Black Walnut is a popular herb and is known mainly for its hull, the outer cover of the nut. This article deals with the benefits, side effects and other considerations related to Black Walnut.
What Is Black Walnut?
There are two popular types of walnuts in the market – Juglans regia (the commercial type) and the black walnut.
Black walnut was used extensively during ancient Greece and Roman civilizations to treat intestinal disorders. In the 17th century, this herb was used by the Russians in their folk medicine. During the same time, Chinese also used black walnut to gain physical strength in individuals.
Black walnut belongs to the Juglandaceae family of trees and is found mainly in Europe and America (Massachusetts, Florida, Texas and Minnesota). It grows mainly on hillsides and is found inside rich fertile woods. The botanical name of Black Walnut is Juglans nigra and it’s also known by the following names – oil nut and butter nut. A single black walnut tree can live for more than 100 years. A hardwood Black walnut tree can reach up to a height of 150 feet and has round shaped nuts.
Black walnut is popular for its use in making commercial black walnut ice-cream and in candy making. The tree parts used in medicinal preparations include – its nut hulls, nut, leaves and bark. Today apart from its medicinal benefits, the black walnut tree is used to make furniture and wood carvings.
How Does It Work?
Walnuts in general contain omega 3 fatty acids, folate, vitamin E and have anti-oxidant properties. Specifically, Black Walnut contains the following – Vitamin C, Vitamin B1, Vitamin B2 and Vitamin B6, beta-carotene and tannins like galloyglucose, ellagitannins and Juglone. Tannins are chemicals that help in reducing inflammation and pain. They also help in drying unwanted body fluids like mucous and kill parasites & yeast. Juglone on the other hand, is a brown colored part of the walnut hull with anti-fungal and anti-biotic properties. Apart from the above, black walnut contains the following – Magnesium, Calcium, Iron, Phosphorous, Potassium and Sodium.
Benefits Of Black Walnut
For Cancer Treatment
One of the most controversial benefits of Black Walnut is its ability to treat cancer. There are equal numbers of studies that stand for and against black walnut, with regard to its ability in killing cancer cells. It all started when some herbal practitioners claimed that cancer is caused in the body due to the actions of parasites. They further claimed that taking a tincture made using black walnut hull, cloves and wormwood could effectively destroy the cancer causing parasites.
A few more laboratory studies showed that Black walnut has a component called juglone that helps in preventing cancer in animals. Studies conducted and published by the USA National Toxicology Program claimed that juglone has the potential to treat different types of cancer. In vitro it was shown that Juglone could kill human leukemia cells effectively. In another in-vitro study conducted in China, the positive effects of Juglone on cancer cells found in the liver (apoptosis) were highlighted. However, many clinical scientific studies do not support these claims. Some even claimed that using black walnut oil on the skin may lead to skin cancer and allergies as juglone is toxic in nature.
For Treating Animal & Insect Bites
During ancient times black walnut was used to treat mad dog bites in humans. Native Americans used black walnut herb to treat scorpion bites. It is also claimed that the leaves of black walnut can keep bed bugs and mites away. No scientific study has been conducted to prove these myths.
For Treating Infections
Black walnut has the ability to attack worms and yeast infections. Therefore, it is used to treat parasitic worm infections in humans. Others use black walnut to treat diphtheria and syphilis. Today, black walnut is also used to fight Candida infection.
For A Healthy Heart
This benefit is more related to the normal and commercially available walnut species -English Walnut. However, many claim that even black walnut has the potential to lower LDL levels in humans. In one interesting and related example, it was found that in a small town in France even though the traditional diet was rich in fried food and meat items, people suffered fewer heart attacks. After studying and eliminating a lot of factors it was finally found that the people of the town used walnut oil and chopped walnuts in their daily green salads.
For Good Digestion
Black walnut, according to some solves many digestion related problems. This is because black walnut has the ability to kill parasites in the stomach as well as intestines. An infusion made using the bark of Black walnut tree can effectively treat diarrhea. It is also claimed that the herb can be used to stimulate the liver.
For Healthy Skin
Supporters of Black walnut claim that it helps in treating the following – eczema, herpes, skin inflammation (used in Pakistan & Cuba), ringworms, athlete’s foot, psoriasis, varicose ulcers, blisters, syphilis sores and scrofulous disease.
As an Anti-Oxidant
In a study (in-vitro) conducted by Pusan National University in South Korea, it was found that black walnut helps in protecting against peroxynitrate (an oxidizing chemical) as it has high anti-oxidant properties. This study indirectly supports the claim that black walnut may be helpful in preventing cancer in humans.
For Healthy Lungs
Traditionally, Black walnut was used in East Asian countries to treat lungs related problems such as asthma, bronchitis and cough.
Apart from the above, other known benefits of using black walnut are many: lowers BP, treats thyroid problems, toothaches, sore gums, acne, colitis and tonsillitis, can be used as a hair dye, treats skin wounds, eye infections and eyelid irritations, stops bleeding & weight gain, prevents dandruff and dry hair conditions, purifies the blood etc.
Black Walnut Dosage
Black Walnut supplements can be bought at health food stores and are available in capsule and liquid form. In such cases always follow the dosage instructions given on the product label. Many also make black walnut tea by using a handful of hulls and adding it to boiling water.
Side Effects & Considerations
Even though many studies have shown the positive side of Juglone (a component of Black walnut), in reality it is a toxic substance. Over dose of black walnut may lead to kidney and liver damage. Also, black walnut should not be used to treat cough when it is accompanied with fever. Black walnut must not be used internally or topically in case of pregnancy or breast feeding.
Black walnut tree has many important medicinal parts. However, the most important is the hull of the fruit or the nut. Many have used Black walnut hull to treat Candida infection. Black walnut hull is available in the market in the form of tablets, capsules and even tinctures. Apart from the hull, many use black walnut leaves to prepare herbal tea and use the leaves to treat skin conditions. Black walnut leaves are available in the market in the form of capsules and tea bags.
Since black walnut contains tannins, it should not be used along with any other type of oral drug.