A Widely Used Traditional American Remedy for Toothaches and Rheumatism

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Prickly Ash Bark

A Widely Used Traditional American Remedy for Toothaches and Rheumatism

In this article, you’ll learn and discover a widely used traditional American remedy for toothaches and rheumatism

Prickly Ash Bark is a traditional treatment for all common ailments caused by insufficient circulation, including leg cramps, varicose veins, cold hands and feet, and the feeling of cold throughout the body. The increased circulation has also been used to relieve the joint aches and pains of chronic rheumatism and arthritis.

Plant Description

Prickly Ash Bark is a beautiful, deciduous tree that is a native of North America, growing anywhere from four to about twenty-five feet in height and may be found in woodlands and on riverbanks, thriving in damp, fertile, well-drained soil in sun or shade.

True to its name, the Prickly Ash’s branchlets are loaded with thorns and produce alternately growing pinnate leaves, and the bruised foliage exudes a delicious, resinous citrus-orange-like fragrance. The tree (or shrub) also bears small, yellowish-green flowers that grow in clusters from April through June, before the leaves appear, and they are followed by small, red, edible berries.


Prickly Ash Bark was widely used by numerous Native American tribes as a treatment for toothache, rheumatism, gonorrhea, sore throat, and as a wash for itchy skin. When a toothache occurred, a piece of the bark was apparently inserted into the tooth cavity to ease the ache, but it was never clear whether the relief was due to the actual effect on the pain or distraction of attention caused by irritation produced by the bark (although it is interesting to note that rubbing the berries on the skin is said to produce a numbing effect).

Native Americans shared their knowledge of the herb with settlers, and Prickly Ash soon became a popular remedy for rheumatism and toothache (giving the tree several of its common names, Toothache Tree, etc.).

The herb was included in Dr. Jacob Bigelow’s monumental, three-volume American Medical Botany of 1817-1820, and he noted: “Many physicians place great reliance on its powers in rheumatic complaints.”

Prickly Ash Bark became official in the United States Pharmacopoeia from 1820 to 1926 as a treatment for chronic rheumatism, flatulence, and diarrhea. Although it was a widely used traditional American remedy for toothaches and rheumatism, John Nash introduced the herb into mainstream medicine in the nineteenth century, when he used it to treat typhus and cholera epidemics.

Medical Uses

Today, herbalists still specify Prickly Ash Bark as a remedy for rheumatism and are recommended for improved circulation. Prickly Ash Bark is a spicy, warming, stimulant herb, and it is said to act in the same manner as Cayenne, but with somewhat slower action.

The bark and fruits are used in herbal medicines, and the essential oils are used in perfumery. Some of the constituents contained in Prickly Ash Bark include alkaloids (chelerythrine, magnoflorine, laurifoline, nitidine, tambetarine, candicine, and gamma- and beta-fagarine), coumarins (xanthyletin, zanthoxyletin, and alloxanthyletin), an aromatic bitter oil (xanthoxylin), tannin, volatile oils, and resin.


Prickly Ash Bark is considered an “alternative” or herb that helps to gradually and favorably alter the course of an ailment or condition. It enhances the process of nutrition and excretion, restores normal bodily function, and acts to cleanse and stimulates the efficient removal of waste products from the system.

As a circulatory stimulant, Prickly Ash Bark improves circulation throughout the body and is beneficial to a wide variety of conditions. It helps to warm “cold” conditions in the body, including abdominal chills, peripheral circulation to the hands and feet, as well as the “dead” or white fingers associated with Raynaud’s syndrome.

The herb is said to produce arterial/capillary excitement to provide relief for leg cramping, chilblains, varicose veins, varicose ulcers, and lymphatic circulation.

Since Prickly Ash Bark promotes general blood circulation, it is also said to be beneficial where poor circulation causes soreness or pain to the bones or joints. The herb is said to be especially helpful in cases of muscle spasms, aches, and pains caused by chronic rheumatism and arthritic complaints.

Prickly Ash Bark is believed to stimulate the digestive system and assists in the relief of dyspepsia, colic, indigestion, and general stomach problems. It is said to relieve flatulence (the presence of gas in the stomach and intestines) and reduce belching and burping. It is also believed to be a useful tonic in debilitated conditions of the stomach and digestive organs, including the liver.

Prickly Ash Bark is considered a diaphoretic that increases perspiration and reduces intermittent fever. This action also helps to rid the body of toxins through the skin in the sweating process.

As a “nervine,” Prickly Ash Bark acts as a tonic to strengthen the function of the nervous system, and in this case, it stimulates and exerts a gentle strengthening effect on the entire body. It is said to restore tone and normal functional activity in the nervous system and help to strengthen feeble conditions, fatigue, convalescents, and the elderly.

Prickly Ash Bark is said to destroy toxins. As an antimicrobial, the chelerythrine content in Prickly Ash is believed to destroy microbes, and it is believed to destroy worms, yeast overgrowth, Candida, cholera, gonorrhea, typhoid, typhus, and dysentery.

As a strong stimulant, Prickly Ash Bark exerts a positive influence upon the entire body, including mucous membranes. This is believed to be of benefit to asthma, colds, and sore throats.

Prickly Ash Bark contains tannins that exert an astringent action and help to control diarrhea.

Used externally, Prickly Ash Bark has been used as an anodyne for centuries for chronic joint pain, lumbago, and rheumatism and is said to improve old wounds and indolent ulcers. The bark is thought to help relieve sores in the mouth and ease the pain of a toothache.


Pregnant and nursing women should not use Prickly Ash Bark, nor should those who experience stomach inflammations.

Herbal Guide Staff


The Complete Guide to Natural Healing believes that food, vitamins, supplements, and alternative medicine can be your best medicine. Our staff will show you the truth about health and wellness, so you can help your family and closest friends get even healthier. You’ll learn exactly what you should do and how to eat to get healthy, exercise to get your leanest, healthiest body and how to take control of your family’s health, using natural remedies as medicine.



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