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---Constituents---The barks of numerous species of Xanthoxylum and the allied genus Fagara have been used medicinally. There are two principal varieties of Prickly Ash in commerce: X. Americanum (Northern Prickly Ash) and Fagara Clava-Herculis (Southern Prickly Ashj, which is supposed to be more active. Although not absolutely identical, the two Prickly Ash barks are very similar in their active constituents. Both contain small amounts of volatile oil, fat, sugar, gum, acrid resin, a bitter alkaloid, believed to be Berberine and a colourless, tasteless, inert, crystalline body, Xanthoxylin, slightly different in the two barks. Both yield a large amount of Ash: 12 per cent. or more. The name Xanthoxylin is also applied to a resinous extractive prepared by pouring a tincture of the drug into water.
The fruits of both the species are used similarly to the barks. Their constituents have not been investigated, but they apparently agree in a general way with those of the bark.
The drug is practically never adulterated. The Northern bark occurs in commerce in curved or quilled fragments about 1/24 inch thick, externally brownish grey, with whitish patches, faintly furrowed, with some linearbased, two-edged spines about 1/4 inch long. The fracture is short, green in the outer, and yellow in the inner part. The Southern bark, which is more frequently sold, is 1/12 inch thick and has conical, corky spines, sometimes 4/5, inch in height.
(Phytother Res. 2003 Mar;17(3):274-5)
Activity of Zanthoxylum clava-herculis extracts against multi-drug resistant methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (mdr-MRSA).
Gibbons S, Leimkugel J, Oluwatuyi M, Heinrich M.
Centre for Pharmacognosy and Phytotherapy, The School of Pharmacy, University of London, London, UK. email@example.com
In a continuing search for compounds with antibiotic activity against methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) possessing multidrug ef flux systems, we have demonstrated activity associated with extracts from Southern prickly ash bark, Zanthoxylum clava-herculis. Bioassay-guided isolation of an alkaloid extract led to the characterization of the benzo[c]phenanthridine alkaloid chelerythrine as the major active principle. This compound exhibited potent activity against strains of MRSA, which were highly resistant to clinically useful antibiotics via multidrug ef flux mechanisms.
(Phytother Res. 2001 Aug;15(5):441-3)
Cytotoxic coumarins and lignans from extracts of the northern prickly ash (Zanthoxylum americanum).
Ju Y, Still CC, Sacalis JN, Li J, Ho CT.
Department of Plant Science, Cook College, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ 08903, USA.
Four pyranocoumarins; dipetaline, alloxanthoxyletin, xanthoxyletin and xanthyletin; and two lignans; sesamin and asarinin were isolated from the northern prickly ash, Zanthoxylum americanum. To varying degrees, all inhibited the incorporation of tritiated thymidine into human leukaemia (HL-60) cells. Dipetaline was the most active with an IC(50) of 0.68 ppm, followed by alloxanthoxyletin (1.31 ppm), sesamin (2.71 ppm), asarinin (4.12 ppm), xanthoxyletin (3.48 ppm) and xanthylletin (3.84 ppm).