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Xanthoxylum Fraxineum. Prickly-ash, Toothache bush, American pellitory.

Description: Natural Order, Rutaceae; formerly in the now obsolete Order Xanthoxylaceae. By Gray called Xanthoxylum Americanum. Closely allied to the genus Ptelea. Generic characters: Shrubs or small trees, beset with stout and short prickles on the stems, and sometimes on the leaf-stalks. Leaves pinnately compound. Flowers dioecious, small, greenish-white; sepals four, five, or obsolete; petals four or five; stamens five; pistils two to five, with their styles conniving. Fruit a thick, two-celled, two-valved, one to two-seeded pod; seeds black, smooth, shining. X. FRAXINEUM: Leaves and flowers in clusters axillary to the branches. Leaflets four or five pairs with an odd one, ovate-oblong, acute, downy when young. Calyx none; petals five; pistils three to five, with slender styles; flowers greenish with a yellow tinge, blooming in May; pods on a short stalk. Pennsylvania westward and northward.

XANTHOXYLUM CAROLINIANUM is a distinct species, most common from Virginia southward, and thence called Southern prickly-ash. It is a small and prickly tree, similar to the other, except that the leaves are shining above, the flowers in a terminal cyme and appearing after the leaves, the sepals present, and the pods without stalks. As a medicine, it is probably somewhat stronger than the Northern species.

The bark and the fruit of prickly-ash are medicinal. The bark is grayish-white externally, yellowish-white and smooth internally, about an eighth of an inch in thickness, brittle, and comes to market in pieces from one to three inches long and somewhat quilled. When fresh, it is fragrant; when dry, almost inodorous, with at first a sweetish, and afterwards a pungent and warming taste. Diluted alcohol extracts its properties pretty thoroughly, hot water acts well upon it, and eighty percent alcohol completely. The berries are gathered with the capsules, the latter being more decidedly medicinal than the seeds. These capsules are two-valved, brownish and dotted externally, yellowish-white internally, oval, an eighth of an inch long, containing a volatile oil, and of an extremely warming aromatic taste. Strong alcohol acts on them readily, water to only a limited extent.

Properties and Uses: The bark possesses a moderate quantity of relaxing power, associated with an excess of stimulation; acts rather promptly and diffusively; and leaves behind a warm impression, with an acceleration of the capillaries and smaller arterial circulation. The circulation, skin, salivary glands, and lymphatic system feel most of its influence; the serous and mucous tissues, and the kidneys, also being acted on. It is much more pungent and heating than zingiber, and much less so than capsicum; yet it is suited only to languid conditions, and should not be employed when the stomach is irritable. It increases the flow of saliva quite actively, and is excellent in dryness of the mouth and throat in low states of the system; and is a good associate of hydrastis and capsicum as a gargle in scarlatina and diphtheria. A warm infusion favors full outward circulation, and is of service in all cases of capillary stagnation with blunted sensibilities, as recent colds, obstructed menstruation from exposure, colic from exposure, and as an associate with asclepias in typhoid fever cases where the extremities are cold and the patient is listless. The profession scarcely values it as it deserves in these connections. In sub-acute and chronic rheumatism, it is an agent of the most excellent qualities; and may be used in warm infusion for acute cases, especially in company with cimicifuga, or in cold preparations with such articles as cimicifuga and the berries of phytolacca for chronic cases. As a general stimulant, to arouse sensibility and arterial action, it may be associated with suitable tonics and alterants in the treatment of syphilis, mercurial poisoning, dropsy, agues, and hepatic derangements. Externally, the powder is a valuable application for malignant and phagedrenic ulcers, indolent chancres and buboes, and similar low conditions; and the tincture is of use in mildly stimulating liniments. Some value it in paralysis, especially of the tongue; and it is of service for mild cases, and as a wash to the mouth and over the glottis in loss of voice. From five to twenty grains of the powder may be used three times a day. An ounce of the crushed bark to a quart of hot water, makes the common infusion; of which a fluid ounce may be given at intervals of one or two hours. Large doses give a feeling of nausea, and may cause an unpleasant burning in the stomach of a person at all sensitive; whence it is usually better to repeat medium doses at moderate intervals. This bark is an ingredient in the new officinal Composition Powder. One part of leptandrin and four of xanthoxylum bark, in suitable doses every four hours, are peculiarly valuable in all bilious diarrheas.

