Botanical Description & Habitat
Angelica tree Northern prickly ash Pellitory Suterberry Toothache bark Toothache bush Yellow wood
Native to North America and found in moist, shady places
The tree reaches 15 feet in height and has alternate branches with strong, sharp prickles. The leaves are alternate and pinnate, with 5 to 11 ovate, hairy leaflets. The flowers are yellow-green and grow in axillary clusters, blooming during April and May. The fruit is a green-red capsule containing one or more blackish seeds.
Root bark, dried or fresh, collected in autumn
fruit (berries), ripe, dried
Historical Properties & Uses
Prickly ash is a native American herb having an excellent reputation at various times during the past 200 years. In 1849-1850, during a Midwestern outbreak of Asiatic cholera, a preparation of prickly ash bark was used as a remedy with considerable success. Prickly ash was included in some of the most famous elixirs and compounds of the last century.
Prickly ash is commonly used today to treat debilitating fevers, pneumonia, tuberculosis, and conditions like rheumatism. Although the plant contains numerous alkaloids, coumarins, lignans, and other substances, only the active principle underlying its antibacterial property has been confirmed. Its purported antidiarrheal action can probably be attributed to the presence of tannins in the bark.
Method of Action
Drug Interactions & Precautions
Diuretics such as prickly ash may potentiate the action of antihypertensive, ganglionic or peripheral adrenergic blocking drugs, tubocurarine and, to a lesser degree, norepinephrine.
Prickly Ash has coumarin constituents which have anticoagulant properties.
The tannin in prickly ash may potentiate the antibiotic activity of echinacea. The tannin in tea made from the herb may be inactivated by the addition of milk or cream.
The CNS depressant tendency of this analgesic may be potentiated by chlorprothixene HCl, haloperidol, and tranquilizers.
Prickly ash's analgesic effects may be additive with other analgesics and anesthetics. Conversely, the herb may be inhibited by barbiturates, despite any CNS-depressant effects which may occur.
The analgesic property of this herb may also be reversed or even eliminated by P-chlorophenylalanine, cyproheptadine HCl, and phenobarbital.
Although the coumarin content of prickly ash is low at normal usage levels, it is important to note coumarins can affect the action of almost any drug.
In the absence of other hard data, it may be assumed observable interactions occur between the many central nervous system drugs and the psychoactive principles in prickly ash.
There is evidence to show combined use of bactericidal and bacteriostatic agents will lower the effectiveness of the bacteriostatic agent. However, how this finding applies to herbal anti-infectives is still unknown.
Safety Factors & Toxicity
The Indians and white settlers of the Old West used prickly ash to treat toothache, but some reports indicate the extreme irritant nature of the bark against the oral mucosa simply took attention away from the toothache. Whatever the case may truly be, prickly ash bark possesses considerable potential for irritation of mucous membranes. Its toxicity other than irritation is unknown.
Preparation & Administration
Three times a day
made from 1 tsp of dried bark
1:1 in 45% alcohol, 1-3 ml
1:5 in 45% alcohol, 2-5 ml
Note: This Herbal Preparation information is a summary of data from books and articles by various authors. It is not intended to replace the advice or attention of health care professionals.
Am Hospital Formulary Service. Am Soc of Hosp Pharm. Wash, D.C.
Bressler, R., M.D. Bogdonoff & G.J. Subak-Sharpe. 1981. The Physicians Drug Manual. Doubleday & Co, Inc. Garden City, NY. 1213 pp.
Clark, T.H., A.H. Conney & B.P. Harpole, et.al. 1967. Drug interactions that can affect your patients. Patient Care, 1(11). pp. 33-71.
Committee on Pharmocopaeia of the Am Institute of Homeopathy, The Homeopathic Pharmacopaeia of the United States. 8th ed., Vol 1. Otis Clapp and Son, Agents, Boston, l981.
De Martinis, M., et.al. Milk thistle (silybum marianum) derivatives in the therapy of chronic hepatopathies. Clin. Ter. 94(3). pp. 283-315. 1980.
Drug package insert (FDA approved official brochure) and other labeling based on sponsored clinical investigations and New Drug Application data.
Goodman, L.S. & A. Gilman. 1975. Pharm Basis of Thera. MacMillan, NY.
Hansten, P.D. 1979. Drug Interactions, 4th ed. Lea & Febiger, Phila.
Hyde. British Herbal Pharmacopoeia. Brit Herb Med Assoc: England, 1983
Kastrup, E.K., ed. 1981. Drug Facts and Comparisons, 1982 edition. Facts and Comparisions Division, J.P. Lippincott Co, Phila (St. Louis).
Leung, Albert Y. 1980. Encyclopedia of Common Natural Ingredient used in Food, Drugs and Cosmetics. John Wiley and Sons, New York. 409 pp.
Lewis, Walter H. and Elvin-Lewis, Memory P.F. Medical Botany: Plants Affecting Man's Health, John Wiley and Sons. New York, l977.
List, P. & L. Hoerhammer. 1969-1976. Hagers Hanbuch der Pharmazeutischen Praxis, vols. 2-5. Springer-Verlag, Berlin.
Martin, E.W. 1978. Drug Interactions Index, 1978/79. J.B. Lippincott Company, Philadelphia.
Melmon, K., H.F. Morelli, J.A. Oates, et. al. 1967. Drug interactions that can affect your patients. Pat Care, Nov. pp. 33-71.
Miller, R.D., et.al. 1976. Enhancement of d-tubocurarine neuromuscular blockage by diuretics in man. Anesth, 45. p.442.
Miller, L. & R. Lindeman. Red Blood Cell and Serum Selenium Concentration as Influenced by Age and Selected Diseases. Journal Of Am College Nutrition, 2. 1983.
Mowrey, Daniel B., Ph.D. Exper. Psych., Brigham Young University. Director of Nebo Institute of Herbal Sciences. Director of Behavior Change Agent Training Institute. Director of Research, Nova Corp.
Newall CA, Anderson LA, Phillipson JD. Herbal Medicines A Guide for Health-care Professionals. London: The Pharmaceutical Press, 1996:21,45,63,282.
Ngai, S.H., L.C. Mark & E.M. Papper. 1970. Pharmacologic and physiologic aspects of anesthesiology. N Eng J of Med, 282 pp. 479-491.
Scientific Committee, British Herbal Pharmocopaeia, British Herbal Med Assoc, Lane House, Cowling, Na Keighley, West Yorks, Bd Bd220lx, l983
Stuart, D.M. 1968. Drug metabolism Part 2. Drug interactions. PharmIndex, 10(10). pp. 4-16.
Vincent, D. & G. Segonzac. 1953. Comptes Rendus des Seances de la Societe de Biologie et de ses Filiales, 147. pp. 1776-1779.
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