Prickly Ash is a very odd American tree with an odd action. Its covered with pre-historic like thorns and, when applied externally or taken internally, it stimulates blood flow. It was used by the Native Americans to stimulate circulation, and, in time the Colonials adopted this use. If poor circulation, either do to age or genetics, caused problems, patients were dosed with Prickly Ash. In the contemporary world, Raynaud’s Phenomena, an interittent form of poor circulation, is often treated with the herb. Along with cayenne pepper, Prickly Ash is one of the classic circulatory stimulants. When I had a clinic in London we used a lot of Prickly Ash for people with Raynaud’s Phenomena, and I wrote a fact sheet for these patients. Below you will find that fact sheet.
In classic American country medicine Prickly Ash was also used by Country Doctors as a general health stimulant. As a result, I studied it in my PhD work for potential general health stimulating effects. After the Raynaud’s phenomena fact sheet you will find what I discovered regarding its general health stimulating effects. Medicinal plants that generally stimulate health are known as adaptogens and my PhD research revealed it was in fact a adaptogen, helping the body cope with the stress and strain of physical life.
Chapter from My PhD Thesis
Notes from the Eclectic Physicians
Scientific Name: Xanthoxylem americanum
Part Used: bark and berries
In a Word: Body Heater
Uses: Poor Circulation, Raynaud’s disease and phenomena
Prickly Ash is a North American plant that has been used for centuries to warm cold hands and feet. The Native Americans first used it to make the cold North American winters more bearable. In turn, the Native Americans let the European colonials know of its warming capacity. It has a long and interesting history and is an ideal herbal medicine for people with cold hands and feet. We feel this is especially true if the problem is a little more serious than the occasional case of chilly extremities, in the case of Raynaud’s Phenomena or Raynaud’s Disease.
Understanding Raynaud’s Disease and Raynaud’s Phenomena
Physiologically, Raynaud’s Disease is a spasm of the arteries supplying the fingers and toes. When the arteries go into spasm, blood flow to the extremities is reduced. The digits, fingers and toes, deprived of proper blood supply, go blue and cold. The spasms are usually triggered by cold and are relieved by the application of heat. When these bouts of cold hands and feet are unrelated to a greater disease process, patients are said to have Raynaud’s Disease. However, when these bouts of cold hands and feet are a part of a greater disease process, patients are said to suffer from Raynaud’s Phenomena . There are certain conditions which are often attended by these bouts of freezing extremities. Systemic Lupus Erythematous (SLE) and Progressive Systemic Sclerosis (PSS) are two such diseases that often come packing with this frigid digit phenomena. Systemic Lupus Erythematous (SLE) and Progressive Systemic Sclerosis (PSS) are both auto-immune diseases, diseases in which the immune system runs amuck and begins to attack the body. When the immune system backfires and turns on the body, drama ensues. Any organ or tissue can receive abuse from the out of control immune system. For reasons that mystify the scientific community, people suffering from auto-immune diseases like SLE and PSS often develop Raynaud’s Phenomena .
To summarise the situation, in Raynaud’s Disease, patients only experience a sudden loss of circulation to their hands and feet. In Raynaud’s Phenomena, patients experience sudden bouts of loss of circulation and a whole lot more. In this second case, the condition is linked to immune system malfunction. In either case, prickly ash is an ideal herbal medicine as it gets the blood rushing to the extremities thus warming them up. Though few people know about this medicinal plant today, in the last century, it was the number one treatment for conditions like Raynaud’s Disease and Raynaud’s Phenomena . Doctors in those days were extremely fond of this medicinal plant and extolled its virtue and efficacy. We will adventure through old medical books to gain a better understanding of Prickly Ash and to see its relevance in both conditions.
Very simply put, the doctors in the last century used Prickly Ash as a circulatory stimulant. When people suffered from poor circulation to their hands and feet, or “sluggish circulation” as they would have said, they called in the Prickly Ash to get the blood moving. Doctor Peterson wrote this in 1905, “Xanthoxylum (Prickly Ash) stimulates the nerve centers and thus increases the functional activity of the different organs of the body. Has a tonic effect on the heart and will antagonize congestion and blood stasis. Its action on the capillaries is similar to that of belladonna but is much safer to use as there are no toxic effects from its use. When taken, it causes a warmth and tingling through the whole body. It stimulates the heart and capillary circulation and thus assists in overcoming congestion and blood stasis. We think of it where the circulation is sluggish, mucous membrane relaxed and there is general lack of nerve tone.”
