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Prickly Ash – (Xanthoxylum americanum)

Prickly Ash

Prickly ash is an aromatic small tree with tiny greenish-yellow flowers and bipinnate leaves. Historically, this herb was used in the Imperial Court of China as an anesthetic for the procedure that gave the Emperor his court eunuchs. It is usually taken as herbal teas or tinctures, although there are other uses for it as well.


Key Medicinal Uses

Internally – Prickly ash tincture can be taken for cholera, bowel diseases, syphilis, internal pain, typhus, pneumonia and typhoid. This herb is also taken for fever, hemorrhage and tuberculosis. The effect of the herbal remedy is that it stimulates the production of saliva and strengthens the nervous system.

Externally – Prickly ash bark can be chewed to relieve toothache. It can be used as a poultice with bear grease to treat sores and ulcers. The herbal tea was sprayed on the chest for bronchitis and congestion.

Other Uses – Prickly ash is also used as a homeopathic remedy to treat headache, hysteria, lactation, injured nerves, neuralgia, toothache, sciatica, ulcers, hemorrhages, dysmenorrheal, rheumatism, insomnia and occipital headache.

Herbs to Combine/Supplement

this herb can be combined with black cohosh to treat tinnitus. Mix it with buckbean, Guaiacum officinale and cayenne for rheumatism. Add it to angelica root or rosemary for circulatory problems. Combine prickly ash with ginger or Panax ginseng to treat chronic abdominal pain. Mix it with ginger for nausea and vomiting when recovering from a long illness. Add prickly ash to Oregon grape root to rid the body of roundworms.

Parts Used

Berries, bark – Both the berries and the bark are used medicinally.


When taking the standard doses of the herb, there are no reported side effects. It should be avoided by pregnant and nursing women. Because it stimulates the digestive system, if you have peptic ulcers, colitis or reflux, it would be advisable to avoid this herb. There are no known drug interactions.

Preparation and Dosage

If you are using a commercial preparation, take it according to the directions on the label. To make an infusion, pour a cup of boiling water over 1 to 2 teaspoons of bark and let it steep for 10 to 15 minutes. Strain and drink three times per day.

For a tincture, take 2 to 4 ml three times per day. For toothache, chew the dried bark.

Prickly ash oil and plasters are also used on occasion. Oil is made by putting berries in bottles and then filling the bottles with grain alcohol. Evaporate the alcohol and what remains is the oil. Plasters are made by putting a thin coat of honey on a cloth and then sprinkling powdered prickly ash on top. Tape this plaster over the area to be treated.

Prickly Ash Herbal Remedies Top