Prickly ash bark: A Bit of Botany
a little botanical information on prickly ash tree

Zanthoxylum americanum (sometimes written Xanthoxylum americanum) is shrub or small tree of the Rutaceae (citrus) family.

This aromatic plant can reach heights of 33 feet (10 m) with its trunk diameter—at roughly breast height (DBH)—being around 6 inches (15 cm). The tree has pinnately compound leaves with 5–11 membranous leaflets. These dark green leaves are bitter-aromatic, with crenate (round-toothed or scalloped) margins.

Prickly Ash tree also has axillary flower and fruit clusters. Its buds are hairy and new berries are red, but turn deep blue to black, with stalked fruit pods. Flowers are dioecious, with yellow-green petals.

common names & nomenclature
Prickly Ash tree has a distinctive bark with sharp projections that resemble horns, which has given rise to the common names that include "prickly".

Also known as:
northern prickly ash, szechuan pepper, yellow wood, toothache tree, common prickly-ash, common pricklyash, common prickly ash, suterberry, xanthoxylum americanum

Prickly Ash Bark, the tree with a lemon scent and bitter taste
Prickly ash bark: Where in the World
habitat and range for prickly ash

Zanthoxylum americanum is native to central and eastern portions of the United States and Canada.

Prickly ash bark: Cultivation & Harvesting
a little botanical information on prickly ash

Prickly ash trees can be found growing on upland rocky hillsides and on moist low-lying sites. Also found in open woods, on bluffs or in thickets in sun to part shade.

Prickly ash prefers a good deep well-drained moisture retentive soil.

Prickly ash seed is best sown in autumn when just ripe. Sow a in greenhouse. Otherwise stored seed may require up to 3 months cold stratification, though scarification may also reduce that time somewhat. Transplant seedlings into individual pots when they are large enough to handle, plant them out in the garden the following summer. Prickly ash may also be propagated via root cuttings or suckers.

The prickly ash tree bark is harvested in autumn and dried in the shade for best results.

Dried prickly ash bark should be stored in an airtight container in a cool, dry place.

Prickly ash bark: The Rest of the Story
prickly ash history, folklore, literature & more

prickly ash bark for toothaches and more
Long before European settlers came to the United States, prickly ash bark was used to treat a wide variety of problems. However, its most common use was that of toothache relief. In fact, the prickly ash tree is often called the “toothache tree” because the bark works so well at improving the condition.

It works so well at helping toothache pain go away because it stimulates the circulation. When an area of the body has improved circulation, it actually helps healing to occur more quickly. That’s because having more blood moving through the area allows the blood to deliver more healing nutrients and it allows the blood to take the toxins away. Prickly ash bark works very well at improving circulation in a specific, targeted area.

While it was once used primarily for toothaches—and still works quite well —it’s now used mainly to treat rheumatism or arthritis. It provides relief because it stimulates circulation in those areas and helps to soothe inflammation. It can also be used directly on the skin to treat open sores.

If you suffer from conditions that arise from poor circulation, prickly ash can help you to get relief. Taken internally, prickly ash bark can actually help your circulation to improve in all of the limbs. If you’re tired of having limbs that fall asleep and having difficulty with healing in those areas, you’ll appreciate the benefits of prickly ash bark.

Finally, if you have problems with your digestive system, prickly ash bark may be the perfect solution. It will work to treat diarrhea and can help to relieve gas. If you have a problem with irritable bowel syndrome, or even just indigestion, this may be a good remedy for you.

Prickly ash bark can be taken as a tincture or decoction. It can also be purchased in commercially produced tablets. Finally, you can use it in the form of a lotion to help relieve skin irritations or to improve circulation. It will be absorbed through the skin in this form.

Prickly ash bark shouldn’t be used if you’re pregnant, nor should it be used if you have a sensitive stomach. Like many herbs that affect circulation, it can cause some stomach upset. However, most people are able to tolerate prickly ash bark well and find that it helps them with their condition.

There’s no need to suffer with poor circulation or arthritis when there’s a simple solution to keep you healthy and strong.