Walnut (Hu Tao Ren)

Botanical Name: Juglans regia L., J. nigra

The walnut tree’s history and use as a medicine, food and protector of the spirit dates back through Antiquity with almost all cultures. People have used its wood to build with, and its nuts, shell hull (husk), leaves, bark and even the spirit of the tree itself to ward off evil, illness, and hunger.

Remember to check with your doctor before trying new medicines or herbal remedies, especially if you are taking other medication where drug interactions are possible.

Below is an overview of walnut, combining and interpreting the best of Western Science, Oriental Medicine, Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), Shamanism, Folklore, and a wide range of healing modalities. Gain a balanced and thorough understanding of the healing properties of walnut.

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Western Name: Walnut

Also Known As: California Walnut, Gland de Jupiter, Persian Walnut

Organs/Systems: Heart, Metabolism, Skin, Digestive System

Key Actions: Antioxidant, Anti-inflammatory, Strong Laxative, Astringent, Sedative, Emetic, Blood Tonic, Alterative, Antiviral, Anthelmintic, Antifungal, and Antiseptic

Medicinal Uses: Improve MetS (metabolic syndrome that includes such symptoms as high blood pressure, inadequate HDL cholesterol, and obesity); type 2 diabetes, anti-cancer (is known to kill parasite associated with disease) eczema, herpes, sore throats, healing indolent ulcers, boils, hives, and sores. Husks boiled to treat head and body lice. Hypothyroidism, gallbladder stones, digestive issues, diarrhea, constipation, scabies, athlete’s foot, ringworm, acne, A tea from the leaves is also antifungal.


Pin Yin: Hu Tao Ren (J. regia)

Also Known As: Barbarian Peach Pit

Meridians: Kidney, Large Intestine, Heart, Lung

Key Actions: Tonifies the Kidneys, Moistens Intestines and Unblocks the Bowels, Astringes Leakages and Secretions, Warms and Invigorates the Spleen/Stomach and Intestine, Warms the Lungs

Medicinal Uses: Strengthens the back and knees, helps the Kidneys Grasp Qi for Deficient Lungs with chronic cough and wheezing, constipation in the elderly or for those constipated due to injured fluids following febrile illnesses, supports stamina, builds strength, dries mucous, arrests discharge and stops bleeding, removes stagnation, vaginal discharge, acne, eczema, athlete’s foot, promotes bowel movements and expels parasites.

Basic Habitat/Botany:

The trees have a very deep taproot. Monoecious male flowers are slender catkins, while female flowers occur in short terminal spikes on current years shoots. Walnut trees can grow to be 40 to 60 feet tall with a large spread top and thick massive stems. Walnut leaves are pinnate. The trees can live as long as 150 years.

China is one of the biggest walnut producers. The U.S. Sacramento and San Joaquin Valleys in California produce 99% of the country’s English walnuts. Originating in Persia, English walnuts were then brought to Europe by the Romans. English walnuts grow from Greece, Persia, to all along the Hindu-Kush to the Himalayas. Black walnuts are native to North America and can grow to be 100 feet tall.

Parts Most Frequently Used: Nuts, Shell, Hull (aka Husk), Leaves, Bark, and Root

Flavors/Temps: Leaf and Nut are Bitter and Pungent; The Nut is also Sweet.

Caution: Walnuts are edible and considered safe when used in normal consumption. Excessive consumption might cause stomach upsets. Walnut leaves, husks, and bark are considered safe when used in appropriate recommended doses.

Key Constituents: Protein, Omega-3 Fatty acids, Potassium, Phytonutrients, Glutathione, Arginine, Alpha-linoleic acid(ALA), Vitamins A, D, E, B1, B2, B6, B12, C, Calcium, Iron, and Magnesium. Melatonin, Flavonoids, Juglone, Tannins, Iodine, Trace Minerals.

History/Folklore: Sleeping under a walnut tree is said to cause dreams about future events. Some people say that the branches protect against lightning. Romans called them “the glans of Jupiter” (glans referring to the tip of the penis or the erectile tissue of the clitoris). In The Golden Age of Rome, it was said that “men lived upon acorns while the gods lived upon walnuts.” Women carried the nut to increase their fertility. Carrying the hard shell and wood is considered to give the holder power, protection, and inner certainty, allowing that person to move forward with courage when faced with uncertainties.

There are two types of commonly used walnut trees, The black walnut (J. nigra) and the English walnut (E. regia). Black walnut is native to North America, its leaves were part of Native American diets. English walnuts are more commonly available in stores as they are less bitter than black walnuts. Black walnuts are strong flavored and their shells are harder and less easy to crack than English walnuts.