Doctor Peterson tells us that Prickly Ash does more than get the circulation rocking. He tells us that it stimulates the entire body. By stimulating the nerves and the digestion, Prickly Ash acts as a general tonic. Here are his words to this effect. “Prickly Ash stimulates the nerve centers and in this way increases the tone and functional activity of different organs of the body. In rheumatism as a gastro tonic, in atonic diarrhoea and dysentery, colic, cholera morbus, Asiatic cholera, chronic atonic dyspepsia. Combined with hydrastis, it makes a valuable restorative in condition of weakness, malnutrition, after debilitating fevers, diarrhea, dysentery, etc. It has a superior tonic influence upon the stomach and digestion and improves nutrition. A valuable remedy in chronic atonic dyspepsia.”
This good doctor, and all of his fellow doctors, felt that Prickly Ash was an ideal medicine when a person’s circulation needed some stimulation. They also said that along with circulatory stimulation came a general tonic effect. Two for the price of one! The patients who use Prickly Ash tend to agree with the long dead doctors.
Raynaud’s Phenomena is a bit more complicated because we have more going on than deficient circulation. In this case, the fundamental problem is abnormal immune function. The poor circulation is merely a symptom. Does Prickly Ash have a role to play in this case too? The answer is yes.
The same dead doctors that used Prickly Ash to treat circulatory abnormalities used it to treat conditions that We now know are caused by an immune system gone wrong. Here is an example of this feeling left behind by a certain Dr. Ellingwood. This quote comes from a book written in 1898. “Prickly ash has been deservedly valued in domestic practice as a remedy for chronic rheumatism, and was once quite popular as a masticatory for the relief of toothache. It undoubtedly has some value in rheumatic complaints. Its value in chronic rheumatism is very likely due to its eliminative power. It is best adapted to debilitated patients, and to cases of transient and fugitive forms of rheumatism, particularly lumbago, torticollis, myalgia, and muscular rheumatism.”
Today we know that Rheumatoid Arthritis is a condition caused by the immune system attacking the body. In Rheumatoid Arthritis, the immune system goes after the joints. When the immune system goes on the warpath, it can attack any system in the body. In conditions like Systemic Lupus Erythematose, the immune system commonly attacks the respiratory system, the urinary system, and the skin, though no part of the body is safe from attack. The same is true for Progressive Systemic Sclerosis; no part of the body is safe from the abusive immune system.
Those Doctors used Prickly Ash for what we now know are auto-immune diseases, regardless of what part of the body the immune system was attacking. For this reason, many think and find Prickly Ash is a good choice for those suffering from Raynaud’s Phenomena. The plant increases circulation and addresses auto-immune disease all in one go.
As is often the case with herbal medicines, very little research has been conducted on this medicinal plant. In the absence of modern clinical research, We rely on the recommendations of the dead doctors and contemporary practitioners of herbal medicine. In both cases the recommendation is Prickly Ash is a good choice if one wants to use an herbal medicine to treat Raynaud’s Disease or Raynaud’s Phenomena .
Again, as is often the case with herbal medicines, Prickly Ash does not work overnight. It must be used for at least three months before one decides whether it is having a beneficial effect. Herbal Medicine does not offer instant cures or overnight wonders, rather slow and gradual improvement. As the doctors in the last century rightly said, it improves general health while dealing with a specific problem. In both cases, it needs to be given time to show its power.
One last note! Herbal medicines work but they are not necessarily pretty! Prickly Ash Tincture is a strange looking liquid, fear not, the tincture you have received has not gone off. It just has a cloudy appearance. Make certain you shake the jar before using the tincture.
People with poor circulation, those with conditions like Raynaud’s and those with the more garden variety of poor circulation, are told that there is not a lot that can be done for them. Wrong. As you have seen, Prickly Ash has a long history of being used for exactly that purpose. If you suffer from occasional cold hands and feet, you can use Prickly Ash on an as needed basis. If the problem is chronic, and indeed a symptom of a more serious problem, Prickly Ash should be taken three times a day as a tonic. It has immediate effects; one feels a flush of warmth shortly after taking it. But, to remedy the underlying condition, it needs to be taken for periods of time. Warm up! There is hope for the frigid digit brigade!
History: Used by Native Americans to warm the body in winter
Science: Contains xanthoxyline which opens up blood vessels
Practitioners opinion: Effective and works right away
Chapter from my PhD Thesis
Significant phytochemicals include berberine, candicine, chelerythrine, fagarine, magnoflorine, tannin, xamthoxyletin, xanthoxylin, and xanthoxyletin . (12)
Native to North America, Xanthoxylem americanum is found growing between the Mississippi River and the Western States . The drug was widely used by Native Americans (Illinois-Miami, Algonquin, Chippewa, Seneca, Menomini, Meskwaki, Ojibwe, and Potawatami tribes) for a collection of medicinal applications including haemorrhages, tuberculosis, bronchitis, bronchial disease, congestion, dropsy, colic, flatulence and diarrhoea, gonorrhoea, syphilis, rheumatism, inward pains, and tooth ache.
