Southern Prickly Ash or Hercules’ Club (Zanthoxylum clava-herculis)
At Sweet Gum Springs Apothecary we use the inner bark of this fascinating tree (which is common practice for most bark-based medicines). The challenge with Prickly Ash is that this lovely herbal ally has *thorns* (hence the name, see below).
The young branches (which are preferable to harvest) have spikier thorns that draw blood in a blink while the more mature trunks and branches of this tree have something that look more like stegosaurus scales. Witnessing these outrageously unique trees in the forest is nothing short of a spectacle. They are not that common in the Deep South, but when they want you to find them…you can’t miss them.
Southern Prickly Ash and the Prickly Ash of the north are both an excellent immuno-stimulant, kicking the adaptive immune system into high gear for when it is needed (to fight infection and pathogenic bacteria, or to increase scavenging activity in the blood to clean up waste products)… It’s also excellent in increasing peripheral circulation, and is warming in nature (and is commonly used for Reynaud’s disease). I would personally use other herbs for the CNS with Prickly Ash for Reynaud’s, like skullcap (which would help bring down any neurological inflammation).
Prickly Ash also has a knack for certain forms of gut dysbiosis. Another common name for this tree is toothache tree, for its traditional use for those suffering from dental infection or tooth-pain of some kind. It’s slight numbing affect on the mouth due to its characteristic tingling taste, is a signature of this plant. I like to combine it with propolis tincture for mild tooth pain.
It’s an otherwordly looking tree…one of my favorite to work with and be with ~ alongside Eastern Red Cedar.
For more info on Prickly Ash, please check out Henriette’s Herbal’s extensive post which draws from the late and great Eclectic physicians of the US.