The majestic English walnut tree lives up to its scientific name. Its magnificent appearance drew the attention of ancient physicians and phytotherapists, though they could not give a worth measurement to its nutritional and medicinal virtues. The great Greek physician, pharmacologist, botanist, and author Pedanius Dioscorides thought walnuts “increase the temper” and could be harmful to the stomach. Andres de Laguna, a Spanish physician of the 16th century, translated the works of Dioscorides into Spanish, even said that “the shadow of the English walnut tree is heavy and harmful for every animal, especially when sleeping under that tree.”
From the 18th century onwards, chemical and nutritional research proved that the English walnut tree, and walnuts, have many healing properties. Today, we know that walnuts have a high nutritional value, with contents of proteins similar to that of meat, which they overcome regarding the quality of fats contained and the number of vitamins and minerals they have.
We have to remark that walnuts are the endocarp or the bones of the fruit, whose edible interior is the seed. The pericarp or rind of the green walnuts is the outer part of the fruit, fleshy and green, and though inedible as it is, along with the leaves, it is the part most used in phytotherapy because of its medicinal properties.
Healing Properties and Indications
Both the LEAVES and the green covering of the fruit contain a high amount of tannins of the garlic and the catechin types (9-11 percent), which give the strong astringent properties of walnut; they also contain anthraquinone derivatives, the most important of which is juglone, a bitter substance which, along with vitamin C and organic acids, explains the antiseptic, cicatrizant, invigorating, vermifuge, and hypoglycemic properties. Its main applications are the following:
- Digestive disorders. Its powerful astringent properties make the English walnut tree leaves and green rinds useful in all cases of diarrhea, gastroenteritis, colitis, stomach upset, and flatulence.
Its stimulating action on the digestive organs manifests itself through an increase of appetite, a speeding up of food passing through the stomach, and secretion of bile and pancreatic juice. People suffering from dyspepsia, lack of appetite, and those recovering from any disease will improve their health conditions using walnut.
- Gynecological disorders. Leukorrhea (white flux), cervicitis or colpitis (inflammation of the womb neck), and ulceration on the womb neck are the ailments for which walnut has the most critical applications. Its anti-inflammation and antiseptic actions are pretty effective when administered in the form of vaginal irrigation.
But caution! Before applying any treatment for such female ailments, a gynecologist must check and evaluate the case to ascertain whether malignant or cancerous reasons cause these ailments. Vaginal irrigations must never be applied during pregnancy. To achieve a more intense effect, we recommend taking an infusion, as well as irrigations.
- Urethritis (inflammation of the urethra or urinary tract) and cystitis: Apply a decoction of English walnut tree leaves and/or green rind through a urinary catheter. This will heal the itching and irritation felt when urinating, and reduce the inflammation of the urinary mucosa.
- Skin and mucosal afflictions. The application of a decoction of English walnut tree leaves or green rind on the skin is good whenever an astringent, wound healing, and anti-inflammatory action is required: eczema, impetigo, folliculitis, ringworm, and wounds and sores that will not heal. Chilblains, tonsilitis, pharyngitis, conjunctivitis, and hemorrhoids are some of the many afflictions which will be notably improved with the application of this decoction.
- Intestinal parasites. The vermifuge action is more intense with green rinds than with leaves.
- Diabetes. Both the English walnut tree leaves and the green rind of walnut have a mild hypoglycemic effect (decreasing blood sugar level). Though these substances alone are not enough to treat diabetes, they can be a helpful complement to other dietary measures since they allow you to reduce the dosage of antidiabetic medicines.
The seeds of the fruit, that is to say, the walnuts, contain fifteen percent of proteins with a high biologic value, sixty percent of fats, composed of linoleic and linolenic acids, and significant amounts of calcium, phosphorus, and vitamins A, B1, B2, and B6. Well chewed, they make a very nutritional food, ideal for athletes, students, and teenagers. They are recommended for people suffering from tiredness, asthenia, or nervous system disorders. As has been proven, such habitual consumption of walnuts decreases the level of cholesterol in the blood.
Walnuts and Cholesterol
On March 14, 1993, the prestigious medical magazine the New England Journal of Medicine published the results of some research conducted by Dr. Joan Sabate at the school of Public Health at Loma Linda University (USA), in which he proved that regular consumption of walnuts could reduce the level of cholesterol in the blood. So, some diets against cholesterol, which forbid the consumption of walnuts and dried fruits, were shown to be wrong.
Despite walnuts containing up to sixty percent fat, these substances are mainly formed by polyunsaturated fatty acids (especially linoleic and linolenic acids), in a proportion seven times higher than saturated fatty acids.
The latest research proves that unsaturated fatty acids, which are mainly found in vegetables, exert a reducing effect on cholesterol production. Hence, the consumption of walnuts and other dried fruits does not produce cholesterol and even reduces its production.
Black or American walnut, which in some American countries is called common walnut, is native to North America. It has rough bark, dark or black. Its properties are similar to those of the European walnut. Besides the rind of its green fruits, its bark is also used in the form of decoction (30-40 g per liter of water) because of its astringent properties. The indications of this decoction are similar to those of walnut leaves and the rind of green fruits.
English Walnut Tree Scientific Facts
- Scientific synonyms: Juglans duclouxiana Dode.
- Other names: European walnut, walnut.
- French: Noyer.
- Spanish: Nogal.
- Environment: The English walnut tree is native to central Asia; it is now spread all over Central and southern Europe and North America. It usually grows in sheltered valleys and sandy soils.
- Description: Tree of the Juglandaceae family, growing up to 30 m high, with grayish bark and long-petioled leaves. It has two types of flowers, male and female. The fruit are drupes (walnuts).
- Parts of the plant used medicinally: The leaves and the fruit.
How to use English Walnut
- Infusion with 10-20 g of leaves and/or rind of green fruit per liter of water. Drink three or four cups daily. This infusion must not be taken with other plants or pharmaceutical preparations containing iron salts, jelly, mucilage, or alkaloids, which could neutralize its effects. Take it alone or, if preferred, sweetened with honey.
- Decoction with 20 g of the rind of green fruit per liter of water. As a vermifuge, drink two cups daily.
- An external decoction made with 100 g of English walnut tree leaves and or rind of green fruits per liter of water, boiling for 15 minutes. Apply in vaginal irrigations, urethral cleansing, eye baths (conjunctivitis), sitz baths (hemorrhoids), compresses or baths on the skin, or in gargles (pharyngitis). We recommend taking two or three applications daily.
George D. Pamplona-Roger, M.D. “Encyclopedia of Medicinal Plants.” George D. Pamplona-Roger, M.D. Encyclopedia of Medicinal Plants. Ed. Francesc X. Gelabert. vols. 2 San Fernando de Henares: Editorial Safeliz, 2000. 505, 506, 507. Print. [English walnut tree]