Topically, it was applied to sores and ulcers, sore throat, quinsy, and to strengthen the legs and feet of weak children. The colonials encountered the drug as colonialism spread westward. Writers from the 18 th century report that the drug was used to treat venereal disease (gonorrhea, syphilis), rheumatic disease, and a collection of non-venereal infections (typhus, cholera). (13) Early on, the American medical embraced the drug.
The first Eclectics, trained in mainstream medical schools, were well acquainted with the drug.
However, as a group, the Eclectics embraced the drug after it was used with great success during the 1849 Asiatic cholera epidemic in Cincinnati . There after, the drug was an Eclectic favorite. The drug was official in the US Pharmacopoeia from 1820 to 1910. (11)
Eclectic Uses (1–11)
Stimulant, tonic, alterative, sialagogue, diaphoretic, diuretic, diffuse stimulant, stimulant to mucous tissues, topical influence on mucous membrane of throat, stomach, intestines, stimulates production of mucous and saliva in the mouth, reduces secretion of mucous when excessive, stimulates secretions, stimulates the nervous and circulatory systems, gastrointestinal tonic, stimulates nerve centres which in turn stimulate many parts of the body, valuable restorative in conditions of weakness, malnutrition, tonic after debilitating fevers, diarrhea and dysentery.
“Xanthoxylum is specifically indicated (in the smaller doses) in hypersecretion from debility and relaxation of mucous tissues; atonicity of the nervous system (larger doses); in capillary engorgement in the exanthemata, sluggish circulation, tympanites in bowel complaints, intestinal and gastric torpor (with deficient secretion), dryness of the mucous membrane of mouth and fauces (with glazed, glossy surfaces), flatulent colic, Asiatic cholera, uterine cramps, and neuralgia. For the painful bowel disorders, the preparations of the berries are to be preferred.” (6)
Chronic rheumatism, syphilis, tuberculosis, systemic tuberculosis, scrofula, problems with the mucous membrane (mouth, digestive, respiratory, urinary), chronic diseases of the mucous surfaces, enfeebled, relaxed mucous membranes with hypersecretion, cholera, cholera morbus, cholerine, typhoid fever, dropsy due to malaria, depressed conditions of the vital forces, eruptive diseases, eruptive disease where eruption does not materialise, summer diseases, sluggish conditions, where there is sluggish circulation, relaxed mucous membranes, and general lack of nerve tone.
Poor circulation, congestion and blood stasis.
Colic, hepatic derangement’s, poor saliva flow, diarrhea, dysentery, severe tenesmus, dryness of the mouth and throat, atonic dyspepsia, chronic atonic dyspepsia, gastric catarrh, chronic affections of the mucous membranes, with enfeeblement, relaxation, and hypersecretion, constipation due to deficient intestinal secretion, flatulent distension of the abdomen, flatulence, hypo-secretion of any part, icterus from biliary catarrh, icterus from malaria, spasm of the bowels, cholera infantum, cholera morbus, Asiatic cholera, atonic cases of cholera, abnormal bowels function after dysentery or epidemic dysentery, atonic diarrhoea, typhoid conditions.
Rheumatic complaints, chronic rheumatism, paralytic, rheumatic, and neuralgic disorders of the vocal organs, organs of deglutition, and neighbouring parts, problems with the muscular fibres and coat of the intestine, spasms of the muscular fibres, inflammation of the muscular coat, inflammatory conditions of the intestine with spasm, chronic rheumatism with eliminative problems, rheumatic patients with debility, transitive and fugitive forms of rheumatism, lumbago, torticollis, myalgia, muscular rheumatism, odontalgia, dull, grumbling pain due to periodontal disease, paralysis of the tongue, hemiplegia, locomotor ataxia.
Neuralgic pains of anaemic or delicate persons.
Pharyngitis, chronic pharyngitis, post-nasal catarrh, dryness of the mucous membranes.
Stimulating application in malignant and indolent ulcers.
The drug from Selye’s perspective
State of Resistance
The drug was used to increase resistance to cholera, cholera morbus, Asiatic cholera, typhoid fever, eruptive diseases, chronic rheumatism, syphilis, tuberculosis, and malaria.
State of Exhaustion
The drug was used when resistance could no longer be maintained and State of Exhaustion set in. Diseases causing State of Exhaustion included acute and chronic infection, and autoimmune disease. Signs of State of Exhaustion , treated by the drug included depressed conditions of the vital forces, great debility, mucous membrane dysfunction, enfeebled mucous membrane (profuse or insufficient secretion), dropsy, sluggish conditions with lack of nerve force, atonic dyspepsia, diarrhoea/dysentery, gastric catarrh, circulatory abnormalities, and indolent ulcers.
