Wednesday, 13 April 2011


Zanthozylum alatum or Z. armatum, is known as the Toothache tree or Yellow Wood (a translation of Zantho=yellow and zylum=wood) or the Winged Prickly Ash, (the tree has thorns) although it is no relation to the ash tree being a member of the Rutaceae family so a relative of the lemon tree and rue. It also has many other names and in Pakistan its fruits are known as timbar, tajphal, kabab khandan among other names. The dried fruits are a substitute for pepper and it is said to be one of the ingredients in Chinese Five Spice Powder. However some people have mistakenly called it the Szechwan pepper, which it isn’t; that being a relative, however. The fruit is easy to harvest as it grows in clusters. It grows in the Himalayan region and is native to Pakistan, India and Bhutan. It also grows in North America.
  It is called the Toothache tree as one of its uses in traditional medicine is to alleviate toothache. It is also used in traditional medicine to relieve mouth pain caused by food and to cure gingivitis or bleeding gums. The seeds of the fruit (each fruit comes with a hard outer skin and has a single seed in the middle) are ground with a pinch of black salt, a little fresh chilli, and ordinary salt, and given as a cure for stomach disorders. The seeds combined with the bark are combined to make an aromatic tonic and given when someone has a fever or cholera. Modern research has shown that an extract from the fruit may help with mouth irritation. The root of the tree is used for toothache, stomach ache, fever, boils and rheumatism and in Ayurvedic medicine, apart from these uses it is used to expel internal worms and heal piles and stop anorexia. It is used externally for various skin diseases and local people use a decoction or infusion of different parts of the tree to cure the common colds, coughs, fevers (as parts of the tree have diaphoretic properties, that is they promote sweating) and common stomach upsets. An infusion can be made with 1-2 tsps of tree bark to one cup of boiling water and should be allowed to steep for 15 minutes before straining and drinking three times a day.
  The fruit is also used to purify water, and the trees have religious significance and are reputed to have magical properties by some. The branches are often used as toothbrushes like walnut tree and Viburnum grandiflorum bark.
   The essential oil from the leaves is high in linalool and also has a significant amount of limonene, and is used as an insect repellant. However the oil quality varies depending on the altitudes the trees grow at according to one research study. This volatile oil may have anti-fungal properties, but research is still being carried out on this tree as two new flavonoids were reported from it in June 2010.
  The wood from the tree is close-grained and durable and used for making walking sticks among other items. The beauty industry is currently selling day cream which contains extracts from the Toothache tree; one such product also contains iris milk and chamomile.
  The bark contains the coumarins, xanthyletin, zanthoxyletin and alloxanthyletin, resin, tannin, volatile oil, and various alkaloids including laurifoline, g-fagarine and b-fagarine.

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