The berries are quite fragrant, of qualities similar to the bark, but much more diffusive and transient in action. They are also stronger and more exciting than the bark, less relaxant, and more likely to irritate the stomach and leave the skin a little hot and dry. They are used for the same general purposes as the bark, but for proportionately lower conditions. Secondary syphilis and chronic rheumatism are the maladies for which they are best suited, as a pungent and prompt stimulant to combine with relaxant alterants. Their tincture was at one time highly lauded in cholera, both as a stimulant and antispasmodic; and also in flatulence and chronic diarrhea. While it is a preparation of undoubted service under some circumstances, its intensely heating character is many times unacceptable in such cases; and even in cholera, where the patient is vomiting and the stomach is. irritable, no preparation of the berries is acceptable, but on the contrary is likely to add to the nausea. The bark is equally good with the berries, in cholera; but is open to the same objections in the same class of cases. Dr. J. King tells of a patient having nearly lost his life, in cholera, by using a tincture of the bark instead of the berries, and connects with the bark an idea of unsafeness; but this is a nonsensical story, and is a childish tale to be told by a man directing the use of aconite, veratrum, prussic acid, and strychnine. The tincture of the berries is made by macerating three ounces of the crushed fruit for ten days in a pint of seventy-five per cent. alcohol. It is very pungent, and has a somewhat resinous taste. Dose, ten to twenty drops, in water or sirup, every four or two hours, as needed. The aralia spinosa is sometimes confounded with the Southern prickly-ash, but is a much milder and less heating article; and its berries especially are more gentle than those of the xanthoxylum. A portion of the indiscriminate laudation bestowed by some upon xanthoxylum berries, undoubtedly belongs to the fruit of the above aralia.

Pharmaceutical Preparations I. Tincture. Crushed bark of xanthoxylum, six ounces; macerate for two days with diluted alcohol, transfer to a percolator, and treat with diluted alcohol till fourteen fluid ounces have passed; express the dregs, filter, and add enough diluted alcohol to make a pint. This is a much stronger preparation than the ordinary tincture, which is made of four ounces of the bark simply tinctured in a pint of alcohol, and contains too much spirit for the amount of medicinal strength obtained. Dose, twenty drops to half a fluid drachm. It is rarely used alone, but may be added to sirups designed for rheumatism or syphilis. When xanthoxylum is to be used in liniments, it should be tinctured on absolute alcohol.

II. Xanthoxylin. This is a powder of the resinous class. By one method of preparation, it is precipitated from a concentrated tincture, after the manner of podophyllin. By another method, it is obtained as an alcoholic extract, as in the case of cypripedin. The latter process most fully represents the qualities of the bark, and may be used in doses ranging from one to four grains.

III. Cholera Sirup. The bark of xanthoxylum enters into a great variety of preparations designed for cholera, severe colic, and sudden congestion and inward recession of blood. Among the best of these is the following, furnished by Prof. J. E. Roop: Xanthoxylum bark, root of Jamaica ginger, bark of myrica, hydrastis, cypripedium, geranium maculatum, bark of rhus glabra, capsicum, each, two ounces. Macerate these for two days in a quart of diluted alcohol; transfer to a percolator and add warm water, reserving the first pint that passes; exhaust the drugs with water, evaporate to three pints, and dissolve in it three and a half pounds of sugar. Filter the first product, and add to this sirup; also add four fluid ounces of tincture of myrrh, and ten drops each oils of peppermint, cinnamon, and anise. Dose, a teaspoonful to a tablespoonful, according to circumstances. See a preparation at zingiber.

The Physiomedical Dispensatory, 1869, was written by William Cook, M.D.
It was scanned by Paul Bergner at http://medherb.com

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