Thursday, September 5, 2013

FOOD FOREST MEDICINE Monograph #3: Black Walnut

Black Walnut  
LATIN NAME:  Juglans nigra (Juglans cinerea)
BRIEF DESCRIPTION: Juglans nigra and Juglans cinerea (Black Walnut and Butternut) are traditionally known to have great medicinal properties, similar to their European cousin (Juglans regia). However, there are very few studies that illuminate the qualities of Juglans nigra specifically.  Most of the scientific understanding of Juglans nigra is inferred from the study of Juglans cinerea/regia.

The green hull of Black Walnut, along with the bark, has traditionally been used to treat parasites, specifically worms.  Its action as an anti-parasitic drug can easily be remembered by the natural history of the walnut family.  The roots of the walnut tree secrete a substance that is toxic to other plant life (juglone).  That is why many plants cannot grow beneath a walnut tree. It keeps the ground clear of other plants that might compete with it for growth, in the same way that it kills parasites that compete for nutrients in the human body.

Walnut hulls are also a “cathartic” medicine, known for their purging qualities, and can been used to treat constipation.  It does this by acting on the liver, gallbladder, muscle fibers and mucous membranes of the bowels.  Lower doses are thought to effectively tonify the mucous membranes of the bowels.

It is thought that the anti-parasitic and bowel-tonifying action of walnut can help promote skin health too (when skin lesions are related to constipation or parasites).

The nuts are a dietary source of healthy fatty acids. Traditionally recommended that pregnant women consume the nut (NOT the leaves or the hulls), in order to encourage the healthy development of the baby’s brain and other organs.  This is consistent with what we know today about the positive relationship between healthy fatty acids (omega 3 and 6 polyunsaturated fatty acids) and their role in the cognitive development of children.

The good-fat content of walnuts also makes them great food for the heart.
Walnuts can help lower cholesterol and prevent plaques from forming in the arteries.  In 2003, The FDA stated that eating 1.5 oz. per day of walnuts, as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol, may reduce the risk of heart disease.  Walnuts contain heart healthy nutrients such as unsaturated fatty acids, fiber, potassium and folate.  They are also high in vitamin E and the potent antioxidant, ellagic acid.  Preliminary animal studies show that ellagic acid has potential anti-cancer action.

*note that this monograph does not include ALL potential interactions or safety concerns.  Please consult your healthcare professional before using any plant substances listed herein.

PARTS USED: nut, hull, husk, leaves, bark

ACTIONS:  anti-parasitic, purgative, cardio protective (fats), nutritive

INDICATIONS:  parasites, eczema, constipation, pregnancy (nuts)
BODY SYSTEMS TREATED: cardiovascular, skin, digestive
PREPARATIONS: tincture, tea, powdered, whole food
TRADITIONAL USES: parasites, lice, scabies, bowel tonification, food-source,
colour dye.
SAFETY/CAUTIONS/INTERACTIONS: do not use while pregnant or breast-feeding. Cross reactivity with other nut allergies.
2)  Hutchens, Alma.    Indian Herbology of North America.
3)  Mitchell, William.  Plant Medicine in Practice: Using the Teachings of John Bastyr.


1) Feldman EB. The scientific evidence for a beneficial health relationship between walnuts and coronary heart disease. J Nutr 2002;132:1062S-101S.

2) Zambon D, Sabate J, Munoz S, et al. Substituting walnuts for monounsaturated fat improves the serum lipid profile of hypercholesterolemic men and women. Ann Intern Med 2000;132:538-46.

3) Chisholm A, Mann J, Skeaff M, et al. A diet rich in walnuts favourably influences plasma fatty acid profile in moderately hyperlipidaemic subjects. Eur J Clin Nutr 1998;52:12-6.

4) Sabate J, Fraser GE, Burke K, et al. Effects of walnuts on serum lipid levels and blood pressure in normal men. N Engl J Med 1993;328:603-7

5) J Nutr. 2001 Nov;131(11):2837-42.Walnut polyphenolics inhibit in vitro human plasma and LDL oxidation.These results demonstrate that walnut polyphenolics are effective inhibitors of in vitro plasma and LDL oxidation. The polyphenolic content of walnuts should be considered when evaluating their antiatherogenic potential.

6) Narayanan BA, Geoffroy O, Willingham MC, Re GG, Nixon DW (March 1999). "p53/p21(WAF1/CIP1) expression and its possible role in G1 arrest and apoptosis in ellagic acid treated cancer cells". Cancer Lett. 136 (2): 215–21. doi:10.1016/S0304-3835(98)00323-1. PMID 10355751.

7) Madal, Shivappurkar, Galati, and Stoner (1988). "Inhibition of N-nitrosobenzymethylamine metabolism and DNA binding in cultured rat esophagus by ellagic acid". Carcinogenesis 9 (7): 1313–1316. doi:10.1093/carcin/9.7.1313. PMID 3383347.

8) Mandal and Stoner; Stoner, GD (1990). "Inhibition of N-nitrosobenzymethylamine-induced esophageal tumorigenesis in rats by ellagic acid". Carcinogenesis 11 (1): 55–61. doi:10.1093/carcin/11.1.55. PMID 2295128.


*note that this monograph does not include ALL potential interactions or safety concerns.  Please consult your healthcare professional before using any plant substances listed herein.

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