Discover the walnut tree: a surprising medicinal plant

February 29, 2016

In folk medicine, walnut is a cure against cancer and an aphrodisiac. Discover this fantastic tree in 10 specific points.

Discover the walnut tree: a surprising medicinal plant

1. Herbal medicine

Usable parts: the leaves and nuts

  • We have known the walnut for its medicinal properties since antiquity, and its active components have been repeatedly investigated.
  • Nuts are rich in serotonin, which helps to prevent seizures and cardiac arrest, and omega-3 fatty acids, which help ease depression and seasonal affective disorder, and improve brain function.
  • It was shown that in a few weeks the regular consumption of nuts lowered LDL cholesterol ("bad cholesterol") by 10 per cent.
  • Extracts of walnut leaves could help prevent hair loss and treat infectious skin rashes like eczema and herpes.
  • For proper use, consult your doctor or herbalist.

2. Gardening

  • The walnut tree grows in the wild from south-eastern Europe to the Himalayas, from central Russia to south-western China.
  • It has been cultivated since Roman times for its nuts, oil and wood.
  • It is a spread-shaft tree measuring up to 35 metres (115 feet), with aromatic leaves of 30 centimetres (12 inches) in length, divided into five to nine oval leaflets that are bronze in colour when they are young.
  • The dark yellow male catkins and the female flowering dots appear in late spring and early summer, followed by fruits in dark green spherical drupes five centimetres (two inches) in length, each containing a nut.
  • Given its great size, this useful and decorative tree is suitable for large gardens or orchards. If planting you may want a self-fertile variety, which gives fruit quickly.

3. Varieties

  • Although the royal or common walnut (Juglans regia) grows in area 6, you can plant butternut (J. cinerea) and black walnut (J. nigra) in zone 3: the nutshell is much harder.

4. Location

  • Choose a deep, fertile and well drained soil, in the sun.

5. Multiplication

  • Sow seeds at maturity, or in spring after stratification. The varieties are propagated by groove grafting on young shoots and twigs.

6. Care

  • In late summer, cut misplaced or damaged branches.

7. Pests and diseases

  • The leaves may be affected by burns. Young shoots and flowers are sensitive to frost. Squirrels eat the nuts.

8. Harvest and conservation

  • You can gather the leaves during the growth period to use fresh or dried. The fruit is picked when ripe in autumn.
  • Keep shelled nuts in the freezer or refrigerator to prevent them from oxidizing and going rancid.

9. In the home

  • Leaves and walnut stain are natural dyes and conditioners for dark hair.
  • When added to alum, walnut can stain wood.
  • To hide a scratch on furniture, rub it with fresh nuts.

10. In the kitchen

  • Nuts provide flavour and texture to cakes, cookies, desserts, ice cream, to savoury dishes and sauces, especially in Middle Eastern recipes with chicken, Provencal raito (salted cod), and salsa di noci (Ligurian walnut sauce).
  • Walnut oil goes well with fruit vinegars or those flavoured with herbs.
  • Certain cheeses (like Picadou) are wrapped in walnut leaves.

With these tips, you now know more about the walnut and its fascinating properties.

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