The white oak tree (quercus alba) is most famously known as the hard wood that oak wine barrels are made from. I believe the Irish called the oak, ‘fine tree’. And besides the fine affects it has on wine, the benefits of quercus alba are numerous.
Note, I’m not a doctor and didn’t play one on television. Still, the natural components of the white oak tree – which really isn’t white, but instead is a pale gray or tan – as a health benefit, are widely known within certain herbal and alternative medicine practices, and its advantages may go back thousands of years. The bark, acorns and even leaves are where a majority of these benefits come from. I’ve also thrown in other advantages the white oak has given us.
In circles of natural medicine, the quercus alba bark has been widely known for its herbal remedies. The chemical compounds – called tannins – of white oak offer most of the benefits associated with this famed oak species. Taken internally after the bark has been charred and steeped in liquid, offers temporary relief from nausea, diarrhea and internal bleeding. Along with these problems, medicinal uses include helping with kidney and gallstones, plus a wide assortment of ailments like hemorrhoids and dysentery.
Externally, as an styptic, it can help coagulate bleeding or other discharges like wounds. A tonic, or tea of the white oak bark can be used for the mouth as well, such as gargling for a sore throat, canker sores and for brushing your teeth. Also, when made into a tea, helps with mucous congestion. It even can be used as a wash for acne.
The tannins from the white oak have helped as an anti-bacterial fighter. When used internally, it helps with kidney and bladder issues such as urinary tract infections. The acorns meat turned again into a liquid form, have been used for millinias as a tonic in fighting malnutrition. Not only are the tannins important, but this almost steroid-type tonic includes B12, calcium, iron, phosphorus, potassium, sodium and sulfur.
Native American Indians from here in California used the acorn meat as part of a flour mix that created a common and healthy food staple. Because of the white oaks anti-inflammatory qualities, these same Native American used its properties, in an extract, as a remedy for bites such as from venomous snakes.
Including all the herbal remedies the white oak offers, the tight course veins of the quercus alba make this hard wood ideal for rot and water resistance. In ancient times, the hardness lent itself nicely as a weapon and for boat-building. Speaking of weapons and boat-building, the most famous naval ship in America, Old Ironsides (otherwise known as the USS Constitution), was made of white oak. The infamous ship was in service during three centuries!
The wood is widely used in flooring, cabinet and furniture manufacturing due in part to it’s hardiness and natural beauty. Actually there are more benefits than listed but too many to really do the great tree justice.
So although the barrel business knows full well how great quercus alba is for winemaking, certainly the grand white oak is an important and vital tree for so many more reasons.
Salute to quercus alba!
Sources: Missouri Botanical Garden, Encyclopedia of Life, Natural History of the Oak Tree
Daryle W. Hier
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