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Oak English

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  • Botanical: Quercus robur
  • Family: Fagaceae
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Oak English

Botanical

Quercus robur

Family

Fagaceae

Known as

English oak, Pedunculate Oak, Stieleiche, Sommereiche, Deutsche Eiche, Traubeneiche, Wintereiche, Eke, Eik, Ferkeleiche, Masteiche, Oachen

Old Use

cooking

Collection Times

September to October

Parts Used

bark, seed

Aroma

forest

Medicinal

antiseptic, athlete's foot, boils, bleeding, burns, cystitis, diabetes, diarrhea, eczema, gastritis, hemorrhoids, infections intestinal, sore throat, sweaty feet, ulcers, varicose veins, wounds, frostbite, mouth sores, stomatitis

Properties

antibacterial, antiseptic, anti inflammatory, astringent, tonic

Description

Quercus robur is a large deciduous tree, with circumference of grand oaks from 4 m (13') to exceptional 12m (40'). Majesty Oak with the circumference of 12,2 m (40') is the thickest tree in Great Britain, but Kaive Oak in Latvia with the circumference of 10,2 m (33,5') is the thickest tree in Northern Europe. Q. robur has lobed and nearly sessile (very short-stalked) leaves 7–14 cm long. Flowering takes place in mid spring, and their fruit, called acorns, ripen by the following autumn.

The acorns are 2–2.5 cm long, pedunculate (having a peduncle or acorn-stalk, 3–7 cm long) with one to four acorns on each peduncle.

The shape of the oak leaves is too familiar to need description. The flowers are of two kinds; the male, or barren, in long drooping catkins, 1 to 3 inches long, appearing with the leaves, and the leaves and the fertile flowers in distant clusters, each with a cup-shaped, scaly involucre, producing, as fruit, an acorn 1/2 to 1 inch long. 

 The Oak is noted for the slowness of its growth, as well as for the large size to which it attains.

Properties & Uses

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.

Traditional Use

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. The German Commission E Monographs, a therapeutic guide to herbal medicine, approve Quercus robur Pedunculate Oak for coughs/bronchitis, diarrhoea, inflammation of mouth and pharynx, inflammation of the skin

Cautions

Possible digestive complaints. May delay absorption of alkaloids and other alkaline drugs

Distribution

Europe, including Britain, from Scandanavia south and east to Spain, the Urals and Crimea.

Constituents

Tannin, tannic acid, tannins, bitter substances, gallic acid, Quercin, quercetin