Medicinal Trees: Oak – Good Witches Homestead

Quercus alba

Also, Known As:

  • Gospel Tree
  • Oak
  • Tanner’s Bark

The oak is a mighty and majestic tree that has the aptitude to grow up to a height of 90 feet (30 m), have a circumference of about 33 feet (10 m) and survive for as many as 1000 years! The oak is indigenous to North America where over 80 species of the tree are found. All species of the oak are beautiful deciduous trees having grayish, furrowed barks and shed their leaves during the fall. The roots of the tree are spread over a wide area and a mature oak tree may often dominate lesser locations. The timber of the oak is light brown in color, solid and weighty having a compact grain and are ideal for making furniture and flooring. The leaves of this imposing tree are bifurcated into quite a few curved sections. The fruit of the oak is an even acorn (an ovoid nut) that turns caramel hue when ripe and having a carved cap that wraps almost one-fourth of the fruit. Usually, a healthy oak tree that is about 25 years old is capable of bearing as many as 25,000 acorns annually.

The oak blossoms during the period between April and May and its seeds mature in October. The flowers of the oak are monoecious (each flower has only one sex – male or female) by nature and are usually pollinated by the wind. However, most oak trees are found to bear different flowers having either of the sexes. The oak tree has a preference for loamy or medium and clay (heavy) soils, but they are able to grow in heavy clay soil too. The plant also has a preference for basic (alkaline), acid and neutral soils. The plants need an arid or moist soil and are able to grow in sunlight as well as semi-shade conditions as in the slightly forested areas. Although the oak plant is able to endure strong winds, they do not survive well when exposed to maritime conditions.

The botanical name of the oak – Quercus, is derived from the Celtic terms ‘quer’ denoting ‘good’ and ‘cuez’ meaning tree. In addition, the tree has a common name – chen, meaning beautiful. Long back, the Celts believed the oak to be a sacred symbol. In fact, the Druids harvested mistletoe on the sixth lunar day of December with a gold sickle and heralded the arrival of the New Year chanting ‘To mistletoe, the New Year’. On the other hand, farmers used the acorns to make flour for several years. Even to this day, a number of members of the Berber tribes use the acorns to produce a nourishing breakfast cereal known as ‘racahout’. References of the oak are found in the Greek and Roman mythologies too. While the Greeks related the oak to the ruler of the Greek gods Zeus owing to the might and muscle of the tree, the Romans associated the majestic tree with Jupiter, the Roman god considered to be equivalent to Zeus. In fact, the custom of reveling in ceremonies under the shade of the mighty oak trees persisted even after Christianity was introduced. Therefore, it is not surprising that the oak tree has obtained it English designate ‘the gospel tree’ or ‘the prayer tree’.

The Goths or people inhabiting ancient Germany regarded the oak tree as a mark of might and victory. Hence, the term ‘as strong as an oak’ came into existence and is profoundly establish in people’s memory even to this day. During the Middle Ages as well as the Renaissance, unidentified healers utilized the leaves as well as the bark of the oak internally to treat hemorrhaging, diarrhea, tuberculosis and even rickets. They were used externally as a poultice to heal wounds discharging pus. The powder of the leaves and bark were applied externally to stop bleeding nose, while talc prepared with them were used externally to end the hemorrhaging or uncontrolled loss of blood.

In addition, the bark of the oak tree was frequently blended with iron salt to color textiles black. However, to some extent, people across the globe used this combination to tan hides. The timber obtained from the oak tree is economically very viable and used as a raw material for making furniture, flooring, constructing house frames as well as railroad framework. However, in the ancient time, the most important use of the oak tree was perhaps building ships. In fact, the oak was a natural resource that was extremely desired by the new settlers, especially in North America. Within a span of around two centuries, the English, as well as the French, totally pillaged hundreds and thousands of acres of white oak trees from southern Quebec in Canada.

Plant Parts Used:

Several parts of the oak tree are utilized for different purposes. While the buds and tender leaves of the oak are collected during the early phase of spring, the fruits or the acorns are harvested in fall and the outer bark, as well as the sapwood or inner bark, are utilized during the end of winter. […]

Source: Medicinal Trees: Oak – Good Witches Homestead

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