Aralia Spinosa. Prickly Elder.
Nat. Ord. — Araliaceae. Sex. Syst. — Pentandria Pentagynia.
Description. — The Aralia Spinosa, sometimes called Toothache Tree, Southern Prickly Ash, and Angelica Tree, is an indigenous arborescent shrub, with a crooked, shrubby, unbranched stem, which is naked and prickly below, with the leaves crowded at the summit of the stems, somewhat like the palms ; it is generally not more than ten to twenty feet high, but in the south it sometimes attains to even sixty feet. The petioles are very long and prickly ; the leaves are bipinnately compound, composed of ovate-acuminate, serrate, mostly glabrous leaflets, which are somewhat glaucous beneath. The umbels are in large, much branched panicles, with small, few-leaved involucres. The powers are small, white, with connivent styles, and appear in August and September ; sometimes they are polygamous, as the number of berries bears no proportion to the flowers. The fruit is a blackish, juicy berry.
History. — The Prickly Elder is found chiefly in the southern and western States, and is much cultivated in gardens as an ornamental plant: It grows in low, damp, fertile woods. The bark, root, and berries are medicinal, but the first is principally employed ; it yields its properties to alcohol or water. It is thin, of a grayish color externally, and a yellowish white within, with a peculiar but aromatic odor, and a bitterish, pungent, acrid taste.
Properties and Uses. — Aromatic, stimulant, diaphoretic and alterative; the fresh bark is emetic and cathartic. The tincture has been used in chronic rheumatism, syphilis, and in some cutaneous diseases. The warm infusion will vomit, unless made very weak. The tincture of the berries has been found advantageous in violent colic, and rheumatism, and from their pungency, have been found beneficial in relieving toothache. Much use was made of this bark by the Eclectics in Cincinnati, during the cholera of 1849-50, in cases where cathartics were required, but where the action of every purgative was very difficult to control ; the preparation was composed of one drachm compound powder of Jalap, one drachm Aralia Spinosa, and two drachms compound powder of Rhubarb. Given in powder, in half teaspoonful doses ; or the powder was infused in half a pint of boiling water, of which infusion, when cold, a tablespoonful was given every half hour. In no case in which it was given, did it produce a tendency to looseness or choleraic discharges.
It is a powerful sialagogue, and is valuable in diseases where the mouth and throat are dry and parched, as a very small portion of the powder will produce a moisture and relieve difficult breathing ; also useful in sore-throat.
Off. Prep. — Decoctum Araliae Spinosa ; Tinctura Araliae Spinosa.