Herb: Butternut


Latin name: Juglans cinerea


Family: Juglandaceae (Walnut Family)



Medicinal use of Butternut:

Butternut was used by various native North American Indian tribes as a laxative and tonic remedy to treat a variety of conditions including rheumatic and arthritic joints, headaches, dysentery, constipation and wounds. In modern herbalism it is considered to be a valuable remedy for chronic constipation, gently encouraging regular bowel movements. It is especially beneficial when combined with a carminative herb such as Angelica archangelica. Butternut also lowers cholesterol levels and promotes the clearance of waste products by the liver. An infusion of the inner-bark is used as a cholagogue, febrifuge, mild laxative and stomachic. It is effective in small doses without causing cramps. The bark is best collected in the autumn. Best collected in late spring according to another report. An infusion of the dried outer bark is used in the treatment of toothache and dysentery. The oil from the nuts is used in the treatment of tapeworms and fungal infections.

Description of the plant:



Plant:
Deciduous
Tree

Height:
25 m
(82 feet)

Flovering:
May to
June

Habitat of the herb:

Usually found in rich moist soils of woods and river terraces, but it also grows on dry rocky soils, especially if these are on limestone.

Edible parts of Butternut:

Seed - eaten raw or ground into a powder and used with cereal flours in making cakes, biscuits, muffins, bread etc. Oily and sweet tasting with a rich agreeable flavour. The oil in the seed is not very stable and the seed soon becomes rancid once it is opened. The kernel is usually only about 20% by weight of the whole seed and is hard to extract. The unripe fruit can be pickled. The seed is 3 - 6cm in diameter and is produced in clusters of 3 - 5 fruits. An edible oil is obtained from the seed, it tends to go rancid quickly. The sweet sap is tapped in spring and can be used as a refreshing drink. It can also be boiled down to a syrup or sugar, or added to maple syrup.

Other uses of the herb:

A yellow to orange dye is obtained from the seed husks and from the bark. It is dark brown. It does not require a mordant. The seed husks can be dried and stored for later use. A light brown dye is obtained from the young twigs, leaves, buds and unripe fruit. It does not require a mordant. The leaves can also be dried and stored for later use. A black dye is obtained from the young roots. Plants produce chemicals which can inhibit the growth of other plants. These chemicals are dissolved out of the leaves when it rains and are washed down to the ground below, reducing the growth of plants under the tree. The roots of this species produce substances that are toxic to many plant species, especially apples (Malus species), members of the Ericaceae, Potentilla spp and the white pines (certain Pinus spp.). Wood - coarse-grained, light, soft, not strong, very attractive. It weighs 25lb per cubic foot. It is not as valuable a crop as the black walnut (J. nigra), but is used indoors for furniture, doors etc.

Propagation of Butternut:

The seed is best sown as soon as it is ripe in individual deep pots in a cold frame. You need to protect it from mice, birds, squirrels etc. The seed usually germinates in late winter or the spring. Plant out the seedlings into their permanent positions in early summer and give some protection from the cold for their first winter or two. The seed can also be stored in cool moist conditions (such s the salad compartment of a fridge) over the winter and sown in early spring but it may then require a period of cold stratification before it will germinate.

Cultivation of the herb:

Usually found in rich moist soils of woods and river terraces, but it also grows on dry rocky soils, especially if these are on limestone.

Known hazards of Juglans cinerea:

None known

Plant information taken from the Plants For A Future.