Jump to Navigation

We've moved! The new address is http://www.henriettes-herb.com - update your links and bookmarks!

Juglans cinerea. Butternut.

Botanical name:

[image:28290 align=left hspace=1]Of the forest trees which deserve attention for other properties than the uses of their timber, the Butternut is undoubtedly one of the most interesting; its fruit, bark and juices being all convertible to use. In favourable situations it becomes a large tree, having frequently a trunk of three feet in diameter. It is abundant in the Northern and Middle States, as well as in the Western country. Some parts of the District of Maine, I am told, produce woods of considerable extent, consisting wholly of this tree. Michaux tells us, that it is common in the states of Kentucky and Tennessee, that it abounds on the banks of Lake Erie, the Ohio and even the Missouri. The same author states that it is found in the mountainous parts of Carolina and Georgia, but that he has not met with it in the lower or level portions of the Southern States. It is variously known by the names of Butternut, Oilnut and White Walnut.

The genus Juglans or Walnut appertains to the Linmean class Monoecia and order Polyandria. Its natural orders are Amentaceae of Linnaeus and Terebintaceae of Jussieu.

This genus has its barren flowers in aments with a six-parted calyx; its fertile flowers with a four-cleft superior calyx; a four-parted corolla; two styles; and a coriaceous drupe with a furrowed nut.

The species cinerea has its leafets numerous, oblong-lanceolate, rounded at base, downy underneath, serrate. Fruit oblong-ovate with a terminal projection, viscid and hairy; nut oblong, acuminate, with a rough, indented and ragged surface.

The leaves of the Butternut tree when fully grown are very long, consisting of fifteen or seventeen leafets, each of which is two or three inches long, rounded at base, acuminate, finely serrate and downy.

The flowers appear in May before the leaves are expanded to their full size. The barren flowers hang in large aments from the sides of the last year's shoots, near their extremities. The scales which compose them are oblong and deeply cleft on each side into about three teeth or segments. The anthers are about eight or ten in number, oblong and nearly sessile. The fertile flowers grow in a short spike at the end of the new shoot. They are sessile and universally pubescent and viscid. When fully grown, they seem to consist of a large oblong germ and a forked feathery style. The top of the germ, however, presents an obscurely four-toothed calyx. Within this is a corolla of four narrow lanceolate petals growing to the sides of the style. The style divides into two large, diverging, feathery stigmas nearly as long as the germ. These flowers are somewhat later than the aments in their appearance. The fruit is sessile, several together on the sides and extremity of a long peduncle. It is of a green colour, brown when ripe, oblong-oval, pointed, hairy and extremely viscid. It contains a nut which is of a dark colour, carinated on both sides, sharp pointed, its whole surface roughened by deep indentures and sharp prominences. The kernel is more regular than in most nuts of its kind, is very oily, pleasant to the taste when fresh, but acquires a rancid taste by age.

The bark of the branches affords a large quantity of soluble matter, chiefly of the extractive kind. In a concentrated tincture I have not been able to detect any appearance of resin. No evidence of tannin is produced by the test of gelatin. A brownish black colour is caused by the sulphate of iron. The distilled water possesses the taste of the bark in a considerable degree. We are authorized to conclude that water is an adequate solvent for this article, and experience has shewn that the watery extract is one of its best preparations.

The sap of the Butternut tree is saccharine, like that of the Maple, and may be procured in large quantities. In the third volume of the Massachusetts Agricultural Repository is an account of an experiment made on this tree by Mr. M. P. Gray. He states that four trees, the trunks of which were only from eight to ten inches in diameter, produced in one day nine quarts of sap, from which was made one pound and a quarter of sugar. This quantity, it appears from his statement, is equal if not superior to that which the maple affords in the same vicinity.

The inner bark of this tree, especially that obtained from the root, affords one of the most mild and efficacious laxatives which we possess. It is commonly employed in the form of an extract, which preparation is kept in our druggists' shops. Ten or twelve grains of this extract operate gently, and twenty or thirty grains with considerable activity on the bowels. It has been used for many years in this town by the most respectable practitioners. The late Dr. Warren thought highly of its efficacy, and employed it extensively in various complaints, especially in dysentery. During the revolutionary war, when foreign medicines were scarce, this extract was resorted to by many of the army surgeons, as a substitute for more expensive imported drugs. In dysentery it seems at one time to have acquired a sort of specific reputation.

From numerous trials which I have made with this medicine, it appears to me to possess the qualities of an useful and innocent laxative. When fresh and properly prepared, it is very certain in its effect, and leaves the bowels in a good state. In cases of habitual costiveness it is to be preferred to more stimulating cathartics, and many persons whose state of health has rendered them dependent on the use of laxative medicines, have given this the preference after the trial of a variety of other medicines.

A patent medicine, long vended in this state under the name of Chamberlain's Bilious Cordial, was a tincture of this bark combined with various aromatic seeds. The bark is said to be rubefacient when externally applied, and even capable of exciting a blister. Of this I have had no experience.

Botanical References.

Juglans cinerea, Linnaeus, Sp.pl.
Jacquin, Ic. rar. i. t. 192.
Willdenow, arb. 156.
Wangenheim, Amer. 21. t. 9. f. 21
Michaux, ii. 191.
Pursh, ii. 636.

Juglans oblonga Retz. Obs. i. p. 10.
Juglans cathartica, Michaux, Fil. Arbres forestiers, i. 165.

Medical References.

Thacher, Disp. 245.
Bart. Col. 23. 32.
Rush, Med. Obs. i. 112.


American Medical Botany, 1817-1821, was written by Jacob Bigelow, M. D.



Main menu 2