Zanthoxylum spp. (Z. americanum, & Z. clava-herculus)

Prickly Ash

Zanthoxylum spp. (Z. americanum, & Z. clava-herculus)

Prickly Ash

The Prickly Ash tree is native to North America, where the bark of these American trees has been used as medicine for hundreds of years. The genus name, Zanthoxylum, is said to be derived from the Greek words, zanthos and xylum, meaning "yellow wood." Eastern Native American tribes valued Prickly Ash Bark as a means to stimulate saliva flow. Native Americans went on to share this knowledge with the new colonists. Eclectic physicians in the United States around the nineteenth century continued the traditional uses of Prickly Ash Bark, primarily as a digestive aid and to strengthen the nervous system.

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Traditional Health Benefits of Prickly Ash

Heart Support, Immune Support, Foundational Support

What is Prickly Ash Used for?

Prickly Ash's traditional use was to stimulate the body when it was feeling sluggish and still today plays an important role in this manner. Eclectic physicians used it in a similar way to Cayenne, but suggested that it is slower acting and longer lasting. Prickly ash is a great addition to a formula when a tonifying and supportive alterative is needed to rejuvenate the body. Prickly ash is often used to support normal circulation of blood in its vessels due to its inherent stimulatory effect on the body. As a result, it is often used as a supportive aid when more blood is needed in a certain area of the body. Because it supports blood flow in the body, prickly ash is also used to promote healthy joints, particularly when there is stagnant lymph that needs to re-circulated to promote optimal levels of inflammation.

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Active Constituents of Prickly Ash

The primary chemical constituents of Prickly Ash Bark include essential oils, fat, sugar, gum, alkaloids such as fagarine, magnoflorine, laurifoline, nitidine, chelerythrine, as well as tannins, coumarins and xanthoxylin, and the alkylamide Neoherculin.

Parts Used


Additional Resources

1.) Newall CA, Anderson LA, Philpson JD. Herbal Medicine: A Guide for Healthcare Professionals. London, UK: The Pharmaceutical Press, 2.) Yang ZY, Pei J, Liu RM, et al. Study on enhancing bioavailability of paeoniflorin by combined use with Chinese herbs for inner-warming. Zhongguo Zhong Xi Yi Jie He Za Zhi. 2005 Sep;25(9):822-4. Photo by Forest & Kim Starr.

Important Precautions

Not for use during pregnancy or lactation. If you have a medical condition or take pharmaceutical drugs please consult your doctor prior to use.


This information in our Herbal Reference Guide is intended only as a general reference for further exploration, and is not a replacement for professional health advice. This content does not provide dosage information, format recommendations, toxicity levels, or possible interactions with prescription drugs. Accordingly, this information should be used only under the direct supervision of a qualified health practitioner such as a naturopathic physician.

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