Oak, White — Quercus alba

Oak gallsFamily: Fagaceae

Part used: Inner bark, leaves, “oak-apples.”

Herbal action: astringent, tonic, antiseptic, vulnerary

Indications: diarrhea, varicosities, ulcerations, hemorrhage, hemorrhoids, pharyngitis, pyorrhea, leucorrhea, anal prolapse, eczema, burns, abrasions, wounds

Medicinal uses: White Oak and other similar species are among the most potent astringent remedies in the Materia Medica, useful in chronic diarrhea, chronic mucus discharges, and hemorrhages. As a decoction, oak bark is a good external agent for ulcerations and wounds, and as a sitz bath or injection, can be used in hemorrhoids, leucorrhea and rectal prolapse. Oak bark decoction is a similarly efficient remedy as a gargle in pharyngitis, particularly when marked by excessive mucus discharge. Similarly, Cook states that oak is a useful “…gargle in aphthous sores, putrid sore throat, and diphtheria; where it is of much service, especially if combined with Xanthoxylum or a little Capsicum”. Felter and Lloyd state that the ground bark can form an effective poultice in gangrenous conditions. In the treatment of hemorrhages, bleeding gums, and piles it is recommends equal parts oak bark and Lobelia seeds, in powdered form, used in bleeding piles that are “…painful but not inflamed”.

Weiss mentions oak bark as an important treatment for weeping eczema when used as a fomentation. Similarly, oak bark tincture can be added to a cream base (15% v/v) in weeping eczema to promote healing. Moore mentions oak bark as a treatment for first and second degree burns, to speed healing and prevent secondary infection. In the treatment of varicosities, oak bark should be considered as an adjunct to other remedies, its powerful astringent properties combined with its flavonoid constituents promoting good capillary tone, helping to repair weakened blood vessels. Theo-apple gall wasp (Biorhiza pallida) lays its eggs in the twigs of the oak tree, and as the larvae develop they secrete enzymes that cause the plant to form “oak apples” around them. Moore states that these “apples” contain two to three times the tannins found in the bark, and can be harvested as an even more potent astringent remedy.