PRICKLY ASH BARK Zanthoxylum americanum
Although the leaves of Prickly Ash do somewhat resemble those of the common Ash, the two are not related. Prickly Ash is a North American member of the Rutacae, and shares family ties with the citrus trees. In fact, the small dark berries and leaves have an aromatic, lemony scent, which Native American boys and men liked to use as perfume. Prickly Ash grows in the North and North-western United States. At one point many different Native tribes considered it a highly valuable medicinal plant. The new settlers also learned to appreciate its medicinal virtues and between 1820 and 1926 even gave it a place of honour in the official pharmacopoeia. Prickly Ash's other vernacular name is Toothache Tree.
Prickly Ash can perhaps best be described as a stimulant as it brings warmth to the body by stimulating the circulation. It has a dilating effect on the blood vessels, which can be employed in diseases that are marked by poor circulation, such as Raynaud's syndrome and Claudicatio intermittens, as well as for rheumatism and arthritis, where improved circulation increases the oxygen and nutrient supply to aching joints, while helping to flush out metabolic waste materials. It seems Prickly Ash stimulates the glandular system to increase secretion - it stimulates the flow of saliva, of gastric juices and probably those of the liver and gall bladder as well. It also has a diuretic effect on the kidneys and increases the amount of urine secreted. It tones the digestive system and has a marked effect on flatulent dyspepsia, which may be due to insufficient gastric juices or the inability to digest certain foods. Prickly Ash can be combined with other herbs to enhance their efficacy by adding its stimulant effect. In Native American medicine it was also used to treat toothache as well as bronchial afflictions. Do not use during pregnancy.
Not much is known about how Native Americans used this herb magically, except that it was employed in some shamanic healing rites and that it was given to dogs to sharpen their senses for the hunt. This stimulating effect can kindle the inner fire and may be used for initiation rituals or to heighten the acuity of the senses. The hot nature of this herb can also be utilized for love and lust charms.