By Jill Henderson – Show Me Oz -
(Excerpted in part from A Journey of Seasons: A Year in the Ozarks High Country)
In the Ozarks we are blessed with an abundance of trees, among them the stately and ever-useful Black Walnut (Juglans nigra). These trees are not only beautiful to look at and make wonderful shade trees when they are allowed to grow to their full size, but they also provide valuable timber and edible nuts. The hard, handsome wood of black walnut is particularly valuable as flooring, cabinets and furniture and a harvest-sized tree can bring in good money. And while it is clear that we have an abundance of walnut trees, only the largest ones are generally harvested for woodwork. This is steadily decreasing the number of fully mature trees, especially the great old granddaddy-types so important for passing good DNA down the genetic highway. What may help protect many of these older trees are the delectable nutmeats produced within the fruit, which are highly sought after in the confection industry.
The fruit of black walnuts are made up of three layers; the husk, the shell and the nut. The husk begins as a hard green covering that has a distinct lemony smell. Once the nuts within begin to ripen, the fruits fall from the tree and the firm green husk begins to turn black and quickly becomes soft and squishy. The oils found in the husk turn everything they touch, including the hands, a deep yellowish-brown. In the past this oil has been used as an ingredient in wood stains, paints and varnishes. It is still used as a brown dye for wool and cotton and as a yellow dye used in soaps and other cosmetics.
When these very hard shells are crushed and pulverized they are put to use as gentle, non-toxic, dust-free abrasives. Because black walnut shells are softer and more elastic than sand, they are often used to replace sand for blast cleaning and polishing all kinds of surfaces, especially delicate metals in gears, jet engines and electronic circuit breakers. The shells are also used in dentifrices and cosmetics and sometimes used as an adulterant to ground spices. They are used as fillers in the production of dynamite, as antiskid agents in tires, and as thickeners and adhesion agents in certain kinds of paint. Among the hundreds of common and industrial uses of black walnut shells, their use to seal rock fractures in oil drilling operations is probably the one most widely cited.
Aside from their value as a commodity, the nutmeat of black walnut has a taste unlike anything else on earth. The flavor is so unique, it escapes descriptive words. Needless to say it is highly prized by confectioners and ice cream makers around the world. Squirrels and humans both love the tasty nutmeats, and both will spend an incredible amount of time getting through the hard outer shell to get at the delectable flesh inside.
Black walnuts have many uses, but the one probably most overlooked is the use of this valuable tree for medicine. The nut meats are known to contain high levels of Omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants such as vitamin E and folate, while the outer hulls contain a healing compound known as juglone. Juglone demonstrates moderate antitumor activity and is the active ingredient in black walnut hull tinctures.
Black walnut tinctures have been used or claimed to be effective for skin disorders, especially those of the fungal type, such as athlete’s foot. It has also been used externally for ringworm, eczema, and other irritations of the skin and internally for digestive problems and constipation. The alcohol in a tincture can account for some, but not all of these uses.
According to a page on Dr. Clark’s website (see it here), the National Institute of Health states: “Crushed unripe walnut hulls have been used for generations in various types of folk medicine […] to treat fungal, bacterial or viral infections such as herpes or warts. External applications of walnut also kill ringworm, and Chinese herbalists use this substance to kill tapeworm.”
But the most widely known use for black walnut hull tincture has been as a anti-parasitic (to kill parasites, including viral and fungal parasites on the body and in the intestinal tract). This use of the tincture has been popularized in recent years by Dr. Hulda Clark’s compelling research and use into the tincture (along with other herbs and lifestyle changes) as a cancer preventative and remedy. Her claim is that all cancers are caused by parasites in the body. According to the official medical establishment in the US, her theory has not been proven and Dr. Clark has been vilified and literally prosecuted over her claims. Yet, in recent years the very same allopathic establishment that rejected Clark’s treatise for years (and even to this day) admitted that their own research indicated that 70% of all cervical cancers were, in fact, caused by parasites – in this case two individual viruses collectively known as human papillomavirus or HPV. It seems as if Dr. Clark’s work was worthy after all. This is very fortunate for big pharmaceutical companies such as GlaxoSmithKline, who undoubtedly profited from Dr Clark’s early observations and research.
Black walnut hull tincture is made using green walnuts fresh from the tree. Select those that are firm and mostly green and avoiding any that are soft, mushy or black. Wash the fruits in pure water and allow them to dry. Place the fruits in a glass jar and cover completely with 50% alcohol, Everclear is best. Do not use isopropyl alcohol, which is poisonous if ingested and avoid vodka whenever possible, as it is a source of unhealthy wood alcohol.
Sprinkle 1/4 tsp. of powdered vitamin C over the liquid (to help reduce oxidation) and cover the jar tightly with a non-metallic lid. Allow the tincture to sit for three days. Remove the liquid to dark glass bottles and store away from light.
This tincture is produced from a nut bearing tree and anyone who has an allergy to tree nuts should not use this product. As always, women who are or may become pregnant should not use any herb without first consulting a professional.
© 2010 Jill Henderson
Excerpted in part from the book:
A Journey of Seasons
A Year in the Ozarks High Country
Set in the rugged heart of the Ozark mountains, A Journey of Seasons is memoir, back-to-the-land handbook and nature guide rolled into one. Henderson’s 20-years of living off the land and foraging in the wilderness shines in this cyclopedic work filled with nature notes, botanical musings, back-woods wisdom and just a pinch of “hillbilly” humor. This is one journey you don’t want to miss.
Available in the Show Me Oz Bookstore
Jill Henderson is an artist, author, and the editor of Show Me Oz . Her books, The Healing Power of Kitchen Herbs, The Garden Seed Saving Guide and A Journey of Seasons can be found in the Show Me Oz Bookstore. Jill’s work has also appeared in The Permaculture Activist, The Essential Herbal, Acres USA, and Llewellyn’s Herbal Almanac.