What Is Prickly Ash Bark?
Prickly ash bark is a type of woody shrub or small tree native to North America. It grows up to 20 feet tall and wide, with a trunk diameter of 6 inches. Its leaves are opposite, elliptic, compound (four leaflets) and alternate (two leaflets). They have five lobes and are arranged in two rows along the stem.
The bark of prickly ash is very tough and it has been used for centuries as a fire starter, fuel, and even as an adhesive. It’s thick, rough texture makes it ideal for carving into ornamental objects such as vases. However, the bark is not edible; however its sap contains alkaloids which may be useful in treating various conditions including: epilepsy, asthma, arthritis and cancer.
Prickly ash bark is commonly known as “prickly ash” because of its prickles. These prickles are actually tiny hairs that grow from the bark and they give the bark its characteristic color. There are many different species of prickly ash trees, but only three types are commonly found in North America: Pinus sylvestris, Picea abies and Picea glauca.
What Are the Benefits of Prickly Ash?
Prickly ash bark has a long history of use in traditional medicine. Native Americans used it to treat stomach pain, reduce fever, kill bacteria and parasites, inflammation, and even as a laxative. It is also used for treating various conditions such as indigestion and other minor gastrointestinal issues. The bark contains an active ingredient called “mistine,” which is known to have positive effects on a variety of health conditions. However, an important note is that the bark should never be consumed in any significant amount.
Excessive use can cause dry mouth, thirst, increased urination, diarrhea, vomiting and seizures. In fact, any part of the plant should not be ingested by humans or animals due to its toxic nature. In some cases, contact with the skin can also cause a rash or other skin irritation.
In fact, in small quantities the bark of the prickly ash tree is beneficial for health and can be used as an anti-fungal agent. For this reason, it is often included in natural toothpastes and other health and beauty products.
How Can Prickly Ash Be Used?
Prickly ash bark has a very bitter taste, which is why it is often included in various cooking recipes as a substitute for salt. A popular use of prickly ash bark is as an ingredient in the traditional German cake, Steenkaese. It can also be used to make liqueurs and other alcoholic beverages. However, despite its many culinary uses, it should not be consumed excessively.
While the bark of the prickly ash tree should not be ingested, the leaves can be used to make a tasty tea. Native American Indians chewed on the leaves of prickly ash to clean their teeth.
Where Can You Find Prickly Ash?
Prickly ash is native to North America and can be found as far north as southern Canada and as far south as Mexico. It can also be found in Central America, South America, Europe and northern Asia. It is normally found in damp, nutrient-rich soil and can most commonly be found along the side of riverbanks and lake shores.
Prickly ash grows very quickly and can reach an average height of 20 feet, sometimes even reaching up to 40 feet. However, the tree itself rarely grows taller than 20 feet and most are much shorter. It has a thick, yellowish-gray bark that is covered with small hairs which may give it a “prickly” appearance. It has green leaves that grow in clusters of threes and small, insignificant yellow flowers.
Sources & references used in this article:
Present Situation of Chinese prickly ash Picking Machinery by Y Yu, G Wang, D Wang, Q Sun… – 2019 ASABE Annual …, 2019 – elibrary.asabe.org
Nutrient uptake by mulberry and Chinese prickly ash associated with arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi by H Piao, S Li, S Wang – Acta Geochimica, 2016 – Springer
Eco-economic control models and benefit analysis of rock desertification region in beipanjiang karst vally of Guizhou province by S Weici, G Yingqing, H Tairong, T Jianzhen – 2010 IEEE International Conference … – infona.pl