- Family Oleaceae
- Chionanthus virginicus
- Gray Beard Tree, Old Man’s Beard, Poison Ash, Snowflower, White Fringe, Chionanthus, Snowdrop Tree
- None listed.
Native to the US, the tree grows from Pennsylvania to Florida and Texas, but mostly in Virginia and North Carolina. It is also found in eastern Asia, and thrives on riverbanks and in damp shrubby areas. It is a deciduous tree or shrub, growing to thirty feet, having elliptical dark green leaves and long flowering stems with spikes of white flowers that produce dark blue oval fruits. Fringetree is almost odourless and very bitter. The bark is so dense that, unlike most other barks, it sinks in water. The root is unearthed in spring or autumn.
The herb was commonly used by Native Americans and European settlers to treat various ailments, including eye inflammations, canker sores, and spongy gums.
The Choctaw of Louisiana applied the mashed bark to cuts, bruises, and infected sores, while tribes in Alabama used the bark for toothaches.
In the 19th century Anglo-American Physiomedicalist tradition, the fringetree was valued as a bitter tonic and used as a tonic while recovering from a long term illness.
- liver tonic
- stimulates bile flow
- mildly laxative
- strengthens function of pancreas and spleen
- stimulates appetite and digestion
- heals wounds
- saponin (chionanthin)
- glycoside (phyllirine)
- Bark, root bark
Although mention is made of extensive use in homeopathic medicine, no details are given.
The root bark is used for fevers and liver disorders, as well as for gallbladder pain, gallstones, jaundice, and chronic weakness. It also appears to strengthen the functions of the spleen and pancreas and may substantially reduce sugar levels in the urine.
It is used as a general tonic to stimulate the appetite and digestion, and is especially useful in chronic illness when the liver has been affected.,
Poultices of the crushed bark can be applied to sores and wounds.
The bark is also used as a diuretic, and functions as a gentle purgative, and has been used to treat prostate disorders.