Zanthoxylum clava-herculis, Southern Prickly Ash, Hercule's Club

Zanthoxylum clava-herculis, Southern Prickly Ash, Hercule's Club occurs in sand hills, dry thickets, and dry woods from eastern Virginia, south to Florida, west to Texas and southern Arkansas. It is a small round-headed tree, usually from twenty to thirty feet high, though exceptional specimens may reach fifty feet in height. The eminent naturalist, Thomas Nuttall, notes the use of prickly ash for toothaches in his travels through the Arkansas territory in 1819. Chewing the bark induces saliva flow (sialagogue), enhancing gastric and intestinal juice output, therefore, it was perceived as valuable for stimulating digestion, increasing bile secretions, and enhancing pancreatic activity. It was widely used for rheumatic conditions. In nervous conditions accompanied by dryness of the mouth, it was given to “stimulate” the mucous membranes. It was viewed as a tonic for the mucous membranes. Used in European herbal medicine for treating rheumatic conditions, Raynaud’s disease and as a circulatory stimulant in intermittent claudication. Contains the alkaloid chelerythrine, with antibacterial and anti-inflammatory activity.

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