Fraxinus Americana. White Ash, Gray Ash.
Description: Natural Order, Oleacae. Fraxinus acuminata of Lamark. The tree here spoken of is the huge ash-tree common to our country, growing in rich and moist grounds, and often attaining a height of fifty and sixty feet. It is distinguished by the gray and furrowed bark upon the stem, its smooth and greenish-gray branches, and its light-colored and solid wood, which is very tough, and is used largely in a variety of manufactures. Genus FRAXINUS: Flowers dioecious. Calyx small, four-toothed or entire, or even obsolete. Petals four, cohering in pairs at the base, or only two, but entirely wanting in the American species. Stamens two to four; style single, stigma cleft. Fruit a samara, flattened, one or two-celled, winged at the apex. Leaves petioled and pinnate; the flowers in crowded panicles or racemes. All trees, with timber valuable in our species. F. AMERICANA: Branches and petioles smooth. Leaflets seven to nine, ovate or lance-oblong, stalked; pale, smooth, sometimes pubescent beneath, from four to five inches long by an inch or more broad, somewhat toothed. Calyx minute and persistent; corolla none. Fruit round and without any margin at the base; above extended into a thin lanceolate or wedge linear ring.
The bark from the root, and also the inner bark from the trunk, are used in medicine. The trunk bark is thick, tough, yellowish-white, of a faint odor, and slowly imparting a sweetish and then a moderately bitter and pungent taste. It yields its properties readily to boiling water, diluted alcohol, and alcohol.
Fraxinus sambucifolia is the black or water ash. It grows in wet grounds, is not so large as the previous species, and the wood readily splits into thin layers, which are much used in some kinds of basket and chair work. Its bark is probably possessed of the same properties as the other, though it seems to leave behind a slight impression of astringency.
Properties and Uses: This bark is a relaxant and stimulant, with the relaxant properties in moderate excess. Its action is quite positive, but is slow and persistent; and it is not an agent from which sudden impressions are to be expected. It expends its influence chiefly upon the gall-ducts and the muscular fibers of the bowels; but also increases the flow of urine, and of the biliary and alvine secretions. These actions entitle it to be classed among the strong and mildly stimulating alterants; and it leaves behind a medium tonic impression which enhances its value.
In average doses, it may be relied upon in all sub-acute and chronic cases to secure a steady ejection of bile from the gall-cyst and the tubuli of the liver, with a mild yet effectual action on the bowels. It is thus fitted for jaundice, biliousness, costiveness arising from hepatic torpor, and the skin affections that depend upon insufficient elimination of bile. By this cholagogue and hepatic action, it proves of eminent service in forms of dropsy arising from obstructions in the liver; and from the same action, will be found one of the best of agents to combine with more stimulating tonics for an intermediate treatment of agues. It appears to exert a distinct influence over the spleen, and will be found an excellent agent to relieve chronic "ague-cake." In pretty large quantities, it will secure moderately free catharsis; but is applicable to the bowels mainly for its steady evacuant and tonic influence. It may be used in distinct torpor and chronic congestion of the liver; and has proven of much service in chronic coughs arising from sympathy with turgescence of that organ. It is several degrees more stimulating than the euonymus, and will be found equal to that admirable agent in the large class of cases requiring a positive yet slow influence upon the organs above named. It deserves much confidence in chronic dropsies; but more for the relief it gives to the venous circulation by its action on the hepatic organs, than for its power over the kidneys. It may be combined to advantage with hydrastis and sabbatia among tonics for intermittent difficulties; with celastrus and rumex as an alterant in skin affections; and with aralia hispida and ambrosia for dropsy and renal torpor.
The leaves of the black ash are reputed to be of rare power in destroying all snake poisons. It is asserted that the most venomous reptiles will not touch any portion of this tree, and can easily be put to flight by a branch with the leaves upon it; and that the wound of any serpent may be rendered harmless by a free use of a decoction of the leaves inwardly, and a poultice of the same outwardly. It is probable that these accounts are somewhat exaggerated; but as all popular traditions have a foundation in some truth, this reputation of the ash leaves should be tested.
The bark is not given as a powder, but always in decoction, extract, or some other form. The decoction is prepared by digesting two ounces of the crushed bark in a quart of hot water for an hour, straining, evaporating so that half a pint shall remain, and adding to this an ounce of the tincture of orange-peel. Dose, a fluid ounce or more three times a day.
The extract is prepared with water, in the usual way; and may be given in pills, in doses of five to eight grains, or used as a basis for pill-mass when apocynin, juglandin, jalapa, or podophyllin is used in powder. It is sufficiently relaxing to balance the griping of these stimulating cathartics, especially if a little anise or sassafras oil be added to the pills. Most commonly it is compounded with other agents in the preparation of various tinctures and sirups.
Among the most efficient combinations of this kind in which I have employed it, is the following: Compound Sirup of Fraxinus. Crushed bark of fraxinus, two pounds; hydrastis and aralia hispida, each, one pound; gentiana ochroleuca, euonymus, and xanthoxylum bark, each, half a pound. Macerate for two days, in a covered vessel, with a sufficient quantity of rectified whisky. Transfer to a percolator, and add whisky till a gallon has passed. Set this aside, and continue the percolation with water till all the strength of the drugs has been obtained. Evaporate to four quarts; add eight pounds of sugar; and when this gets cold, add the first product. Dose, half to a whole fluid ounce three times a day in biliousness, jaundice, habitual costiveness in bilious temperaments; between the paroxysms of ague, and for the languor and indigestion which accompany bilious conditions. I respectfully offer it to the profession as a preparation of unusual power, especially adapted to chronic and rather depressed cases; and also suitable for dropsy.
The Physiomedical Dispensatory, 1869, was written by William Cook, M.D.
It was scanned by Paul Bergner at http://medherb.com