Prickly Ash

PRICKLY ASH (Zanthoxylum clava-herculis, southern; Z. americanum, northern)

Family: Rutaceae

Parts commonly used: Bark and berry (unfortunately, berries are not readily available on the market).

Properties/energetics: Stimulant, sialagogue, alterative, diaphoretic, alterative, antirheumatic, tonic/Warm; spicy.

Systems predominantly affected:  Digestive, circulatory, lymphatic, genitourinary, and skin.

Uses: Prickly Ash is primarily a circulatory stimulant. It promotes capillary, lymphatic, and peripheral circulation, which warms the body, relieves cold extremities, and allays muscle and joint pain. Prickly Ash warms the stomach and strengthens digestion by increasing gastric and intestinal secretions. Its alterative action is an efficient cleanser for the blood and gastrointestinal tract. Chewing the bark relieves toothache, while brushing the teeth with powdered bark twice a day treats pyorrhea and receding gums.

Combinations: Having a strong stimulating effect on the circulatory system, lymphatic system, and the mucous membranes, Prickly Ash combines well with a number of herbs to treat a wide range of specific conditions. For example, it combines well with Horse Chestnut for relieving hemorrhoids and varicose veins and with Ginkgo; the latter helps spread Prickly Ash’s heat through the body. This latter combination is effective for treating male impotence that is due to poor circulation to the sexual organs, cerebral insufficiency from poor blood circulation to the brain, and intermittent claudication, in which, due to inadequate blood supply to the legs, one can walk only a short distance before experiencing sore muscles and joints. Prickly Ash is also appropriate with Rosemary for improving cerebral and overall circulation.

Affects on specific body types: This is a prime tonic for the Monarch constitution, gently stimulating the heart and arterial blood flow throughout the body, thereby invigorating the generally sluggish organs of this type. In the stomach and intestines, the stimulant properties of this plant warm the digestion and augment secretions. Sluggish, achy muscles are invigorated by Prickly Ash’s stimulant properties, and it is a good adjunct for stimulating kidney activity when there is poor blood flow through the area (as there often is in the Monarch type). Prickly Ash, due to its antispasmodic, stimulant, and carminative properties, is also useful for the Seer type of gastrointestinal imbalances. It seems particularly useful when food ferments readily and gaseous accumulations distend the stomach, with much belching. In the lower gastrointestinal tract, it works very well to balance the agitated nervous system, preventing tension and cramps, dispelling gas, and bringing blood and energy to the area. In addition to comforting the gastrointestinal tract, this herb helps the Seer by sending blood out to the periphery, warming hands and feet, and modifying circulation to the skin. Along with this, the circulatory stimulating properties of this plant are useful for relieving achy joints associated with poor circulation and consequent poor removal of waste products.

Preparations/dosage: Infusion: 1/2 cup three times a day. Tincture: 20 to 30 drops three times a day.

Precautions: Avoid use when there are hot, throbbing joint patterns, in the case of an inflamed gastrointestinal tract, or whenever there is ongoing inflammation in the body.

By James Green, Herbalist, copyright 2008

For more information please refer to James Green’s book, The Male Herbal, 2nd Edition