Herb: Pedunculate Oak


Latin name: Quercus robur


Synonyms: Quercus pedunculata


Family: Fagaceae (Beech Family)



Medicinal use of Pedunculate Oak:

The oak tree has a long history of medicinal use. It is anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, astringent, decongestant, haemostatic and tonic. The bark is the part of the plant that is most commonly used, though other parts such as the galls, seeds and seed cups are also sometimes used. A decoction of the bark is useful in the treatment of chronic diarrhoea, dysentery, intermittent fevers, haemorrhages etc. Externally, it is used to bathe wounds, skin eruptions, sweaty feet, piles etc. It is also used as a vaginal douche for genital inflammations and discharge, and also as a wash for throat and mouth infections. The bark is harvested from branches 5 - 12 years old, and is dried for later use. Any galls produced on the tree are strongly astringent and can be used in the treatment of haemorrhages, chronic diarrhoea, dysentery etc. The plant is used in Bach flower remedies - the keywords for prescribing it are "Despondency", "Despair, but never ceasing effort". A homeopathic remedy is made from the bark. It is used in the treatment of disorders of the spleen and gall bladder.

Description of the plant:



Plant:
Deciduous
Tree

Height:
30 m
(98 feet)

Flovering:
April
to May

Habitat of the herb:

Often the dominant woodland tree, especially on clay soils and in the eastern half of Britain, but avoiding acid peat and shallow limestone soils.

Edible parts of Pedunculate Oak:

Seed - cooked. Nourishing but indigestible. Chopped and roasted, the seed is used as an almond substitute. It can be dried, ground into a powder and used as a thickening in stews etc or mixed with cereals for making bread. The seed contains bitter tannins, these can be leached out by thoroughly washing the seed in running water though many minerals will also be lost. Either the whole seed can be used or the seed can be dried and ground it into a powder. It can take several days or even weeks to properly leach whole seeds, one method was to wrap them in a cloth bag and place them in a stream. Leaching the powder is quicker. A simple taste test can tell when the tannin has been leached. The traditional method of preparing the seed was to bury it in boggy ground overwinter. The germinating seed was dug up in the spring when it would have lost most of its astringency. The roasted seed is a coffee substitute. An edible gum is obtained from the bark. Another report says that an edible manna is obtained from the plant and that it is used instead of butter in cooking. This report probably refers to the gum.

Other uses of the herb:

A mulch of the leaves repels slugs, grubs etc, though fresh leaves should not be used as these can inhibit plant growth. The bark is an ingredient of "Quick Return" herbal compost activator. This is a dried and powdered mixture of several herbs that can be added to a compost heap in order to speed up bacterial activity and thus shorten the time needed to make the compost. The bark is very rich in calcium. Oak galls are excrescences that are sometimes produced in great numbers on the tree and are caused by the activity of the larvae of different insects. The insects live inside these galls, obtaining their nutrient therein. When the insect pupates and leaves, the gall can be used as a rich source of tannin, that can also be used as a dyestuff. A black dye and an excellent long-lasting ink is made from the oak galls, mixed with salts of iron. The colour is not very durable. When mixed with alum, the dye is brown and with salts of tin it is yellow. Trees can be coppiced to provide material for basket making, fuel, construction etc. The wood is a source of tar, quaiacol, acetic acid, creosote and tannin. Tannin is extracted commercially from the bark and is also found in the leaves. On a 10% moisture basis, the bark contains11.6% tannin and the wood 9.2%. The bark strips easily from the wood in April and May. A purplish dye is obtained from an infusion of the bark with a small quantity of copperas. It is not bright, but is said to be durable. Wood - hard, tough, durable even under water - highly valued for furniture, construction etc. It is also a good fuel and charcoal.

Propagation of Pedunculate Oak:

Seed - it quickly loses viability if it is allowed to dry out. It can be stored moist and cool overwinter but is best sown as soon as it is ripe in an outdoor seed bed, though it must be protected from mice, squirrels etc. Small quantities of seed can be sown in deep pots in a cold frame. Plants produce a deep taproot and need to be planted out into their permanent positions as soon as possible, in fact seed sown in situ will produce the best trees. Trees should not be left in a nursery bed for more than 2 growing seasons without being moved or they will transplant very badly.

Cultivation of the herb:

Often the dominant woodland tree, especially on clay soils and in the eastern half of Britain, but avoiding acid peat and shallow limestone soils.

Known hazards of Quercus robur:

None known

Plant information taken from the Plants For A Future.