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Prickly Ash

(Last edited: Tuesday, 31 March 2015, 12:49 PM)

Prickly AshAlso known as: Angelica Tree, Northern Prickly Ash, Toothache Bark, Xanthoxylum, Yellow Wood, Zanthoxylum.

Scientific name: Zanthoxylum americanum.

Botanical Family: Rutaceae.

Parts used: Bark.

Traditional use.

Northern prickly ash is used for muscle cramps, Raynaud's syndrome, chronic rheumatic conditions, poor peripheral circulation associated with rheumatic symptoms, intermittent claudication, leg ulcers associated with poor circulation, inflammation, as a stimulant tonic, for toothache, and as a sweating promoter in fever. 


There are no concerns regarding safety when the bark is used appropriately in medicinal amounts.1

Pregnancy: Consult a medical herbalist.

Breastfeeding: Consult a medical herbalist.


Isoquinolone alkaloids; alpha fagarine, beta fagarine, magnoflorine, laurifoline, nitidine, chelerythrine, tambatarine and candicine.

Coumarins; including xanthyletin, xanthoxyletin, xanthotoxin, alloxanthyletin, isoorientin, cnidilin, dipetalin, psorelan and imperatorin.

Lignans; sesamin and asarinin.

Resin, acid volatile oil, and tannins, which may be pharmacologically active. 

Clinical evidence.

There are no clinical trials.

Mechanism of action.

There is woefully little research about the possible mechanism of action and active ingredients for this medicinal herb despite widespread use in many countries.

Chelerythrine is antimicrobial.

Zanthoxylum americanum demonstrates antifungal activity.3

Furanocoumarins found in berries of Zanthoxylum americanum (for example psoralen.) have demonstrated cytotoxic activity against human tumor cells.4

Adverse reactions.

None reported.

Interactions with drugs.

None reported. 

Interactions with foods.

None known. 

Interactions with laboratory tests.

None known. 

Interactions with diseases or conditions.

Gastrointestinal conditions. May increase stomach acid.

None known.


Recommended dose: 1.5-5 mls per day 1:5 tincture 45% alcohol.

Decoction: I tsp. per day.

Raw bark: 1-3 grams three times daily; 

The recommended dose of Dr Clare’s Joint Support Blend provides 3mls per day of 1:3 Tincture in 15mls daily, at a dose of 5mls three times a day.

This is equivalent to 375-750mgs per day. 


1.  McGuffin M, Hobbs C, Upton R, Goldberg A, eds. American Herbal Products Association's Botanical Safety Handbook. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press, LLC 1997.

2.  Newall CA, Anderson LA, Philpson JD. Herbal Medicine: A Guide for Healthcare Professionals. London, UK: The Pharmaceutical Press, 1996.

3. Bafi-Yeboa, N. F. A., Arnason, J. T., Baker, J., Smith, M.L. (2005). Antifungal constituents of Northern prickly ash, Zanthoxylum americanum Mill. Phytomedicine, 28, 370-377.

4. Saquib, Q. N., Hui, Y.-H., Anderson, J. E., Mclaughlin, J. L. (1990). Bioactive Furanocoumarins from the Berries of Zanthoxylum americanum. Phytotherapy Research, 4, 216-219. ISSN: 1099-1573.

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