From Selye’s perspective, the drug was used to augment the GAS, which suggests it increases adaptation energy. Evidence to this effect includes the following. It was used to raise resistance when severe acute infection threatened life. It was used to raise resistance to chronic infection. It was used to raise resistance to autoimmune disease. The drug was used to stabilise patients having entered into State of Exhaustion . Lastly, it was used topically to inspire healing in non-healing wounds and ulcers.
Brekhman’s adaptogen criterion
An adaptogen should be innocuous and cause minimal disorders in the physiological functions of an organism.
The drug is reported to be innocuous in both Eclectic and contemporary literature. (1–13)
The action of an adaptogen should be non-specific i.e. it should increase resistance to adverse influences of a wide range of factors of physical, chemical, and biological nature.
Clinically the drug was used to increase resistance to cholera, typhus, eruptive viral infections, syphilis, tuberculosis, malaria, rheumatoid arthritis, and debility. (11)
Experimentally, the drug contains compounds that increase resistance to bacterial infection (cholera, Escherichia, gonorrhoea, pneumonia, Shigella, Salmonella, Staph, Strep, syphilis, tuberculosis, gram positive/negative bacterium), cancer, Chlamydia infection, bacterial endotoxin intoxication, Giardia infection, viral infection (herpes,), malarial infection, amoebae infection, plasmodium infection, worms, fungal infection (Candida), cancer, and Tumorgenesis. (12)
An adaptogen may possess normalising action irrespective of the direction of the foregoing pathological changes.
Clinically the drug was used to normalise the signs of State of Exhaustion (mucous membrane abnormalities, membrane permeability abnormalities, atonic dyspepsia, diarrhoea/dysentery, ulceration of the skin and mucous membrane, etc.). Circulatory abnormalities were especially seen to be corrected with this drug. (1–11)
Experimentally, the drug contains compounds which have been shown to normalise acne, arrhythmia, arthritis, diarrhoea/dysentery, oedema, inflammation, histaminic reactions, ischemia, temperature abnormalities, secretory abnormalities, ulceration, immune suppression, leukaemia, adrenal insufficiency, and prostaglandin over production. (12)
The drug exhibits properties consistent with Brekhman’s definition of an adaptogen. The drug is innocuous; it raises resistance to a wide range of biological threats, and normalises function.
19th century physicians were well acquainted with Xanthoxylem americanum. It was official in the US Pharmacopoeia and was stocked in every corner apothecary. However, the manner in which the drug was used varied greatly amongst the different classes of physicians. The medical establishment used the drug in large amounts to cause emesis and catharsis. In other words, they used it to purge the sickness out of the sick.
The Eclectics, on the other hand, used the drug in small amounts to stimulate the body’s own recuperative capacity to renewed action. They used it in acute and chronic infections to stimulate resistance to these infections. They used it when resistance failed and State of Exhaustion set in. The drug was used to augment the conservative force, or Vis conservatrix. Physiology, also dependent upon vital force, could be stimulated with the drug. However, from the Eclectic perspective, the drug was so powerful it was only safe when used in small amounts.
Potential clinical applications
The drug was used to raise resistance to infection and there is experimental data supporting this use. It may have a role in raising resistance to infection.
• Xanthoxylem americanum and its effects on the GAS. The drug should be tested out in the animal model to determine its specific effects on the GAS.
• Xanthoxylem americanum and autoimmune disease. The drug was used when a patient could no longer maintain resistance to autoimmune disease. There is experimental data supporting this use. The drugs’ ability to increase resistance to autoimmune disease should be investigated.
• Xanthoxylem americanum and circulatory disease of autoimmune origin. Clinically, the drug was used to treat patients experiencing what we now know to be autoimmune related vascular disease (Raynaud’s phenomena). The drugs’ ability to raise resistance to this type of autoimmune disease should be investigated.
The drug is abundant in the wild and is readily grown.
References for Xanthoxylem americanum
• King, John. The American Eclectic Dispensatory. Moore , Wilstach, and Keys. Cincinnati . 1854. P. 969.
• Scudder, J. M. Specific Medication and Specific Medicines. Revised. Fifth Edition. Wilstach, Baldwin and Company. Cincinnati . 1874.P. 268.
• Scudder, J. M. The American Eclectic Materia Medica and Therapeutics. Published by the Author. Cincinnati . 1883. P. 214, 353,659.
• Watkins, Lyman. An Eclectic Compendium of The Practice of Medicine. John M.Scudder’s Sons. Cincinnati . 1895. P. 453.
