How Did Native Americans Treat Toothaches?

prickly ashA toothache can be an excruciating pain that needs immediate relief. Today we have Tylenol and other pain killers that might help reduce the pain or keep the pain at bay until we can visit a dentist, but sometimes the pain just won’t quit. There was a time when pain and illnesses were healed by plants, weeds, tress and other things that were found in nature. Who knows how the Native Americans and early settlers figured out what was poisonous and what was helpful! Have you ever wondered how Native Americans treated toothaches?

The Toothache Tree


The pulp of your tooth is at the very center and consists of an abundance of sensitive nerves and arteries. It is the living portion of your tooth and if decay or infection reaches the pulp it can be devastatingly painful.  Before aspirin, Tylenol, and other pain killers there was the Prickly Ash tree, also called the toothache tree. A member of the citrus family and closely related to the Orange tree, this spiny deciduous shrub is also known as the Prickly Elder, the Southern Prickly Ash, and “Hercules Club” because the trunk looks like a spiny club. The spines from the tree have been used to treat toothaches for thousands of years, due to a naturally existing topical Novocain found in all parts of the tree.

Native Americans and Early Settlers

To treat their toothaches, Native Americans would place a single thorn from the Prickly Ash tree against the gingival tissue near the painful tooth, and within minutes the area would be numb. They would relieve tooth pain before, during, and after tooth extraction in this way and they passed their knowledge down to early settlers. Other parts of the tree were used to treat other ailments as well, including throat inflammations, itches, and venereal disease.


With over 25 years of professional experience, Dr. Steven M. Huffstutler and his caring team proudly provide exceptional preventive, cosmetic, and restorative dental treatment to patients and their families across Dallas/Ft. Worth, including North Richland Hills, Denton, the Mid-cities, Southlake, and all surrounding communities. We also have extensive experience helping patients find relief from painful TMJ disorders (various forms of jaw dysfunction). To schedule an appointment with Dr. Huffstutler, contact our office today by calling 817-918-3038.