Tag Archives: trees

More autumn tree herb lore…

So I was at the kitchen sink today, doing the dishes, and I happened to glance at our little seedling oak tree.  We have been given one to grow, and it’s leaves are just changing at the moment and it is rather pretty.  It got me thinking about whether oak can do anything for us herbally speaking.

oak tree

Back to my rather lovely “Backyard Medicine” book.  This is the one that I picked up when we were on holiday in Canada.  I have been hankering after it for AGES and it was cheaper to buy over there then it would ever be over here.  Anyway, it has a lovely bit all about oak.

acorns

At one time the British Isles had lots and lots of Oak forests.  In fact, in days gone by, where my house is would have been in Sherwood Forest, (as in Robin Hood, Maid Marian and the Merry Men) with lots and lots of Oak trees around it.  Unfortunately, Oak is rather a victim of its own success and because it was fabulous for building with, has been used for houses and ships and all kinds of things.  Oaks produce acorns and they feed pigs; acorns also stand as a famine food and are a coffee substitute known as ersatz coffee.  Apparently it tastes quite palatable and it is low in caffeine.  The Oak galls, also known as oak apples, are constituents for ink and the bark can be used as an astringent.  In fact it is as an astringent, a tightener or a drier, that it is used for mostly in herbalism today.

Oak Leaf

Oak leaf tea is used as a diarrhoea treatment, as is the young oak bark made into a tea as well.  Another use is as a tooth powder made from the dried oak bark.  You can add fennel seed powder, cinnamon powder, and bicarbonate of soda and use it to brush your teeth.  I am quite intrigued by this.  I might look into it a bit more.

And if that weren’t enough uses for oak, you can also use the twigs to clean your teeth.  Amazingly versatile isn’t it?!

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It is conkers season!!

I am not sure if my North American correspondents are aware of what conkers are?  In case you are scratching your collective heads,  conkers are the nut of the Horse Chestnut tree, Aesculus hippocastanum.

horse chestnut

According to my current favourite herby planty lore book, a recent purchase when we were on holiday in Canada, it is an introduced ornamental tree.  But luckily the parts of it have lots of healing properties.  In fact it is used in 2 Bach Flower Remedies.

The tree itself can grow up to 130 feet tall, and has palmate leaves and huge white candelabras of frothy white-pink flowers in the spring.  The conkers, an auburn coloured nut, form and fall in the autumn, and generations of schoolchildren have played a school yard game using them strung on a piece of string to see whose conker was strongest.  Sadly Health & Safety rules have got in the way of them these days, which is a shame because my husband has many happy memories of playing conkers.

Horse chestnut tree

So what can horse chestnut trees be used for?  Their good looks mean they have been a municipal tree of choice for planting on streets and avenues, and apparently their bark makes an emergency quinine substitute.  The flower buds can be used to flavour beer, and conkers produce a good soapy lather for shampoo and to clean clothes, and into the bargain they stop mould and repel moths. If you have been plagued by those enormous garden spiders that are around this autumn, then putting conkers by the door and hung up in corners can help dissuade them from taking up residence in the first place.

 

In this year of First World War commemorations, it was interesting to find out that conkers were also used for explosives.  Apparently they are a source of acetone and it was that chemical required for the explosives.  Schoolchildren collected over 3000 tons of conkers which all went to the war effort.

conkers

So, medicinally, what can this anti-mould, anti-creepy crawly, potentially explosive stuff do for your health?  It is a leading herbal treatment for weakened veins, including varicose veins, haemorrhoids, and acne rosacea.  It might also be an alternative to Botox as it tightens the skin and reduces fluid retention and Oedema.

 

My little book provides a couple of recipes for using conkers to make tinctures, oils and even a lotion for the treatment of varicose veins, thread veins and fragile capillaries.  I don’t think I am going to provide them in this blog post though… I might bring it back as a topic another time.