• Felter, Harvey Wickes and Lloyd, John Uri. Kings’ American Dispensatory. Volume one and Volume two. Ohio Valley Company. Cincinnati . 1898. P. 2087.
• Webster, HT. Dynamical Therapeutics—A work devoted to the Theory and Practice of Specific Medication with special references to the newer remedies. Webster Medical Publishing Company. Oakland . Second Edition. 1898. P. 216, 387, 509.
• Felter, Harvey. Syllabus of Eclectic Materia Medica and Therapeutics. Compiled from notes taken from the lectures of F.J.Locke. Edited with pharmacological additions by H.W.Felter. Second edition, with appendix. Scudder Brothers Company. Cincinnati.1901. P. 224.
• Peterson, F.J. Materia Medica and Clinical Therapeutics. Published by the Author. Los Olivos , California . 1905. P. 157.
• Lloyd, JU. History of the Vegetable Drugs of the Pharmacopoeia of the United States . Bulletin number 18: pharmacy number 4. 1911. P. 92.
• Fyfe, John William. Pocket Essentials of Modern Materia Medica and Therapeutics. The Scudder Brothers Company. 1903. P. 313.
• Lloyd, John Uri. Origin and History of all the Pharmacopoeial Vegetable Drugs, Chemicals and Preparations. Volume 1: Vegetable Drugs. The Caxton Press. Cincinnati . 1921. P. 354.
• Dr. Dukes Phytochemical and Ethnobotanical Databases. Agricultural Research Service. USDA.
• Erichson-Brown, Charlotte . Medicinal and other uses of North American Plants. Dover Publications. New York . 1979. P. 155–7.
Notes from the Eclectic Physicians
It is not only popular remedy in the country, but many physicians place great reliance on its powers in rheumatic complaints, so that the apothecaries generally give it a place in the shops. It is most frequently given in decoction, an ounce being boiled in a quart of water. Dr.George Haywood of Boston informs me, that he formerly took this decoction in his own case of chronic rheumatism with evident relief. It is warm and grateful to the stomach,produced no nausea nor effect upon the bowels, and excited little, if any perspiration, it produces powerful effect when applying to secreting surfaces and to ulcerated surfaces.
This is a great article in the materia medica of all Indians, it is called hantola by the western tribes. they prefer the bark of the root, and use it in decoctions for colics, gonorrhea, syphilis, rheumatism, inward pains, chewed for tooth ache, and applied externally in poultice, with bear grease, for ulcers, and sores, It is a great topical stimulant, changing the nature of malignant ulcers. It is very good in diseases connected with a syphilitic taint.
1854; King J; (Materia Medica) - XANTHOXYLUM FRAXINEUM
Properties and Uses. – Prickly Ash Bark is stimulant, tonic, alterative, and sialogogue. When swallowed, it produces a sense of heat in the stomach, with more or less arterial excitement, and a tendency to diaphoresis. It is used as a stimulant in languid states of the system, and as a sialogogue in paralysis of the tongue and mouth. It has proved highly beneficial in chronic rheumatism, colic, syphilis, hepatic derangements, and wherever a stimulating alterative treatment is required. Combined with equal parts of pulverized blueflag and mandrake, it will bring on salivation, and is useful on this account in the treatment of scrofulous, syphilitic and other diseases, where there is a want of susceptibility to the influence of other alterative agents; the mixture must be given in small doses, and repeated at short intervals. Externally, it forms an excellent stimulating application to indolent and malignant ulcers. Dose of the powder, from ten to thirty grains, three times a day.
Prepare a tincture from the berries, 35viij.to alcohol 98% Oj. Dose from the fraction of a drop to five drops.
The xanthoxylem has been eomploued as a diffsible stimulant. ITs generla stimulant action is not very makred, and there are many other remedies preferable. But as a stimulant to mucous tissues it has no ewual in the materia medica. Whenever it is desireable to otain such infuence, whether of the throat, the gastro-intestinal tract, the mucous membranes of the air passages, or of the urinary organs, we are rarely disapointed in its action. Upon the thorat, the stomahc, and upon the intestines, it exerts a topical influence before absorption.
In small doses we occasionally employ it in chronic diseases of mucous surfaces, with good results. The cases are as above, when the mucous membranes are enfeebled and relaxed, with hypersecretion.
The berries and bark of the prickly ash, when masticated, act as highly excitant agents to the mucous membrane of the mouth, occasioning a copious flow of mucous, while at the same time the salivary glands are aroused to increased action,and a flow of saliva follows. They are sometimes used in paralytic, rheumatic, and neuralgic disorders of the vocal organs, organs of deglutition, and neighboring parts.
The iris, sanguinaria, capsicum, cubebs,black pepper, and sundry other pungent and excitant agents, when masticated, cause an increased flow of saliva, and are applicable to the cases in which the preceding agents have been recommended.
