Zanthoxylum Oil

A fruiting twig of Zanthoxylum armatum

  • Botanical Name:Zanthoxylum armatum DC.
  • Synonyms:Zanthoxylum alatum Roxb., Zanthoxylum violaceum Wall.
  • Family:Rutaceae
  • Local Names:Timur
  • English Name:Nepal Pepper, Prickly Ash

Plant Description

Zanthoxylum armatum is a small shrub reaching up to 5m in height. The plants have long straight spines on branchlets and leaf stalks. Leaves opposite, pinnately compound with narrowly winged stalk, leaflets 2-6 pairs, ovate to lanceolate, 8cm, toothed, sparsely gland-dotted. Flowers green or yellow coloured and appear in short branched lateral clusters. Flowering occurs in April-May and fruiting on July-November. It is distributed throughout Nepal within the altitudinal range of 1100m to 2500m. It appears as shrubberies on cleared forests, degraded slopes and on the edges of cultivated lands.


Zanthoxyum oil is extracted by the steam distillation of the dried fruits. The fruits yield up to 3% of Zanthoxylum oil, but in average 2.3% oil has been extracted at commercial level. The oil content varies according to the habitat it grows, and the maturity of the fruits.


Ripe fruits are taken as spice. The fruits are used for toothache, gastritis, cough and cold, tonsillitis, headache, fever, high altitude sickness, dizziness, diarrhoea and dysentery. Bark, fruits and seeds are known to possess digestive, antiseptic, anthelmintic, carminative, depurative, analgesic, diuretic, diaphoretic, deodorant and disinfectant properties. Zanthoxylum oil is used in wide range of aroma-therapeutic uses such as in insect bites, skin infection, wound, arthritis, joint and muscular pain, neuralgia, rheumatism, sprain, dyspepsia, indigestion, headache, nervous tension, migraine etc.

It is also used as a flavouring agent in the confectionary industry, manufacture of soft drinks, used as fragrance in perfumery industry and to prepare wide range of pharmaceutical products.

Organoleptic Properties

  • Appearance:Fluid liquid
  • Colour:Light to pale yellow
  • Aroma:Refreshing pleasant spicy aroma

Physico-Chemical Properties

  • Specific gravity:0.8150 to 0.9051 at 25° C
  • Optical rotation:[+] 5° to [+] 10.5° at 25° C
  • Refractive index:1.4674 to 1.4815 at 25° C
  • Acid number:0.5 to 5
  • Ester number:35 to 65
  • Ester number after acetylation:110 to 150
  • Solubility:Soluble in 0.8 to 1.5 volumes of 90% alcohol.
  • Linalol content:55 to 75%

Active Constituents

Zanthoxylum oil mainly consists of monoterpenes as limonene and linalol; minor constituents are present as methyl salicylate, (E)-methyl cinnamate, 1,8-cineol, β-phellandrene, myrcene, p-cymene, cis-linalol oxide, trans- linalol oxide, 4- terpineol, cryptone, phellandral, carvone, caryophyllene oxide, trans-β-ocimene, α-terpinene, γ-terpinolene, sabinene, β-fenchyl alcohol, piperitone, 1-cyclohexane-1-carboxaldehyde,β- caryophyllene, α-humulene.


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