Nicholas Culpepper, the 17th century English herbalist, said walnuts that had grown older and more oily, could be used to heal “wounds of the sinews, gangrenes, and carbuncles…” and a “piece of green husk put into a hollow tooth, eases the pain.”

In modern times, it is the walnuts, leaves and hulls (aka husks) that are most commonly used. The husk is the green fleshy covering over the walnut shell. The walnut is actually the seed found inside the walnut shell. Medicinally, the husks are used when they have turned from green to black and are beginning to break down. Touching the blackened husks can turn your hands black, (they have been used to make dye) so be sure to wear gloves while harvesting! Walnut leaves can be harvested throughout the seasons.

In traditional Chinese medicine, black walnuts are known for building strength and the leaves are used to check vaginal discharge, kill parasites, and heal skin conditions. Walnuts are said to help the Kidneys Grasp Qi for treating Deficient Lungs causing chronic coughs and wheezing, constipation in the elderly, or for those constipated due to injured fluids following febrile illnesses.

Walnuts were used as toys in China’s imperial courts as early as 220 AD, becoming particularly popular in both the Ming (1386-1644) and the Qing Dynasties (1644-1912). They have remained a status symbol exchanged among the elite ever since. A pair of good collectible walnuts was a symbol of taste and social rank. China is the world’s largest producer of walnuts.

Tinctures made from the blackened hulls can be used to treat hypothyroidism, intestinal worms, gallstones, fungal skin infections, and acne. The hulls can be made into a tincture when green that are especially sudorific. Green hulls can also be used to make a yellow dye. A tincture made from the leaves can also be used to treat skin conditions from acne, eczema, to ringworm.

Walnut leaves have astringent, alterative, laxative, and detergent properties. They are commonly used in the treatment of skin disorders, especially herpes, eczema, acne, psoriasis, and fungal infections such as athlete’s foot or ringworm. Up to 10% of walnut leaf compounds contain astringent properties. Tannins account for most of the healing qualities of the leaves, they tighten and constrict tissues helping to protect the skin and reduce inflammation and itching. In Italy, walnut leaves are frequently used for repelling insects and treating parasitic skin infections.

Walnuts are edible and can be ground into flour for making breads, cakes, and cookies. The powdered nuts can also be added to smoothie drinks. The nuts are also mucilaginous. Unripe nuts have worm destroying properties. Walnuts can also be pickled.

Black walnut hulls contain iodine that is used for its antiseptic properties. Iodine produces thyroid hormones that if deficient can cause goiter, chronic fatigue, depression, and possible mental impairment. Iodine affixes itself to harmful bacteria in the body reducing the bacteria’s life span. Walnut husks are generally safe if used for up to 2 weeks at a time and then rested. It is not recommended they be used for long term on-going purposes.

The hulls have been used to combat sexually transmitted infections and malaria.

There is a story of an army doctor healing jungle rot in just 4 days using tincture of black walnut hulls.

The arginine, found in walnuts, helps blood vessels to relax and the ellagic acid compound in walnuts is known for its anticancer properties.

Powdered dried bark can be made into a strong infusion that is a purgative.

Walnut oil is excellent for making salad dressing and can be used for cooking, though is not recommended for cooking at high temperatures. Walnut oil has been shown to lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels up to 33% in a 45-day study.

The compound juglone, found in black walnut leaves and trees can prevent the growth of other plants around the tree’s trunk. The trees secrete the juglone toxin, which can extend for a 60 foot radius around the tree base and prevent some grasses and plants from growing.

In the Doctrine of Signatures, walnuts are famous for resembling the human head and brain. The outer hull is the skin, the walnut shell is the skull, and the inner nut is remarkably visually similar to the human brain. In fact, studies have confirmed walnuts, as a powerful brain food supporting cognitive function and brain health.

In Europe, the walnut tree is a symbol of intelligence, wisdom, knowledge, and inspiration. Native Americans view the walnut as a symbol of clarity and focus and associate them with gathering energy and beginning new projects.

Walnut trees have a long history of associating with witches. It is said witches gathered under the trees to celebrate and perform sacred rites or cast spells. Some of these ancient rituals are thought to have their roots in the cult of Isis.

Walnut wood is prized for its strength and beauty. It has been used to make the wheels of carriages, but does not make a useful beam for a house as it can become brittle. Oil made from the nuts can be used to polish the wood. The oil can also be burned as lamp oil.

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Did you know?

Leonardo and Rembrandt

Black walnut hulls were used to make ink, since it has very good archival properties. Leonardo and Rembrandt both used this ink.


NASA uses powdered shell as thermal insulation in rocket nose cones, since it can withstand extreme temperatures without carbonizing.
Fun fact!

10,000 BC

Walnuts are the oldest known food found on trees, dating back to 10,000 BC.

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