1895: Watkins - XANTHOXYLUM
Severe gastro-intestinal irritation, colicky pains in stomach and bowels, tympanites, flatulence, diarrhoea, tenesmus, uterine dramps, neuralgia. Five to ten drops of tincture every hour.
Xanthoxylum influences the muscular fibres and mucous coat of the intestine, relieving spasm of the former and irritation of the latter. It is therefore applicable to inflammatory conditions there, especially those attended by spasmodic states of the muscular walls.
It has been used successfully in cholera morbus, cholerine, cholera, diarrhoea and dysentery. It may prove especially valuable where severe tenesmus is a marked symptom, and where the evacuations have been arrested by astringents and the irritation remains.
Some of the old Eclectics used it in a typhoid fever with reputed success. Its action on the intestine, with its stimulating properties, might adapt it to the late stage, where a stimulant was desirable.
Form for Administration- The specific medicine.
Dose- From the fraction of a drop to ten drops.
1898: Felter and Lloyd - XANTHOXYLUM (U.S.P.) – XANTHOXYLUM
Action, Medical Uses, and Dosage – Physiologically, prickly ash acts upon the secretions, the nervous and circulatory systems. The bark, when chewed, imparts an aromatic, sweetish taste, followed by bitterness and persistent acridity. Its sialagogue properties are remarkable, inducing a copious flow of saliva, together with a great quantity of mucus from the buccal glands. This is brought about both by its local and systemic action. In the stomach it creates a sense of warmth, and the flow of both gastric and intestinal juices is augmented. There is increased biliary and pancreatic activity. Under its action the kidneys become more active, and an increased urinary product results. Cardiac action is increased, the pulse becomes slightly accelerated, and the integumentary glands give out an abundant secretion. Therapeutically, the bark is sialagogue, alterative, diaphoretic, and especially stimulant to the mucous surfaces. It is also emmenagogue an dcarminative, and the berries are said to possess antiseptic properties. To increase its diaphoretic power, it should be administered with plenty of hot water, at the same time subjecting the patient to a warm foot-bath. Prof. King cautions us that there is a material difference, in their influence on the system, between the tincture of the bark, or that of the berries, which should always be kept in view. The properties of the bark, as given by him, are stimulant, tonic, alterative, and sialagogue; of the berries, stimulant, carminative, and antispasmodic, acting especially on mucous tissues. Prickly ash has been deservedly valued in domestic practice as a remedy for chronic rheumatism, and was once quite popular as a masticatory for the relief of toothache. It undoubtedly has some value in rheumatic complaints, and may be combined with phytolacca when the indications for that drug are present. Its value in chronic rheumatism is very likely due to its eliminative power. It is best adapted to debilitated patients, and to cases of transient and fugitive forms of rheumatism, particularly lumbago, torticollis, myalgia, and muscular rheumatism. It may be used externally and administered internally, and in many cases will assist the action of macrotys. Its use in odontalgia will be confined to those cases where there is dull, grumbling pain due to peridental inflammation, the parts being dry and shining, and the buccal secretions scanty. Owing to its eliminative powers, it has been quite extensively used in constitutional syphilis an dscrofula, and as a remedy for the former ranks with guaiac, stillingia, sarsaparilla, and mezereon. It is one of the constituents of “Trifolium Compound,” and other alterative mixtures.
Prof. King states that “combined with equal parts of pulverized blue flag and mandrake, it will bring on salivation, and is useful on this account in the treatment of scrofulous, syphilitic, and other diseases where there is a want o fsusceptibility to the influence of other alterative agents; the mixture must be given in small doses, and repeated at short intervals. Externally, it forms an excellent stimulating application to indolent and malignant ulcers.” Xanthoxylum is serviceable in many disorders of the mouth an dthroat, as well as of the entire alimentary tract. It has some reputation as a local stimulant for paralysis of the tongue, though its value here is overrated. In like manner it has been employed in neuralgia, and paralytic conditions of the vocal aparatus and organs of deglutition. That it will relieve an unpleasant dryness of the mouth and fauces is well established. It is a remedy of value in pharyngitis, especially the chronic variety, the mucous surfaces presenting a glazed, shining, dry condition, with thin, adherent scales of dried mucus. In both pharyngitis and post-nasal catarrh a decoction locally, and specific xanthoxylum (bark) internally, will be found to aid a cure in those cases having dryness of mucous membranes as a distinctive feature. Prickly ash is unmistakably an admirable gastro-intestinal tonic. It will find a place in the treatment of atonic dyspepsia an dgastric catarrh. Many chronic affections of the mucous tissues are benefited by it, the cases being those of enfeeblement and relaxation, with hypersecretion. Constipation due to deficient intestinal secretion has been overcome by its use alone. It is more especially indicated when accompanied by a flatulent distension of the abdomen. As an agent for flatulence, the preparation from the berries will give the best results. Lack of secretion in any part of the intestinal tract calls for a preparation of prickly ash bark. Both the bark and the berries may be required in some instances. Icterus, the result of biliary catarrh, is specifically influenced by xanthoxylum, as well as that form resulting from malarial impression. In spasm of the bowles, colic, cholera infantum, and cholera morbus, specific xanthoxylum (berries) will be found valuable in atonic cases. It is useful to restore the bowels to their normal state after severe attacks of dysentery, and has been of particular service as a remedy for epidemic dysentery.
