Herbs Uncovered: Prickly Ash

Prickly Ash Uses
Prickly Ash, Zanthoxylum americanum, is used for cold, wet conditions, pain, heart support, and it’s great topically - plus a mouthwash recipe.

Prickly Ash, also known as Zanthoxylum americanum, is a potent medicinal native to North America.

The bark and berry of this not-so-well-known herbal are high in alkaloids. They are a powerhouse when it comes to the cardiovascular system.

The actions of the prickly ash shrub are circulatory stimulant, tonic, alterative, carminative, diaphoretic, anti-rheumatic, and it’s a natural herbal hepatic. It’s bitter and energetically hot and dry – so you’ll find a use for this herb wherever you need to add movement to a body system!

What is Prickly Ash Used For? Top 4 Medicinal Uses

Prickly Ash for Cardiovascular Support

This plant is both a circulatory stimulant and a tonic so it is often used as in formulas for the heart.

In situations where there is poor circulation, cramps, and varicose veins, Prickly Ash shines!


The doctrine of signatures teaches us that a plant’s anatomy or appearance can give clues to what the plant can be used for.

The plant’s spiny thorns suggest it’s use with pain! The thorns, which can be quite painful when pierced with, suggest the use of this plant in similar situations.

Oral Issues

Prickly Ash is well-known for its “zesty” feeling on the tongue when taken orally. It can render quite a shock to the system when you first taste it! That zesty, numbness makes this plant a go-to herb for oral related issues.

Prickly Ash for the Skin

Last but definitely not least, use Prickly Ash for blood stimulation. It is a fantastic alterative, hepatic, and circulatory stimulant. This allows for it to be indicated when skin issues present, particularly in situations such as rheumatism.

Contraindications of Zanthoxylum americanum

Use extreme caution if you’re on any cardiovascular medication, and never use it in conjunction with anticoagulant therapies.

If you are on a cardiovascular medication, we suggest working with an herbalist along with your doctor.

An Herbal Mouthwash Recipe

In honor of Berkeley Herbal Center’s late medicine maker, Tony Seifert, we’d like to share with you one of our favorite ways to use this potent little plant.

For years, Tony held a weekly medicine making intensive for the BHC students interested in deepening their relationship with medicine making and experimenting with different forms of herbal medicine.

Tony taught us about the stimulating properties of Prickly Ash. He combined the stimulation with it’s unique gift for helping with pain and made a welcome addition to a cleansing mouthwash that leaves your mouth feeling fresh.

Thank you, Tony, for sharing this recipe, as well as many others with those of us at the center!

Tony Seifert’s Prickly Ash MouthWash Recipe


Oak Bark Tincture – 2 parts
Myrrh Tincture – 1 part
Prickly Ash Bark Tincture – 1 part
Peppermint Tincture – .5 parts


Combine all extracts and use 1 dropper full daily as a mouthwash after brushing and flossing teeth.
This staple mouthwash is a great addition to any oral home care routine!

Sources Referenced For This Monograph

Tony Seifert: BHC Medicine Making Recipes
Medical Herbalism – David Hoffman
Earthwise Herbal – Matthew Wood

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