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Prickly Ash - pain relieving plant ally

Prickly ash has a long history of use as an herbal ally for many chronic issues. It has been included in herbal blends for rheumatism, skin diseases, poor circulation and to stimulate the lymphatic system. Due to its ability to stimulate circulation and reduce inflammation, Prickly ash has also been included in liniments. The doctrine of signatures for Prickly ash look at the sharp thorns to suggest its use in painful conditions.

Prickly ash (Zanthoxylum americanum) is a hot, dry herb with a pungent, slightly bitter taste. Prickly Ash stimulates circulation and is anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, antifungal, antiviral, carminative and a bitter tonic.

This plant is named for the small thorns or prickles that cover the branches and stems, as well as the similar leaves to the ash tree (Oleaceae (olive) family); despite these defining characteristics it is actually part of the Rutaceae (citrus) family. The flowers and leaves of the prickly ash have a mild lemon scent. The bark is most often used for herbal support, however, the red to brown berries are also sometimes used in tincture form as the dried berries lose potency quickly. It is also called the Toothache tree, since the bark was used topically as a paste to relieve tooth pain.

Prickly ash offers multiple benefits when included in herbal blends. One benefit is to increase the absorption of the other herbs in the blend when it is included in small quantities. Another benefit of Prickly ash is to increase peripheral circulation such as in cold legs and hooves. Prickly ash has long been used to decrease nerve pain and particularly if the pain gets worse in cold weather as its hot dry energy can be even more helpful. Prickly ash strengthens qi and can improve endocrine function if used long term. Due to its ability to stimulate circulation it is also included in blends to for improving skin wellness.


Prickly Ash can stimulate stomach acid production so avoid using it if your horse has stomach ulcers, or check with your herbal clinician. Avoid this herb in pregnancy.


Prickly ash is best used in an herbal formula in very small quantities.

½ -1 tsp of ground dried bark up to three times daily

.5 – 2 ml of a (1:5) tincture up to three times daily

Always start with the smallest dose and work up if needed.

Prickly ash is a supportive addition to equine herbal formulas for improving circulation, lymphatic function, decreasing nerve pain and increasing absorption of other herbs in the blend. For the most effective use of this traditional herb, check with your herbal clinician.

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