Prof. John King introduced the saturated tincture of the berries to the profession in Cincinnati , in 1849, as a remedy for Asiatic cholera. In his article on prickly ash berries in the College Journal for 1856 (p. 86), he writes: “I have used thi stincture for some years pas, and had the pleasure to introduce it to the profession in this city during the year 1849, both in the treatment of tympanitic distension of the bowels during peritoneal inflammation and in Asiatic cholera. In tympanites it may be administered by mouth and by injection; internally, from 1/2 to 1 fluid drachm may be given in a little sweetened water, repeating the dose every 1/2 or 1 hour. At the same time, 1/2 fluid ounce may be added to the same quantity of water and used as an injection, repeating it every 15 or 30 minutes, according to its influence and the severity of the symptoms, and should there be pain 10 to 20 drops of laudanum may be added to every third or fourth injection. The action is usually prompt and permanent, and, as far as my experience has gone, I prefer it, in a majority of cases, to oil of turpentine and other remedies advised in this condition. In Asiatic cholera during 1849-50 it was much employed by our physicians in Cincinnati , and with great success – it acted like electricity, so sudden and diffusive was its influence over the system. In this disease the tincture was given in teaspoonful doses, and repeated, according to circumstances, every 5, 10 or 20 minutes, at the same time administering an injection, prepared as above, after each discharge from the bowels, and causing it to be retained by the bowels as long as possible.” Prof. King likewise valued it in atonic diarrhoea and in typhoid conditions requiring a stimulant, believing it to have an advantage over all other drugs for that purpose. In the tympanitic conditions incident to cholera infantum and other forms of diarrhoea, he combined euqal parts of olive oil and tincture of prickly ash berries and had the little patient’s abdomen freely rubeed with it, in a downward direction only, for 1 or 2 hours, until the flatulent state was over, claiming thereby to have saved many a little one who would otherwise have gone to an early grave. To prevent a return of the tympanitic distension he used the tincture by mouth and per rectum. Combined with diuretics and tonics, prickly ash has been employed in dropsy and in malarial manifestations, and is in good repute as a remedy for functional dysmenorrhoea. For the latter purpose about 20 drops of specific xanthoxylum (bark) should be administered at a dose, and repeated as often as necessary. Both the bark and berries give good results in neuralgic dysmenorrhoea with marked pain an dhypersensitiveness. Xanthoxylum is a valuable nerve stimulant, and may be administered for some length of time without ill effects. It is valuable in all cases of prostration, and has been recommended in “hemiplegia, locomotor ataxia, and all depressed conditions of the vital forces.” Pains down the anterior portions of the thighs, as well as after-pains, accompanied with dorsal or sacral pain, are relieved by it. It relieves neuralgic pains in anemic and delicate persons. Owing to its action on blood stasis, overcoming capillary engorgement, it has been found useful in determining the rash to the surface in the eruptive diseases,a nd is especially serviceable in cases of retrocession of the eruption. It is a remedy that is neglected, but should be borne in mind during the prevalence of summer diseases. The dose of specific xanthoxylum (berries) is from 5 to 30 drops; of specific xanthoxylum (bark), from 2 to 20 drops; of the powder, from 10 to 30 grains, 3 times a day. The oil of xanthoxylum may be used for the same purpose as the berries, in doses of from 2 to 10 drops, in mucilage, or on sugar; and its tincture, made according to the formula below (see Preparation), may be administered in the same doses as the tincture of be berries.
Specific Indicatins and Uses- Xanthoxylum is specifically indicated (in the smaller doses) in hypersecretion from debility and relaxation of mucous tissues; atonicity of the nervous system (larger doses); in capillary engorgement in the exanthemata, sluggish circulation, tympanites in bowel complaints, intestinal and gastric torpor (with deficient secretion), dryness of the mucous membrane of mouth and fauces (with glazed, glossy surfaces), flatulent colic, Asiatic cholera, uterine cramps, and neuralgia. For the painful bowel disorders, the preparations of the berries are to be preferred.
