- Diaphoretic (induces sweat to reduce fever)
- Dysentery remedy
- Hemorrhoid remedy
- Liniment (an invigorating rub used to reduce muscle pain)
- Rubefacient (improves blood flow to the small vessels)
- Tinnitus remedy (reduces ringing in the ears)
- Tonic (invigorates and strengthens the body)
How It Works
Prickly ash bark contains alkaloids, which are nitrogen-containing plant compounds that cause physiological actions. Examples of alkaloids are morphine, quinine, and more. Prickly ash also contains an alkamide that causes a numbing feeling on the tongue and mouth.1
This may be the reason prickly ash was commonly used for toothaches, although there is inconclusive clinical research evidence to show that prickly ash is safe and effective in relieving tooth pain.
The volatile oils derived from prickly ash contain the highest concentration of alkaloids.6 They help stimulate tissues resulting in dilatation of the veins and improved circulation.1
Prickly ash also has a rubefacient effect. This means that when used on the skin, the volatile oils produce redness, causing dilatation of the capillaries and increased blood flow.7
When taken internally, stimulant volatile oils—such as the oil from prickly ash—have an effect on the digestive and circulatory systems.1
Among the available studies, 2017 research published in the Journal of Traditional and Complementary Medicine has shown that prickly ash has antifungal properties that may be beneficial to treating mild fungal infection.8
An older study published in 2001 in Phytotherapy Research reported that northern prickly ash has cytotoxic properties and was able to kill human leukemia cells in a test tube.
a 2019 study documented the use of prickly ash can potentially increase the effects of the blood thinner, making it a possibly useful remedy to treat blood clotting side effects of the C19 Vaccine. 11