Herb: Red Oak


Latin name: Quercus rubra


Synonyms: Quercus borealis


Family: Fagaceae (Beech Family)



Medicinal use of Red Oak:

The bark and inner bark is antiseptic, astringent, emetic, febrifuge and tonic. It is used in the treatment of diarrhoea, chronic dysentery, indigestion, asthma, severe coughs, hoarseness, intermittent fevers, bleeding etc. Externally, it is used as a wash for skin eruptions, rashes, burns etc. The bark can be chewed as a treatment for mouth sores. The bark contains tannins, experimentally these have been shown to be antiviral, antiseptic, anticancer and also carcinogenic. Any galls produced on the tree are strongly astringent and can be used in the treatment of haemorrhages, chronic diarrhoea, dysentery etc.

Description of the plant:



Plant:
Deciduous
Tree

Height:
25 m
(82 feet)

Flovering:
April
to May

Habitat of the herb:

Dry or upland woods. Found in a variety of soils, it grows best in those that are deep and fine textured, and the largest trees are found in protected ravines or on sheltered slopes.

Edible parts of Red Oak:

Seed - cooked. A staple food for several native North American Indian tribes. Up to 3cm long. 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.

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. 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. Tannin is obtained from the bark. A reddish-brown dye can be obtained from the bark. Wood - coarse-grained, hard, strong, heavy, not durable. It weighs 41lb per cubic foot. An important lumber source in America, it is highly valued for flooring, furniture, veneer, construction etc.

Propagation of Red 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:

Dry or upland woods. Found in a variety of soils, it grows best in those that are deep and fine textured, and the largest trees are found in protected ravines or on sheltered slopes.

Known hazards of Quercus rubra:

None known

Plant information taken from the Plants For A Future.