Black Walnuts: A Local Remedy

blackwalnutsBy 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


A Journey of Seasons by 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.


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16 responses to “Black Walnuts: A Local Remedy

  1. “Wood alcohol” is methanol and it’s poisonous. Vodka is ethanol and water just like everclear, bourbon, and other alcoholic beverages. also poisonous but we can metabolize it in small quantities.

    • Good point, Mike. Wood alcohol, is also known as methyl alcohol or wood spirits, while drinking alcohol is ethanol – aka ethyl alcohol or grain alcohol. And while vodka is ethanol that is mostly made from potatoes, molasses, soybeans, grapes, rice and sugar beets, it can also be made, in part, from byproducts of oil refining and wood pulp processing. (Wikipedia) This can make cheap vodka slightly toxic and while drinkable, it’s not necessarily the best if you’re consuming medicinal tinctures made from them. This is not to say you can’t use vodka, I’ve done it many times. Simply use a good quality vodka and leave the cheapo stuff on the shelf.

  2. Samuel Ashworth

    When we were kids, we took the green skins (the husks?) and let them soak in water. We poured it in wormholes in the soil and up came nightcrawlers by the dozens. Then, time to go fishing!

    • Thanks for that interesting tidbit, Samuel. I’ve never heard of that before. Yes, the green ‘skins’ are called husks or hulls. Do be careful pouring the liquid around plants and shrubs, though, black walnuts (hulls, roots, leaves and bark) contain large amounts of jugalone, which inhibits plant growth. 🙂

  3. No, don’t drink it. Black Walnuts kill rabbits. It’s not as healthy as the article eludes it to be.

    • Hi, Gerald. Although I have not heard of black walnuts killing rabbits, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t – I just don’t have any experience with that personally. Black walnuts do contain jugalone, which retards the growth of many kinds of plants and trees. This is why almost no other plants will grow around large black walnut trees. That being said, black walnut hull tinctures have been used safely for medicinal purposes for thousands of years and there is scientific studies that prove its efficacy. I definitely don’t advocate “drinking” large quantites of any kind of tincture, or taking black walnut hull tinctures for extended periods of time, but in small regulated doses, it is a safe and effective remedy for intestional parasites.

  4. jill, i placed all of my plants under the shade in sunny mexico under a pecan tree. the plants here need a great deal of shade. i know they have a little bit a juggalone. is it enough to worry about the nuts and leaves falling in the buckets or will they be OK? maybe i should start pulling the leaves out as a precautions?

    • Hi EJ! Thanks for the question. I double checked this for you and I don’t think you will have any problem with your plants under the pecan tree. Everything I have read indicates that the jugalone in pecans is present primarily in the hulls and roots, with almost none in the leaves. You might want to pull the nuts out once they are done falling, but don’t worry at all about the leaves. Hope that helps!!

  5. I wanted to post a question sent to me by a reader and my reply to it. I thought it was a very good question and one that others may have concerns about:

    The Question:
    “Thank you for the research on Black Walnut benefits and uses. Could you explain how wood alcohol enters a tincture of black walnut hulls and vodka. I have a recipe for Iodine from these ingredients and I am concerned about its safety.”

    My reply:
    “The thing about using vodka to make tinctures is that in some countries not all the ingredients used to make it are edible – sometimes wood pulp is also used. That’s not nearly as common today as it once was, though, and the risk is small. Here’s a quote from Wikipedia that mentions it:

    Vodka may be distilled from any starch- or sugar-rich plant matter; most vodka today is produced from grains such as sorghum, corn, rye or wheat. Among grain vodkas, rye and wheat vodkas are generally considered superior. Some vodkas are made from potatoes, molasses, soybeans, grapes, rice, sugar beets and sometimes even byproducts of oil refining[28] or wood pulp processing.

    In general, good quality vodka is an excellent and affordable solvent for tincturing.

  6. Parasites have also been just recently accepted by Western “Modern” Medicine as one of the leading causes of bile duct cancer. “”Only a very small percentage of people infected with the liver fluke will develop [bile duct] cancer, but nearly all cancers develop in persons who are infected [with the parasitic liver fluke]” – furthermore, liver flukes have been classified by the World Health Organization as Group 1 Carcinogens.
    While these experts catch up with Dr. Clark’s own findings, I imagine she must be waiting for one very large apology,..although she is surely smart enough to know it will never come. But eventually she will be fully vindicated once the rest of our medical experts realize one by one that her “quackery” is scientifically sound.
    Reminds me of the 18th century medical establishment who dismissed overwhelming evidence that citrus fruit cured and prevented scurvy among seamen, preferring “to be wedded to the idea that scurvy was a disease of putrefaction, curable by the administration of elixir of vitriol, infusions of wort and other remedies designed to ‘ginger up’ the system.” Nearly two full centuries and an untold number of miserable (and unnecessary) deaths later, two scientists in 1932 proved that Vitamin C did cure scurvy, and in doing so also proved that what was previously “established medicine” for the causes and remedies for scurvy were in all actuality the true quackery,

  7. Pingback: How to Clean and Crack Black Walnuts | Show Me Oz

  8. When you say to soak the “fruits,” what are you referring to. The nut eats, the whole untracked nut, the hulls?

    • Hi, Molly. Thanks for the question. When making black walnut hull tincture the entire green fruit (hulls included and intact) as they come from the tree are soaked in alcohol for about 2 weeks. I use a large mouth gallon pickle jar so I can get lots of fruits in there. The greener the hulls the better. Avoid those with hulls that have turned more than half black. Hope that helps. 🙂

  9. how many drops of the black walnut tincture should a “beginner “use ?

    • Hi, Roberta. Hulda Clark, author of The Cure for All Disease, recommends starting with progressively increasing amounts of black walnut hull tincture for 90 days for her parasite program, from one drop to a full 2 teaspoons during the last few weeks of the program, suggesting that the full 2 tsps. can be taken from the beginning if your body is comfortable with that amount. You can find her entire book and these and other recommendations free online.

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