Thursday, October 16, 2014

Toothache Tree

While reading a 1973 issue of Sea Chest, a journal of Outer Banks history & stories published by Cape Hatteras High School students, I was reminded of the Pellitory Tree, also called the Toothache Tree, or Southern Prickly Ash. These small to medium sized trees are not abundant on Ocracoke, but can be located throughout the island.

A Toothache Tree on Howard Street

The Toothache Tree sports sturdy thorns on its trunk and branches.

Thorn Protruding from a Larger Pellitory Tree

Chewing on a sliver of the tree's bark will numb the mouth and tongue, and was used to relieve the pain of a toothache. A piece of the bark inserted in a cavity would help ease the pain, and a sack of the bark held against the gums will relieve pain and swelling.

Smaller Tree in Blanche's Yard

Another old-time remedy from Ocracoke Island. (Enlarge the bottom photo for a better view of the thorns.)

Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is about the Unionist North Carolina State Government established at Hatteras in 1861. You can read all about it here:


  1. Debbie Leonard9:29 AM

    Very interesting; I've never heard of that before!

  2. Probably be easier than trying to get a dental appointment.