The Medicinal Herb Info site was created to help educate visitors about the often forgotten wisdom of the old ways of treating illnesses. Many of today's drugs and medicines were originally derived from natural ingredients, combinations of plants and other items found in nature.

We are not suggesting that you ignore the help of trained medical professionals, simply that you have additional options available for treating illnesses. Often the most effective treatment involves a responsible blend of both modern and traditional treatments.

We wish you peace and health!

Prickly Ash

Scientific Names

Prickly Ash

  • Zanthoxylium americanum L.
  • Xanthoxcylum americanum
  • Rutaceae
  • Rue family

Common Names

  • Hua-jiao (Chinese name)
  • Northern prickly ash
  • Pellitory bark
  • Prickly ash berries
  • Suterberry bark
  • Toothache bush
  • Toothache tree
  • Toothbrush bush
  • Tumburu (Sanskrit name)
  • Yellow wood
  • Yellow wood berries

Back to Top

Parts Usually Used

Bark, fruit, berries, seed
Back to Top

Description of Plant(s) and Culture

Prickly ash is a native North American shrub or tree, growing from 10-25 feet high; as the name indicates, the branchlets bear prickles up to 1/2 inch long. The leaves are alternate and odd-pinnate, with 5-11 ovate or elliptic leaflets that are softly hairy beneath. Small, yellowish-green flowers grow in axillary clusters during April and May, before the leaves appear. The fruit is a small, berry-like capsule containing one or more black seeds. The oval capsule varies from green to red and blue-black in color, and grows in clusters on the top of the branches. The taste is pungent, causing salivation, and there is little odor when the tree is cut.
Back to Top

Where Found

Found in damp soils, rocky woods, on river banks from Canada to Virginia and Nebraska. Much less common in the south.
Back to Top

Medicinal Properties

Anodyne, diaphoretic, irritant, stimulant, alterative, analgesic, astringent, anthelmintic, antiseptic, carminative
Back to Top

Biochemical Information

Volatile oil, fat, sugar, gum acrid resin, a bitter alkaloid which may be berberine and a xanthoxylin
Back to Top

Legends, Myths and Stories

Gerard and Pliny believed that snakes had such an antipathy for the ash tree, that if a snake was encompassed with ash tree leaves, the snake would sooner run through fire than through the leaves. According to Culpeper he personally observed this to not be the truth.

According to Chestnut’s book Plants Used by Indians of Mendocino County, “Straight pipes are made…out of a section of a limb (of the ash tree) a foot long and two inches thick. The bowl is dug out with a knife, and a red-hot wire is forced through the pith. As the bowl is not at an angle with the stem, it can only be used with the smoker lying down.”
Back to Top


Prickly ash bark was a toothache remedy for Native Americans and Europeans in earlier times. It is not clear whether relief was due to an actual effect on the pain or to the distraction of attention caused by irritation produced by the bark. Some Native Americans boiled the inner bark to make a wash for itching skin. Both the bark and the fruit have been used to treat rheumatism and chronic arthritis. Said to be good for stomach problems, such as flatulence and poor digestion. A wash of the infusion of powdered bark may be used to cleanse old wounds, sores, and ulcers. Was used for many skin conditions, psoriasis, worms, yeast infections, syphilis, colic, liver problems, scrofula, and chronic female troubles, asthma, colds, flu, cholera, blood purifier, lumbago, dysentery, diarrhea, sore throats, tonsillitis, coughs, snakebites.
Back to Top

Formulas or Dosages

Infusion or decoction: use 1 tsp. dried bark or berries with 1 cup boiling water. Take 1 cup a day, cold, one swallow at a time.

Tincture: a dose is 5-20 drops.
Back to Top


Buy It! Back to Eden, by Jethro Kloss; Back to Eden Publishing Co., Loma Linda, CA 92354, Original copyright 1939, revised edition 1994

Buy It! The Herb Book, by John Lust, Bantam Books, 666 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY. copyright 1974.

Buy It! Culpeper’s Complete Herbal & English Physician: Updated With 117 Modern Herbs, by Nicholas Culpeper, Meyerbooks, publisher, PO Box 427, Glenwood, Illinois 60425, 1990, (reprint of 1814)

Buy It! Eastern/Central Medicinal Plants, by Steven Foster and James A. Duke., Houghton Mifflin Company, 215 Park Avenue South, New York, NY 10000

Buy It! Planetary Herbology, by Michael Tierra, C.A., N.D., O.M.D., Lotus Press, PO Box 325, Twin Lakes. WI 53181., Copyright 1988, published 1992

Buy It! The Complete Medicinal Herbal, by Penelope Ody, Dorling Kindersley, Inc, 232 Madison Avenue, New York, NY 10016, First American Edition, copyright 1993

Buy It! Indian Uses of Native Plants, by Edith Van Allen Murphey, Meyerbooks, publisher, PO Box 427, Glenwood, Illinois 60425, copyright 1958, print 1990

Buy It! The Herbalist Almanac, by Clarence Meyer, Meyerbooks, publisher, PO Box 427, Glenwood, Illinois 60425, copyright 1988, fifth printing, 1994

Buy It! Prairie Smoke, by Melvin R. Gilmore, Minnesota Historical Society Press, St. Paul, Minnesota 55101, copyright 1987.

Buy It! How Indians Use Wild Plants for Food, Medicine & Crafts, by Frances Densmore, Dover Publications, Inc., 180 Varick Street, New York, NY 10014, first printed by the United States Government Printing Office, Washington, in 1928, this Dover edition 1974

Buy It! Indian Herbalogy of North America, by Alma R. Hutchens, Shambala Publications, Inc., Horticultural Hall, 300 Massachusetts Avenue, Boston, Massachusetts 02115, 1973

Buy It! American Folk Medicine, by Clarence Meyer, Meyerbooks, publisher, PO Box 427, Glenwood, Illinois 60425, 1973

Buy It! Webster’s New World Dictionary, Third College Edition, Victoria Neufeldt, Editor in Chief, New World Dictionaries: A Division of Simon & Schuster, Inc., 15 Columbus Circle, New York, NY 10023

Buy It! An Instant Guide to Medicinal Plants, by Pamela Forey and Ruth Lindsay, Crescent Books (January 27, 1992).

Buy It! The Yoga of Herbs: An Ayurvedic Guide to Herbal Medicine, by Dr. David Frawley & Dr. Vasant Lad, Lotus Press, Twin Lakes, Wisconsin, Second edition, 1988.

Buy It! The Rodale Herb Book: How to Use, Grow, and Buy Nature’s Miracle Plants (An Organic gardening and farming book), edited by William H. Hylton, Rodale Press, Inc. Emmaus, PA, 18049., 1974

Back to Top