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Fraxinus excelsior is the scientific name for the common ash tree, also known as a weeping ash. It is most commonly grown in England, western Europe and the United States, where the bark and leaves have been used for medicinal purposes for centuries. The fruits of the fraxinus excelsior tree, called ash keys, have also been traditionally used by practitioners of herbal medicine for stomach disorders and indigestion.
The leaves of the fraxinus excelsior tree have a reportedly diuretic and purgative effect. Some natural healers prescribe making the dried leaves into a herbal laxative tea to relieve bloating and constipation. Traditionally, the extracted and purified water from the leaves was given to patients with edema, a swelling condition of water under the skin which was commonly known as dropsy. The water was also given for weight loss, and steeping the fraxinus excelsior leaves in white wine was given to relieve jaundice and help pass kidney stones. In England, the leaves were traditionally gathered in summer, dried and ground into powder before being corked in glass bottles.
The bark of the fraxinus excelsior tree was commonly made into a tea to bring down a fever. It was also given to destroy intestinal parasites, such as worms in humans and animals. It was thought best to only take the bark off the youngest branches of the tree, not the older bark of the trunk. The recommended dosage for fraxinus excelsior bark tea was a cup to a cup-and-a-half a day. The taste of the tea is thought to be bitter, so other sweeter-tasting herbs also known for their stomach-soothing properties, like chamomile or peppermint, would be added.
The seeds of the tree were known in Europe as bird tongues and were pickled with vinegar and salt and eaten as condiments. They were also thought to aid digestion, particularly after a meal high in fat. The seed extract is being studied scientifically for its reported ability to block fat absorption in the body and fight obesity.
There are no known side effects of taking any herbal preparation made from fraxinus excelsior, but it has not been evaluated by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The effects of taking fraxinus excelsior products while pregnant or breast-feeding are also presently unknown. A physician should always be consulted before individuals take any herbal remedy as part of a wellness program.