Traditional and Modern Use of Ash

Ash (Fraxinus excelsior) has stood on the margins between magic and medicine for centuries. A healing tree once believed to cure snake bites, the ash has fallen out of use in modern medicine. It is still remembered with fondness by those who remember picking its winged seeds to make ash key pickle.

Common Name


Scientific Name

Fraxinus excelsior



Botanical Description

Ash has light grey bark and large compound leaves divided into four or eight pairs of lance-shaped leaflets with sharply toothed margins. The tree grows up to 40 m. The leaves are preceded by black flowerbuds bursting into clusters of greenish white or purplish colours. The fruit, or seed, each has a single long wing called an ‘ash key’, which aids wind pollination.


Deciduous. Native.


Deciduous woodland, hedgerows, scrub

Parts Used For Food

Seeds, shoots, leaves and sap.

Harvest Time


Food Uses

Ash keys (the winged seeds) have been eaten as a pickle in Europe and Asia. The young shoots are edible and can be added raw to salads. The leaves have been used for tea. The tree sap can be tapped to make ash wine. REF

Ash Recipes

Nutritional Profile

Ash is not noted as having any particular nutritional benefits, although its astringency may explain some of its healing effects in folk medicine. The leaves may have a laxative effect. REF

Traditional Medicine Uses

Ash was once an ancient remedy for snake bites, and was believed to cure many other ailments from obesity to leprosy! Ash was used to treat jaundice, kidney and bladder stones, flatulence, warts, ringworm, and earache. REF

Other Uses

Ash wood was used to make spears as well as being excellent for fire wood. REF

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2 thoughts on “Traditional and Modern Use of Ash”

  1. A shame the quote from John Evelyn is nonsense. An ash tree at twenty years old is valueless, other than for a day or two’s firewood. I am very focused on my ash trees due to die back. Trees that were a good size when I bought my land forty years ago have very little mill able timber: I know because I have a mill and plank anything worthwhile, saving the part of the trunk where the limbs divide for turning.

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