The bark of Fraxinus sambucifolia, Lamarck, and Fraxinus americana, Linné (Fraxinus acuminata, Lamarck; Fraxinus Epiptera, Michaux; Fraxinus alba, Marsh), and other species of Fraxinus.
COMMON NAMES: I. Black ash, Elder-leaved ash; II. White ash.
Botanical Source and History.—FRAXINUS SAMBUCIFOLIA is a tree which attains the height of from 40 to 70 feet. The trunk is covered with a bark of a darker hue than that of the white ash, less deeply furrowed, and from 1 to 2 feet in diameter. The wood is purplish, very tough and elastic, and less durable than the white ash. The leaves are from 9 to 16 inches in length, composed of about 7 leaflets, which are sessile, ovate-lanceolate, serrate, rugose, shining, round-oblique at the base, smooth above, and red-downy on the veins beneath. Calyx and corolla both wanting; buds of a deep-blue color. The samara is elliptical-oblong, and very obtuse at both ends. This species grows in swamps and moist woods in the northern states and Canada, blossoming in May. The young saplings are much employed in making hoops, and the mature trunks for baskets. The leaves when bruised exhale the odor of elder (W.—G.).
FRAXINUS AMERICANA of Linnaeus, or the Fraxinus acuminata of Lamarck, is a large forest tree, which grows from 50 to 80 feet high; it often rises more than 40 feet without a branch, and then expands into a regular summit of an equal additional height. The trunk is covered with a gray, furrowed, and cracked bark, and the branchlets are smooth and greenish-gray. The leaves are a foot or more in length, opposite, pinnate, consisting of about 7 leaflets, which are petiolate, oblong, shining, acuminate, entire or slightly toothed, and glaucous beneath. The flowers are whitish-green, disposed in loose panicles, the fertile ones with a calyx, the barren ones without. Corolla wanting. The calyx is small and 4-cleft, the buds of a rust color. The samara is spatulate-linear, obtuse, with a long narrowed base. The white ash is chiefly confined to the northern states and Canada, growing in rich woods, and blooming in April and May. Its wood is light, elastic, and durable, furnishing a most excellent timber for carriage-frames, bars, hand-spikes, agricultural implements, etc. (W.—G.).
Chemical Composition.—There are several species of this tree, all of which possess medicinal virtues, probably of a similar character. The bark is the part used, the properties of which are extracted by water. John M. Bradford, in 1882, found the bark of Fraxinus americana to contain, among other substances, an acid and neutral resin, sugar, and gum, and a minute quantity of volatile oil. H. M. Edwards obtained in minute quantity a bitter alkaloid, which he believed to constitute the active principle of the drug. The presence of tannin has also been observed (Amer. Jour. Pharm., 1882, p. 282, and 1883, pp. 117 and 370).
Action, Medical Uses, and Dosage.—Tonic and astringent. An extract of the black ash used as a plaster is very valuable in salt-rheum and other cutaneous diseases. The infusion may be used internally as a tonic, and for all purposes where a combination of astringency with tonic influence is indicated. The white ash is also cathartic, and has been found beneficial in some cases of constipation, and also in dropsical affections. It may be used in the form of infusion or in bitters. The bark in white wine, is said to be efficient in curing ague-cake, or enlarged spleen. The seeds are said to prevent obesity. Dose of specific fraxinus, 10 to 60 drops.
Related Species.—Fraxinus excelsior, Linné, Common European ash. This species is indigenous to Europe, and is cultivated in this country for shade and ornament. A variety is known, F. excelsior, var. pendula, or Weeping ash. The bark of F. excelsior had considerable reputation at one time in Europe as a remedy for intermittents. The leaves, which are laxative and purgative, according to the quantity taken, have been used successfully in gouty and arthritic rheumatic complaints. The leaves contain considerable amounts of calcium malate, tannin, some free malic acid, mannit, dextrose, inosit, gum, quercitrin, and a very aromatic volatile oil, of the composition C10H20O2 (Gintl and Reinitzer, Amer. Jour. Pharm., 1883, p. 371). The bark contains a glucosid, bitter and crystalline, known as fraxin or paviin (see Aesculus Hippocastanum). Its formula is C16H18O10. Diluted acids split it into glucose (C6H12O6) and fraxetin (C10H8O5). The fruit contains mucilage, tannin, an acrid, resinous body, a bitter substance, and a green oil of a disagreeable odor (Keller). Fraxinit (Mouchon's), is a purgative, extract-like body, and is in all probability mannit (Husemann and Hilger, Pflanzenstoffe, 1884).
Fraxinus viridis, Michaux; Green ash.—Used in Mexico. Leaves and bark tonic; root diuretic.