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Fringe Tree

Chionanthus virginicus

Fringe Tree
Graybeard
Old-man's-beard
Poison Ash
Snowdrop Tree
Snowflower

Parts used
Uses
Habitat and cultivation
Constituents
How much to take
Collection and harvesting
Combinations

Herbs gallery - fringe_tree.jpg


Fringe tree - a deciduous tree or shrub growing up to 40 feet tall. The thin bark of fringe tree is covered with reddish-brown scales. Thick opposite leaves, 4-8 inches long, are elliptical to oval and dark green on top, pale green below. Fragrant white flowers (May-June), 4-6 inches long, have long white fringelike petals that give the tree its name. The fruits are fleshy, round, and dark blue.

The Choctaw Indians of Louisiana used the native American fringe tree as an astringent. They boiled the bark in water and cleansed external wounds with the extract, and they mashed the bark to make a poultice to help close wounds. Dr. Charles Millspaugh, the American physician and botanist who was among the first to catalog American medicinal plants, noted in his well-known work Medicinal Plants, published in 1892, that "the previous use of the bark of this shrub as an astringent. ..has a great merit." He also mentioned that the root bark was successfully used as a tonic. And, he added, "this bark has often also proved itself a trustworthy diuretic." Modern herbals still cite the bark as a diuretic, and it has also been specified as a laxative.

The fringe tree has become increasingly popular with landscapers and gardeners. Found mostly in warmer climates, this true southerner wages a rebellion against the seasons. One of the last trees to acknowledge winter's end, the fringe tree does not leaf until late spring, and then it greets early summer with a mantle of white blossoms that look, from a distance, like a sheet of snow.

PARTS USED

Root bark, bark.

USES

The root bark of fringe tree is a liver tonic, stimulates bile flow, and acts as a mild laxative. Fringe tree is prescribed mainly for gallbladder pain, gallstones, jaundice, and chronic weakness. Although it appears to be beneficial to liver and gallbladder function, there is as yet no research to substantiate its effects. The root bark also appears to strengthen function in the pancreas and spleen. Anecdotal evidence indicates that fringe tree may substantially reduce sugar levels in the urine. Fringe tree also stimulates the appetite and digestion, and is an excellent remedy for chronic illness, especially where the liver has been affected. For external use, the crushed bark may be made into a poultice for treating sores and wounds.

HABITAT AND CULTIVATION

Native to the US, fringe tree grows from Pennsylvania south to Florida and Texas. Fringe tree is also now found in eastern Asia, and thrives on riverbanks and in damp shrubby areas. The root is unearthed in spring or autumn, mostly in Virginia and North Carolina.

CONSTITUENTS

Fringe tree contains a saponin (chionanthin) and a glycoside (phyllirine).

HOW MUCH TO TAKE

Infusion: pour a cup of boiling water onto 1-2 teaspoonfuls of the bark and leave to infuse for 10-15 minutes. This should be drunk three times a day.
Tincture: take 1-2 ml of the tincture three times a day.

COLLECTION AND HARVESTING

The roots of fringe tree are unearthed in spring or autumn. Wash carefully and peel the bark. They should be dried with care.

COMBINATIONS

For the treatment of liver and gallbladder conditions fringe tree may be used with barberry, wahoo or wild yam.


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