Zanthoxylum

Botanical Name :Zanthoxylum spp
Family: Rutaceae
Subfamily: Toddalioideae
Genus: Zanthoxylum
Kingdom: Plantae
Order: Sapindales

Common NamesPrickly Ash , Szechuan pepper, chuan jiao, Tooth Ache Tree, yellow wood

Habitat:Zanthoxylum is native to northern and central Illinois.It occurs in upland woodlands, bottomland woodlands, savannas, wooded ravines, thinly wooded bluffs, edges of shady seeps, stream banks in wooded areas, thickets, pastures, and fence rows. It probably benefits from occasional wildfires.

Description:
Zanthoxylum  is a shrub is 4-25′ tall, branching abundantly. The bark of trunk and larger branches is gray to brown and fairly smooth, although on old large shrubs it can become shallowly furrowed with a wrinkled appearance. Twigs are brown and glabrous, while young shoots are light green and nearly glabrous to pubescent. Pairs of stout prickles up to 1/3″ long are scattered along the branches, twigs and shoots; these spines are somewhat flattened and curved. Alternate compound leaves about 6-12″ long develop along the twigs and young shoots; they are odd-pinnate with 5-11 leaflets. Individual leaflets are 1½-3¼” long and ½-1½” across; they are lanceolate-oblong to ovate-oblong with margins that are smooth to crenulate (fine rounded teeth). The upper surface of mature leaflets is medium green, minutely glandular, and glabrous, while the lower surface is pale green and short-pubescent to nearly glabrous; in the latter case, fine hairs are restricted to the major veins. Newly emerged leaflets are more hairy than mature leaflets. The lateral leaflets are sessile or nearly so, while the terminal leaflets have slender petiolules (basal stalklets) that are less than ½” long. The light green petioles (basal stalks) and rachises of the compound leaves are hairy while young, but become more glabrous with age; they have scattered small prickles along their undersides.

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Prickly Ash is almost always dioecious, producing male (staminate) and female (pistillate) flowers on separate shrubs. These flowers are arranged in small axillary clusters (cymes) along the branches of the preceding year. Individual male flowers are a little less than ¼” across, consisting of 4-5 erect petals and 4-5 stamens; there is no calyx. The petals of male flowers are yellowish green to orange and oblong in shape. Individual female flowers are about ¼” across, consisting of 4-5 erect petals and 2-5 separate pistils; there is no calyx. The petals of female flowers are also yellowish green to orange and oblong in shape. The ovaries of the pistils are glossy green and ovoid in shape; their elongated styles tend to converge at their tips. The blooming period occurs during mid- to late spring before the leaves develop. Afterwards, the female flowers are replaced by berry-like follicles (fruits that open along one-side) about 1/3″ long that are ovoid-globoid in shape with a pitted surface. As the follicles mature, they change from green to red to brown, eventually splitting open to expose shiny black seeds with oily surfaces. Each follicle contains 1-2 seeds. Both the crushed foliage and fruits are highly aromatic, somewhat resembling the fragrance of lemon peels. The root system produces underground runners, from which clonal offsets are produced. This shrub often forms clonal colonies of varying size.

Cultivation: The preference is full or partial sun and moist to dry-mesic conditions. Different types of soil are tolerated, including those that contain loam, clay-loam, and rocky material. This shrub can adapt to light shade, but it may fail to produce flowers and fruit. It has relatively few problems with pests and disease organisms

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Medicinal uses:
Paresthesia is the mouth-numbing effect believed to be caused by hydroxyl-alpha-sanshool, an alkylamide found in Zanthoxylum spp.  Anyone who has bitten into a Sichuan pepper can attest to the unique sensation of mild electric shock or “pins and needles” in their mouth.  Researchers have likened this experience to that of “touching their tongue to the terminals of a 9-volt battery”, which is quite different from the burning pain of chilli peppers or the punch of fresh wasabi.

The numbing and analgesic effects of Zanthoxylum have been exploited for centuries as a natural remedy to alleviate acute and chronic pain.  In Nigeria, the roots are used as a chewing stick to give a warm and numbing effect.  This use is believed to be beneficial to the elderly and to those with sore gums and other oral disease conditions.  Zanthoxylum americanum is commonly known as toothache tree in North America and can be found in the eastern US as well as Ontario and Quebec in Canada.

Zanthoxylum spp. have traditionally been administered for a variety of maladies in addition to oral diseases.  In India, the leaf is used against fever, dyspepsia and bronchitis.  In Manipur, India, the seed oil is applied against baldness and bark powder is used to treat toothache (Singh and Singh 2004).  In a 2008 report titled “Indigenous Vegetables of India with a Potential for Improving Livelihoods,” ML Chadha from the ARVDC Regional Center for South Asia reports that Z. hamiltonianum is used as both a vegetable and a remedy; dried, tender leaves are eaten as a vegetable and powdered fruits are consumed to increase the appetite.  The young stems are employed as a toothbrush in cases of toothache and bleeding gums, whereas the roots and bark are used to cure malaria.  Though generally eaten as a vegetable, the leaves of Z. rhetsa are also consumed to kill tapeworms and reduce infection (Chadha 2008).

Scientific studies are validating the traditional medical role of various Zanthoxylum products.  Research has demonstrated the potential of Z. rhetsa leaf extract as a de-worming remedy; it has been found to have a pronounced effect against larval eggs, comparable to a commercial drug (Yadav and Tangpu  2009).  Bark extract from Z. rhetsa has been shown to lessen abdominal contractions and diarrhoea in mice (Rahman 2002).  Other potential pharmaceutical applications include cancer treatment and anti-oxidant, anti-coagulant and anti-bacterial agents.

At the industrial level, Z. armatum has been shown to contain high amounts of linalool (Jain et al. 2001), a compound used commercially as a precursor to vitamin E production and also in soaps, detergents and insecticides.  Clearly, Zanthoxylum spp. have potential beyond traditional uses as spices and folk medicine.

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

Resources:
http://www.illinoiswildflowers.info/trees/plants/prickly_ash.html
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zanthoxylum
http://www.anniesremedy.com/herb_detail403.php
http://archive.constantcontact.com/fs035/1102506082274/archive/1104323477745.html

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