Pricky Ash Bark (Zanthoxylun americanum) | Awaken your Vital Force

The slower pace of winter allows for excess accumulation within our bodies.  Spring is a perfect time to awaken our whole being and increase our vital force with the help of our friend, Prickly Ash Bark.  


Prickly Ash is the northern most member of the citrus family where the inner bark is used most commonly in western herbalism.  However the leaves (anti-fungal) and berries (carminative & anti-spasmodic) are cherished as well as they are lemony and are often used in oil infusions. Best time to harvest the inner bark is in the early spring before the buds and leaves begin to emerge. When the life force is circulating throughout the inner bark.


You know you have met Prickly Ash when you see very sharp, toothlike thorns opposite of one another with what looks like a squished round face in between the thorns.  The pairs of thorns whorl around the branch and there can tend to be some white spots on the bark remenicent of lymph (in my opinion).  Prickly ash is a shrub that grows about 4-25”. The plant grows in somewhat disturbed areas and is known as a protective plant… hence the thorns. 

Emotionally/spiritually/energetically Prickly Ash is helpful for hurting people who push others away, disconnected from emotions as well as for autistic individuals who have a tendency to hurt others around them.  For an energetic dose it is best to use 1-2 drops of tincture or work with flower essence. 

I love the fact that this plant is in the citrus family.  Tasting the inner bark is a key way to tell you have ID’d this plant correctly as it is slightly lemony and tingling.  An aromatic, diffusive, warming and awakening plant. 

Uses:  (can take internally and/or apply topically)

  • Sharp shooting pains
  • Numbness
  • Nerve pain 
  • Toothaches
  • Sharp cramping
  • Dysmenorrhea
  • Pain from hitting tailbone
  • Sciatica 
  • Phantom pains/amputations
  • Tight wound up knots 
  • Pins & needles feeling
  • Regulates nerve excess & weakness
  • Sensation of liquid electricity that sometimes elderly people feel
  • Tingling before cold sores appear 
  • Bell’s Palsy 
  • Stroke Numbness 
  • Raynauds 
  • Stomach tonic (warming and increases fluids)
  • Stimulates lymph, heart, kidneys, circulation, GI tract, etc.
  • Anti-parasitic 
  • Chronic fatigue 

Observing and tasting Prickly Ash one can come to understand a lot about this plant and it’s effect with the human body.  Very stimulating, saliva producing and the taste on your tongue leaves a lasting impression.  

It is considered a spleen remedy (spleen transforms and transports fluids - food digestions) and the spleen dislikes a dry environment hence Prickly Ash's ability to cause salivation and increase fluid secretions.  

Pain happens when there is a lack of flow or stagnation is present.  Prickly Ash overall improves flow, awakens our vital force/chi stimulating our body to eliminate and absorb better.  It has a rich history of use with Native Americans.  

The inner bark of Prickly Ash is the part that being used to create a tincture (1:5 ratio). 


If Prickly Ash is tugging at your heart, feel free to inquire if you would like to set up herbal consultation, purchase a 1oz bottle or if you would like to learn where to find it and how to make your own preparations

This post is not intended to diagnose or prescribe any treatment.  It is indeed for educational and inspirational information only.  Best practice is to work with a trained herbalist or medical provider before ingesting or harvesting herbs as we want to ensure safety and ethical wildcrafting. 

For more detailed info on plant ID visit