This section is from the book "An Experimental History Of The Materia Medica", by William Lewis.
Fraxinus excelsior C. B. & Linn. Ash: a tall tree common in woods and hedges; with a whitish bark, and oblong reddish brown seeds in shape somewhat resembling a bird's tongue, whence their names lingua avis, ornithogloffum, etc.
The bark of the ash tree, when fresh, has a moderately strong, bitterish, unpleasant taste, which in drying grows weaker. It has been given in substance from half a dram to a dram, and an extract made from it by water in smaller doses, as a resolvent and diuretic (a), and in intermitting fevers, in which it is said to have often proved successful, especially when assisted by fist alkaline salts. Vander Mye reports, that at the siege of Breda, in defect of guaiacum, a decoction of this bark was made trial of in its place, and was found to be a potent sudorific; that in consequence of this discovery, it was given in pestilential cases, but that the decoction being disgustful by its quantity, a distilled water was substituted, which in doses of two spoon-fuls excited sweat freely, and was salutary to many (a). It must be observed, that this water was distilled in a sand heat, and is described as being ungrateful and smoky: from whence it appears to have been, not what is commonly called a distilled water, but an acid empyreu-matic liquor, such as is forced out by fire from all vegetables: whatever might have been its virtues in malignant diseases, they apparently depended, not upon its being a preparation of ash bark, but on its being an acid.
(a) Duchesne, (Quercetanus) Pharm* dogmat. restitut, cap. 26.
Among us, this bark is regarded only on account of a phenomenon, of more curiosity than use, observed in its watery infusion, simi-lar to that of the infusion of the lignum nephri-ticum. The liquor, if only (lightly impregnated with the bark, on being held against the light, appears of a pale yellowish colour; looked down upon, or placed betwixt the eye and an spake object, blue: the addition of an acid destroys the bluness, and alkalies recover it again. The spirituous tincture exhibits the same variability of colour; with this difference, that against the light, it appears of a much deeper gold or orange yellow.
The seeds of the ash tree have been given to the quantity of a dram, as diuretics, aphro-disiacs, and for reducing corpulent habits. They have a considerable taste, of a bitterish, aromatic, not very agreeable kind.
(a) Fred. Vender Mre, de morbis Bredanist j>. 26.