Prickly ash bark is taken from the bark of a tree native to North America. It has been traditionally used to treat a number of conditions and was widely used by the Native Americans.
For almost a hundred years it was an official medication in the United States and was recommended for rheumatism and a number of digestive disorders.
It is a warming herb with a spicy flavor that works in a similar manner to cayenne pepper but much more gently.
The herb can be administered in a number of forms.
Powdered bark is recommended if a poultice is required and is also available in the form of a capsule.
Teas are better made from the bark, but the berry of the tree has some medicinal benefits as well.
Benefits of prickly ash bark include:
- Improving the circulation of the blood and all related conditions such as varicose veins and general feeling of cold, such as Raynaud’s disease. Improved circulation helps the blood carry oxygen around the body and can help the system to rid itself of toxins much more efficiently. A number of ready-made preparations can be purchased which blend prickly ash bark with other herbs such as ginger.
- Improved circulation can help to relieve the aches associated with arthritis and rheumatism.
- The Native Americans used it to treat toothaches and sore throats. It has a positive effect on the mucus membranes, which can help to fight off respiratory disorders.
- Prickly ash has a stimulating effect on the digestion and can ease a number of symptoms such as flatulence and indigestion.
- The herb is also thought to be beneficial for increasing perspiration and reducing fevers. The body can then rid itself of more toxins for general well being and an improved immune system.
- Prickly ash bark has a positive effect on the body’s nervous system and is thought to be able to improve fatigue which may be beneficial for the elderly and those recovering from illness.
- It has an antibacterial action which can help the body to rid itself of infection and parasites. It is generally the Chinese variety of prickly bark which has this effect.
- The herb can be used externally as a poultice for toothache and joint pain. Native Americans chewed the bark to relieve toothache. When used as an ingredient in lotions it can be used as a massage treatment for the circulation. Poultices can also be applied to leg ulcers.
- Prickly ash powder is often found as an ingredient in tooth powders.
Side Effects of Prickly Ash
Anybody who suffers from stomach upsets should not use prickly ash. Those who are pregnant should not use the herb and nursing mothers will find that it stops their milk flow.
A small number of people will experience a reaction if using the herb externally on the skin, so a small patch test should be carried out first. American prickly ash may cause some sensitivity to sunlight, particularly if also using St John’s wort.