Black walnut trees have a special place in my heart. The house I grew up in was 300 years old and had a black walnut tree out front that was almost as old. They’re native to Virginia and is a valuable source of food, lumber and medicine! In this post I’ll go over the nutritional and health benefits of black walnuts!
I’ve heard that, in the olden days, black walnut trees were a status symbol – that’s why you see so many of them in front of old homesteads. The theory was that walnut trees need good quality soil to thrive. If your soil could support a black walnut, your farm would naturally be productive.
While I haven’t found anything written to back this up, I love the idea so much it’s become part of my forklore at least.
In addition to a status symbol, black walnuts are often planted as a “retirement fund”. They can take 40-50+ years to mature, but the idea is that once they are large enough, they can be harvested for the wood and make you a pretty penny. Bruce Thompson of “Black Walnut for Profit” says that an acre of mature walnut trees can bring about $100,000 in timber value!
The nuts themselves feed wildlife, or, if harvested young, can make a delicious alcoholic drink called Nocino. Check out Homestead Honey’s recipe for Nocino here. Mature, black walnuts are a lot of work to break into, but they’re incredibly healthy.
For the best guide to foraging and wildcrafting medicine from the world around you, check out Herbal Academy. Their Botany and Wildcrafting course covers ethics of foraging, accurate plant identification and sustainability issues, as well as how to make medicine out of the plants around you:
BONUS! If you end up enrolling in Herbal Academy’s course, forward me the receipt to hillsborough.homestead[AT]gmail.com and I’ll send you a complimentary copy of my Herbal Remedies eBook!
Nutritional Value of Black Walnuts
Before we go into the medicinal and health benefits of black walnuts, it’s important to sing their nutritional praises:
One cup of black walnuts has 14% of your daily recommended intake of Magnesium, 14% of your RDI of phosphorus, 6% of your zinc, 19% of your copper, 7% of your selenium and 55% of your Manganese!
Black walnuts are also 75% higher in protein then their English Walnut cousins. They’re also high in antioxidants and alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) which is an important omega-3 fatty acid. ALA is an essential fatty acid which means your body cannot produce it by itself so you have to consume it in your diet. Go walnuts!
Health Benefits of Black Walnuts
As far back as the Middle Ages black walnuts were considered a good omen and were used as talismans to ward off lightning, fevers, witchcraft and epileptic seizures.
In addition to talismans, black walnuts have been an important part of the Native American diet because they keep very well. Caches of black walnuts dating back to 2000 BCE have been found along the Great Lakes region.
The key constituents in black walnut are juglone, juglandic acid, julandin, tannins, linoleic acid, linolenic acid, oloeic acid, friglone, iodine, fatty oil, protein, carotene and Vitamin B.
Black Walnut as a Dewormer
The juglan constituents can be very toxic to animals and plants nearby, preventing other plants from growing around black walnuts. As such, black walnut has a long history of use as a dewormer and to treat ringworm.
Black Walnut for the Brain
As far back as the Ancient Greeks, walnuts were considered especially good at treating conditions of the brain, since the texture of the walnut looks like a brain.
Black Walnut for Use on the Skin
Many Native American tribes used an infusion of the black walnut shells for skin inflammations. The tannins in the nut are drying and reduce inflammation.
For 20 other trees you can forage medicine from, check out my blog post on medicinal trees.