Prickly Ash (Zanthoxylum americanum)

Shrub
Z. fraxineum.
Common Name Latin Name Plant Family
Prickly Ash
Zanthoxylum americanum
Rutaceae

The fruits have been used by young men as a perfume[257].

Wood – soft. It weighs 35lb per cubic foot[235]. Of little use[229].

  • Medicinal Use

    Prickly ash is a warming, stimulating herb that is beneficial for the circulation. It was highly regarded by the native North American Indians who used it especially to alleviate rheumatism and toothache[254]. All parts of the plant, but especially the bark and roots, contain the aromatic bitter oil xanthoxylin[229]. This has a number of applications in medicine, especially in the treatment of arthritic and rheumatic conditions, digestive problems and leg ulcers[229, 254]. The fruit has a similar medicinal action to the bark[4].

    The bark and roots are irritant, odontalgic and antirheumatic[213]. Along with the fruit they are diaphoretic, stimulant and a useful tonic in debilitated conditions of the stomach and digestive organs[4]. They produce arterial excitement and are of use in the treatment of fevers, ague, poor circulation etc[4].

    The fruits are considered more active than the bark, they are also antispasmodic, carminative, diuretic and antirheumatic[4, 213, 222].

    The pulverized root and bark are used to ease the pain of toothache[213, 222]. One report says that it is very efficacious, but the sensation of the acrid bark is fully as unpleasant as the toothache[213]. Chewing the bark induces copious salivation[222]. Rubbing the fruit against the skin, especially on the lips or in the mouth, produces a numbing effect[K].

    A tea or tincture of the bark has been used in the treatment of rheumatism, dyspepsia, dysentery, heart and kidney troubles etc[222].

    A tea made from the inner bark has been used to treat itchy skin[213, 257].

  • Edible Use

    Seed – cooked. It is used as a condiment. A pepper substitute[106]. The fruit is rather small, about 4 – 5m in diameter[229], but is produced in dense clusters which makes harvesting easy[K]. Each fruit contains a single seed[229].

  • Cautionary Notes

    None known

Cultivation & Habitat

Seed – best sown in a greenhouse as soon as it is ripe in the autumn. Stored seed may requires up to 3 months cold stratification, though scarification may also help[113]. Sow stored seed in a cold frame as early in the year as possible. Germination should take place in late spring, though it might take another 12 months. Prick out the seedlings into individual pots when they are large enough to handle and grow them on in a cold frame for their first winter. Plant them out in early summer. Cuttings of half-ripe wood, July/August in a frame. Root cuttings, 3cm long, planted horizontally in pots in a greenhouse. Good percentage[78]. Suckers, removed in late winter and planted into their permanent positions[113].
Prefers a good deep well-drained moisture retentive soil in full sun or semi-shade[1, 11, 200]. A relatively fast-growing plant in the wild, it often forms thickets by means of root suckers[229]. All parts of the plant are fragrant. The bruised foliage has a delicious resinous orange-like perfume[245]. Dioecious. Male and female plants must be grown if seed is required. Flowers are formed on the old wood[206].
Eastern N. America – Quebec to Florida, west to Minnesota and Oklahoma.

Become ungovernable, break the chains of the matrix; grow and forage your own food and medicine.

*None of the information on this website qualifies as professional medical advice. Take only what resonates with your heart and use your own personal responsibility for what’s best for you. For more information [brackets] [000], see bibliography.