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Botanical Name: Xanthoxylum Americanum (MILL.)
Family: N.O. Rutacea
Synonyms: Toothache Tree. Yellow Wood. Suterberry. Clava-herculis and americanum
Common Names : Prickly Ash Bark , Szechuan pepper, chuan jiao, Tooth Ache Tree, yellow wood,Hercules’ Club.
Parts Used: Root-bark, berries.
Habitat : Native to central and eastern portions of the United States and Canada. Rare in the South, it is more common in the northern United States. It is listed as Endangered in Florida, Maryland, and New Hampshire; and as Special Concern in Tennessee. It can be found in Alabama, Arkansas, Connecticut, Washington, DC, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Maryland, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, North Carolina, North Dakota, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Virginia, Vermont, Wisconsin and West Virginia in the United States, and in Ontario and Quebec in Canada. It is found on upland rocky hillsides and on moist low-lying sites, in open woods, on bluffs or in thickets.
Originally described by Scottish botanist Philip Miller in 1768, Zanthoxylum americanum is a member of the wide-ranging genus Zanthoxylum in the Rutaceae family, which includes many species with aromatic foliage. Miller, who spelled the name Xanthoxylum, described the plant in the eighth edition of his Gardeners Dictionary, as “grow[ing] naturally in Pensylvania [sic] and Maryland
It is is an aromatic shrub or tree .It can grow to 10 meters (33 ft) tall with a diameter at breast height (DBH) of 15 centimeters (5.9 in). It produces membranous leaflets and axillary flower clusters. The wood is not commercially valuable, but oil extracts from the bark have been used in alternative medicine and have been studied for antifungal and cytotoxic properties
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The plant has membranous leaflets numbering between 5-11 and growing in opposite pairs. It has “axillary flower and fruit clusters”. The buds are hairy. Dark green leaves are bitter-aromatic, with crenate margins. The berries begin red and turn deep blue to black, with stalked fruit pods. Flowers are dioecious, with yellow-green petals.
Prefers a good deep well-drained moisture retentive soil in full sun or semi-shade. A relatively fast-growing plant in the wild, it often forms thickets by means of root suckers. All parts of the plant are fragrant. The bruised foliage has a delicious resinous orange-like perfume. Dioecious. Male and female plants must be grown if seed is required. Flowers are formed on the old wood. Special Features:North American native, Attracts butterflies, Inconspicuous flowers or blooms, Blooms appear periodically throughout the year.
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. 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. Suckers, removed in late winter and planted into their permanent positions.
Edible Uses: Condiment.
Seed – cooked. It is used as a condiment. A pepper substitute. The fruit is rather small, about 4 – 5m in diameter, but is produced in dense clusters which makes harvesting easy. Each fruit contains a single seed.
Constituents: The barks of numerous species of Xanthoxylum and the allied genus Fagara have been used medicinally. There are two principal varieties of Prickly Ash in commerce: X. Americanum (Northern Prickly Ash) and Fagara Clava-Herculis (Southern Prickly Ashj, which is supposed to be more active. Although not absolutely identical, the two Prickly Ash barks are very similar in their active constituents. Both contain small amounts of volatile oil, fat, sugar, gum, acrid resin, a bitter alkaloid, believed to be Berberine and a colourless, tasteless, inert, crystalline body, Xanthoxylin, slightly different in the two barks. Both yield a large amount of Ash: 12 per cent. or more. The name Xanthoxylin is also applied to a resinous extractive prepared by pouring a tincture of the drug into water.
The fruits of both the species are used similarly to the barks. Their constituents have not been investigated, but they apparently agree in a general way with those of the bark.
The drug is practically never adulterated. The Northern bark occurs in commerce in curved or quilled fragments about 1/24 inch thick, externally brownish grey, with whitish patches, faintly furrowed, with some linearbased, two-edged spines about 1/4 inch long. The fracture is short, green in the outer, and yellow in the inner part. The Southern bark, which is more frequently sold, is 1/12 inch thick and has conical, corky spines, sometimes 4/5, inch in height.
An oil extracted from the bark and berries of the prickly-ash (both this species and Zanthoxylum clava-herculis) is used medicinally. The extract may act as a stimulant, and historic medicinal use has included use “for chronic rheumatism, typhoid and skin diseases and impurity of the blood…” as well as for digestive ailments. Grieve states, “The berries are considered even more active than the bark, being carminative and antispasmodic, and are used as an aperient and for dyspepsia and indigestion; a fluid extract of the berries being given, in doses of 10 to 30 drops.” The bark has been chewed for toothaches, and a tea from the berries has been used for sore throats and as a diuretic.
Traditional Chinese Medicine uses prickly ash to warm the “middle burner,” the energies in the middle of the body that power the immune response and help digest food.
It acts as a stimulant – resembling guaiacum resin and mezereon bark in its remedial action and is greatly recommended in the United States for chronic rheumatism, typhoid and skin diseases and impurity of the blood, administered either in the form of fluid extract or in doses of 10 grains to 1/2 drachm in the powdered form, three times daily.
The following formula has also become popular in herbal medicine: Take 1/2 oz. each of Prickly Ash Bark, Guaiacum Raspings and Buckbean Herb, with 6 Cayenne Pods. Boil in 1 1/2 pint of water down to 1 pint . Dose: a wineglassful three or four times daily.
On account of the energetic stimulant properties of the bark, it produces when swallowed a sense of heat in the stomach, with more or less general arterial excitement and tendency to perspiration and is a useful tonic in debilitated conditions of the stomach and digestive organs, and is used in colic, cramp and colera, in fever, ague, lethargy, for cold hands and feet and complaints arising from a bad circulation.
A decoction made by boiling an ounce in 3 pints of water down to a quarter may be given in the quantity of a pint, in divided doses, during the twenty-four hours. As a counter-irritant, the decoction may be applied on compresses. It has also been used as an emmenagogue.
The powdered bark forms an excellent application to indolent ulcers and old wounds for cleansing, stimulating, drying up and healing the wounds. The pulverized bark is also used for paralytic affections and nervous headaches and as a topical irritant the bark, either in powdered form, or chewed, has been a very popular remedy for toothache in America, hence the origin of a common name of the tree in the States: Toothache Tree.
The berries are considered even more active than the bark, being carminative and antispasmodic, and are used as an aperient and for dyspepsia and indigestion; a fluid extract of the berries being given, in doses of 10 to 30 drops.
Xanthoxylin. Dose, 1 to 2 grains.
Both berries and bark are used to make a good bitter.
There have been some modern studies of the oil’s constituents and antifungal properties and cytotoxic effects.
Other Uses: Landscape Uses:Border, Massing. The fruits have been used by young men as a perfume. Wood – soft. It weighs 35lb per cubic foot. Of little use.
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Known Hazaards: Tannins may reduce gut iron absorption. Possble nervous system stimulation. Excessive ingestion may interfere with anticoagulant therapy
Disclaimer:The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplements, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider.