Gleditsia is a legume tree, very characteristic for its turfs of thorns growing straight from the trunk and branches of the tree, but there are thornless cultivars (Gleditsia triacanthos var. inermis) as well.
Gleditsia have been used as a medicinal herb for centuries in different regions of the world. And today there is growing number of medicinal studies from many countries confirming properties of this tree. Both traditional uses and modern medicine researches about Gleditsias from different countries, are showing strong similarities in influences on human health.
All parts of G. triacanthos contain alkaloid triacanthine, that act hypotensive and antispasmotic on bronchial smooth muscles and intestines, and also support process of burning fat, but is toxic in excess (LD50 35mg/kg, young leaves have highest concentration of triacanthine in this plant, which is up to 1%). Foster and Duke gives remedies made from Gleditsia triacanthos the same safety level as for coffee. Also G. sinensis have many specific alkaloids and triterpenoidal saponins isolated from its parts, of which any should be used with cautious.
Fully ripened, dried pods of G. triacanthos are made into tea for indigestion, stomach and duodenum ulcers (except open ones), measles and catarh. It is antiseptic, analgesic, mydriatic, adjuvant and anthelmitic. Cherokee use pods for dysentery, dyspepsia and measles. Alcoholic extracts have been proved effective against cancer. It contain saponins. alkaloids, flavonoids, glycosides and tanins. G. sinensis pods ( Zao Jiao, Fructus Gleditsiae Sinensis or Gleditsia Abnormalis Fructus) in form of powder or pils, are used for constipation (induces bowels movement), coughs, congestion in chest, asthma, apoplexy, headache, epilepsy, to dispels flegm, reduce swellings, open orifices, alievating nasal symptoms of allergic rhinitis and awaken the spirit. Paste made from boiled pods and vinegar is applied on swollen sores (before ulceration). Extracts proved to be effective anti cancer drug, with potential in leucemia treatment. It is pungent, warm in property, acts on lungs and large intestine chanels. Overdose might couse vomiting and diarrhea.
Bark from twigs of Gleditsia triacanthos was used in form of infusions by Delaware Indians as a cough remedy and to cleanse blood. Fox Indians used it for colds, fevers, measles and smallpox. Meskwaki used to give it to ill persons to help them regain strength. Infusions was also used to induce sweating, reduce bronchial congestion and for treatment of dyspepsia.
It is used for swellings, oedema, suppuration, tinea, psoriasis, eczema, scabies, nodules, boils, ringworms, swallen painfull breasts, preulcerous sores, carbuncle, for flegm remowal and coughs. It is acrid and worm, act immunomodulatory, antialergic, antiinflamatory, antibacterial, anthelmitic, relax spasms of trachea and bronchus, expel winds and draws out toxins. Both water and ethanol extracts proved its anticancer properties it laboratory tests, among others it proved to be specificly effective against uterine and breast cancer cells. Organic acids extracted from G. sinensis thorns, showed strong anti-HIV activity.