This agent is a pronounced stimulant. If the warm infusion be freely used it produces diaphoresis. As a stimulant it is very active, producing general excitement. It is adapted to sluggish conditions.
Both the bark and the berries have been used in rheumatism, and as a gastric tonic and carminative. Atonic dyspepsia is greatly benefited by it. It is a remedy of much value in atonic diarhea and dyssentery, and in colic and cholera morbus. Great reliance was placed upon it in the treatment of asiatic cholera, in which disease it rendered excelleant service. when masticated prickly ash bark and berries excite the buccal secretions, and have been employed in neuralgic and semi-paralytic states of the mouth and immediated tissues. The dose of specific Xanthoxylem ranges from ten drops to one drachm.
1905: Petersen - XANTHOXYLUM AMERICANUM:
Syn – Xanthoxylum; Prickly Ash
P. E. – Berries and bark
N. O. – Rutaceae
N. H. – United States
Properties: Stimulant, tonic, carminative.
Physiological action: Xanthoxylum stimulates the nerve centers and thus increases the functional activity of the different organs of the body. Has a tonic effect on the heart and will antagonize congestion and blood stasis. Its action on the capillaries is similar to that of belladonna but is much safer to use as there are no toxic effects from its use. When taken it causes a warmth and tingling through the whole body.
Uses: Stimulates the nerve centers and in this way increases the tone and functional activity of different organs of the body. It stimulates the heart, and capillary circulation and thus assists in overcoming congestion and blood stasis. We think of it where the circulation is sluggish, mucous membrane relaxed and there is general lack of nerve tone. In rheumatism as a gastro tonic, in atonic diarrhoea and dysenter, colic, cholera morbus. Asiatic cholera, chronic atonic dyspepsia. Combined with hydrastis, it makes a valuable restorative in condition of weakness, malnutrition, after debilitating fevers, diarrhoea, dysentery, etc. It has a superior tonic influence upon the stomach and digestion and improves nutrition. A valuable remedy in chronic atonic dyspepsia.
Relaxation and hypersecretion of mucous tissues, atonic conditions of the muscular, glandular and circulatory systems, atonicc conditions of the digestive organs,flatulence and pain in the stomache and bowels, tympanites.
Xanthoxylem is stimulant,tonic, diaphoretic, and alterative.
Prickly ash, Xanthoxylum americanum, is a shrub native to North America, being somewhat abundant in localities where it is found, between the Mississippi River and the Western States . Long a domestic remedy, it became a favorite in the Eclectic school of medicine by reason of its use during the prevalence of the Asiatic cholera in Cincinnati , 1849, in which it was employed by them with great satisfaction. It had, however, as stated, a domestic as well as a seemingly professional record preceding that date, the same reaching back to the primitive medication of the Indians. Barton’s Collection (43). Zollickoffer’s (706) Materia Medica (1826), and other authorities on the domestic remedies of North America mention it conspicuously, the latter writer stating that the berries were used to relieve the toothache, a decoction of the bark in the treatment of rheumatic affections, whilst the country people employed an infusion of the berries in colic. It was therefore a popular remedy, possessed of marked carminative qualities, that, impressing such men as Barton (43), Thacher (631), King 356-357), Zollickoffer (706), and others, brought it into professional recognition. Prickly ash berries are used in large amount in some of the American proprietary remedies.
Official from 1820 to 1910. In the editions of 1820 and (2nd edition) 1828, it was mentioned in the Primary List, but in following editions it was relegated to the Secondary List until 1880, when it became wholly official. Xanthoxylum of the U.S.P., 1910, is the bark of Xanthoxylum americanum (Northern Prickly Ash of commerce), or of Xanthoxylum Clava-Herculis.
Prickly ash, Xanthoxylum americanum, is a shrub native to North America, being somewhat abundant in localities where it is found, between the Mississippi River and the Western States . Long a domestic remedy, it became a favorite in the Eclectic school of medicine by reason of its use during the prevalence of the Asiatic cholera in Cincinnati , 1849, when it was employed by them with great satisfaction. It had, however, a domestic as well as a seemingly professional record preceding that date, the same reaching back to the primitive medication of the Indians. Barton’s Collection (43), Zollickoffer’s (706) Materia Medica, 1826, and other authorities on the domestic remedies of North America mention xanthoxylum conspicuously, the latter writer stating that he berries were used to relieve the toothache, and a decoction of the bark in the treatment of rheumatic affections, whilst the country people employed an infusion of the berries in colic. It was therefore a popular remedy, possessed of marked carminative qualities that, impressing such men as Barton (43), Thacher (631), King (356, 357), Zollickoffer (706) and others, brought it into professional recognition. Prickly ash berries are used in large amount in some of the American proprietary remedies.
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