The bark and berries of (1) Xanthoxylum americanum, Miller, and (2) Xanthoxylum Clava-Herculis, Lamarck (Nat. Ord. Rutaceae). Shrubs of North America. Dose, 5 to 60 grains.
Common Names: Prickly Ash; (1) Northern Prickly Ash; (2) Southern Prickly Ash.
Principal Constituents.—A green acrid oil, a white crystallizable resin, a soft acrid resin, tannin, and a bitter substance thought to be an alkaloid.
Preparation.—Specific Medicine Xanthoxylum. Dose, 5 to 60 drops.
Specific Indications.—Hypersecretion from debility and relaxation of the mucosa (small doses); atony of the nervous system (larger doses); capillary engorgement in the eruptive diseases; sluggish circulation; tympanites in bowel disorders; intestinal and gastric torpor, with deficient secretion; dryness of mouth and fauces, with glazed surface; flatulent colic; Asiatic cholera; uterine cramps and neuralgia.
Action.—Prickly ash impresses the secretions and the nervous and circulatory systems. The bark, when chewed, imparts a sweetish aromatic taste, followed by bitterness and persistent acridity; the berries act similarly. The drug has remarkable sialagogue properties, inducing a copious flow of saliva and mucus. Swallowed, it warms the stomach and augments the secretion of the gastric and intestinal juices, and probably increases hepatic and pancreatic activity. The action of the heart is strengthened by xanthoxylum, the pulse slightly quickened, and the glands of the skin are stimulated to greater activity. The urine is decidedly increased by prickly ash.
Therapy.—Preparations of prickly ash bark are to be preferred when stimulant, tonic, sialagogue, and alterative properties are desired; that of the berries when a carminative stimulant and antispasmodic is needed, especially in disorders of the stomach and bowels.
Xanthoxylum is particularly grateful in stomach disorders. It is an ideal gastric stimulant, and as a remedy for simple gastric atony it ranks well with capsicum. When food ferments readily and gaseous accumulations distend the stomach, and there is much belching, from five to fifteen drops of specific medicine xanthoxylum may be given, preferably in hot water, one hour before and one hour after meals. Both hydrastis and capsicum, or each of them, may be given with it, if indications are clear for them, and together the three agents offer comfort to those who suffer the distress of so-called flatulent dyspepsia. It is a remedy of much worth in atonic dyspepsia and in gastric catarrh, when there is enfeeblement and relaxation of tissues and hypersecretion. It is also of value in constipation when due to deficient secretion (small doses). Formerly it was greatly valued in spasmodic conditions of the bowels with colic, and in cholera morbus in weak individuals, and to restore tone and normal secretion after attacks of epidemic dysentery, a disease once more prevalent than at the present time. King introduced the tincture of the berries as. a remedy for Asiatic cholera, in which it proved phenomenally successful; and for tympanitic distention of the bowels arising during peritonitis. As a rule, however, it should not be given in inflammatory conditions.
As a stimulant to sluggish membranes prickly ash may be given internally (and used locally) in dry, glazed pharyngitis with crusts of adherent, dried mucus. Of its alterative power there is no question, and prickly ash is an ingredient of a popular compound known as "Trifolium Compound", which has been extensively used in chronic syphilitic dyscrasia. It is not to be assumed that it has antisyphilitic virtues, but it exerts a favorable alterative action which renders syphilitics more amenable to reparation of tissues. Sometimes a tincture of prickly ash berries is the best drug that can be given in so-called chronic muscular rheumatism; and it is not without value in lumbago and myalgia. Chewing prickly ash bark is a domestic custom for the relief of toothache.
Xanthoxylum should also be remembered where nerve force is low and in the recuperative stage from attacks of neuritis or other forms of nerve involvement in which function is greatly impaired but is yet capable of restoration. Xanthoxylum deserves further study, chiefly as an alterative.
The Eclectic Materia Medica, Pharmacology and Therapeutics, 1922, was written by Harvey Wickes Felter, M.D.