Prickly Ash

Botanical Name: Zanthoxylum americanum Family: Rutaceae

Common name(s): Prickly Ash, Toothache Tree, Yellow Wood, Suterberry


  • Shrub; perennial | Zone 3-7 | 8-15 feet tall | Small greenish flowers before leaves in April/May | Fruit grows in clusters at end of branches and is green to red to blue-black in color | Bark has scattered prickles
  • Grows in wood, thickets, and on river banks


Berries are harvested in late summer. Bark is harvested in the spring. The bark is a stronger stimulant, and most of what I found refers to using the bark. The berries contain the essential oils, however.


Infusion: Pour 1 cup boiling water over 1-2 teaspoon of finely chopped or powdered bark and let steep for 10-15 minutes. Drink 3x/day.

Tincture: 2-4ml 3x/day

External: can be applied as a poultice or compress to help promote healing. The powder can be applied directly to a toothache for pain relief or to treat receding gums.


Constituents: Alkaloids, Essential oil (in the berries), fagarine, coumarins, resin, tannin

Actions: Alterative, antidiarrheal, antipyretic, antirheumatic, carminative, diaphoretic, emmenagogue, nervine, rubefacient, sialagogue, stimulant.

Uses: Sluggish circulation, pyorrhea and toothache, arthritis and rheumatism, leg cramps, varicose veins

Cautions: Avoid during pregnancy and while nursing


Spicy, warm and infusing


  • Herbal Remedies, Andrew Chevallier
  • The Way of Herbs, Michael Tierra
  • Holistic Herbal, David Hoffmann
  • Indian Herbalogy of North America, Alma R. Hutchens
  • Photo credit: “zanthoxylum americanum” by Manuel is licensed under CC BY 2.0

I’ll be hunting my property for prickly ash this year! 

In my studies, one reference says that Prickly Ash is similar to cayenne, only it works slower.