This intriguing native plant is covered with thorns from its compound leaves right down to its twigs and bark.
Because of its content, it has used throughout the world in medicine and folklore. It is most widely known in Louisiana for its use by both Indians and settlers, not only as a toothache remedy, but they also mixed the inner bark with bear grease and applied it to treat ulcers.
Native Americans used this plant for a wide range of other ailments as well. Ripe berries were thrown in hot water to make a spray used to treat and throat for chest ailments. The inner bark was boiled in water to produce a lotion used to treat various itches.
This tree’s berries have historically been considered tonic, stimulant, anti-rheumatic, and effective in relieving gas, colic, and muscle spasms.
Modern herbalists specify the bark and berries of Toothache Tree as a treatment for rheumatism and as a stimulant for blood circulation.
The conical to flattened bark projections are especially interesting, each with prominent layers of cork tipped with a sharp, delicate spine. Its large, compound leaves form a umbrella-shape at the tip of the poles.
Toothache Tree has a number of common names, such as: Hercules’ Club, Southern Prickly Ash, Sea Ash, Pepperwood, Prickly Orange, Sting Tongue, Tear Blanket, Pillenterry, Prickly Yellow Wood, and Wait-a-bit.
No matter what you call it, few woody plants have had such a varied and widespread use in American folklore.