Health Benefits and Uses of English Oak

Health & Wellness

English Oak (Quercus robur) || Health Benefits of English Oak

The Scientific name for the Oak tree is Genus Quercus. Oak trees are native to Europe, Asia, and Africa, and they have deep roots in English culture. They are a symbol of strength and survival, and their wood is still praised for its resilience. Different species of the Quercus genus originated in Europe, western Asia, and northern Africa, and they later evolved into different species. America and the Northern Hemisphere are home to many varieties of Oaks. Oaks have been used for ceremony, food, medicine and building for as long as humans have been around. In many traditions, the Oak is revered as a sacred tree. Today, Oak is highly valued in the timber industry, and also offers nutritional and medicinal value. There are plenty of uses of Oak timber many of them probably you may not have even noticed. Here i have collated majority of them. Just like a Baobab tree from the African region even Oaks live long but not the same. There are around more 600 species of Oak trees more common out of them are the 2 which is red oak and a white oak. There’s Irish Oak, English Oak which are more common in UK and Europe and California live Oak which is found in the United States. Even Chestnut Oak is mainly found in the Eastern parts of US. Oaks are mostly common in the Northern Hemisphere. With the help of Dr Lucy Rowland (University of Edinburgh) on a BBC documentary on an Oak Tree in the UK it was revealed that, It could take in approx 70 litres of water every hour. Due to its quality and strength it has its importance and the uses of Oak timber in the ancient historic ships. Certain varieties of this tree are known for its real strength and some are known for its medicinal side of it. Vikings Canoes were made of wood and we could say that they did use Oak wood due to its long lasting quality. The variety known as Turkey Oak is more durable than English Oak hence it could have been widely used in building ships. However, we can only assume due to the more ready availability in the area. As far as uses are concerned it is believed that even Romans used Holm Oak in their cart’s wheel. Oak trees have set a basis of the wooden uses just like Teak wood and Bamboos in the South East Asia.

One of the valuable qualities of a large Oak tree is also that it evaporates or gives off water through its stomata. That’s not a quality the amount of the water it gives off in water vapour is a staggering 151,000 litres of water a year. In other words, approx 400 to 413 litres water a day or 105 gallons of water a day. However, takes in from 227.304 litres a day. Due to climate change, this effect could get accelerated hence unusual patterns could be seen. In a way that due to heating up of the earth the water starts to evaporate fast since the humidity starts to reduce faster. Along with improving the landscape, its major benefit is thickly covered leaves on spread out branches as it blocks the heavy wind from blowing. This means during the times of stormy weather it could be quite useful. This also means that if the tree has got old and not in a good condition there could be a risk of a tree falling off. However, we don’t find such cases more often since the roots of these trees are quite widely spread. One important benefit that many of you may have noticed and it is the importance of these trees during the time of earthquakes. During the time of the earthquake it is dangerous to stand near the building or concrete house structure. This is not the case with the trees. We have seen trees bending off almost but they do not fall as the buildings do. Hence the risk of people getting injured by the tree during the earthquake is comparatively low. Oak from English forests has been used in building construction for many centuries and original Oak beams continue to support structures more than 500 years old. The traditional popularity of English Oak can largely be explained by the availability of the trees and durability of the wood. As a natural building material, oak is extremely hard to destroy; large sections will resist fires intense enough to melt metal and will flex to accommodate the natural movements of a building.

A large, deciduous tree growing up to 20–40m tall. Also known as common oak, this species grows and matures to form a broad and spreading crown with sturdy branches beneath. The leaves are simple and alternately arranged on the twigs. They are 4 to 8 inches long and 2 to 4 inches wide with the broadest portion toward the outer end of the leaf. The leaves are very similar to white oak and are a very dark green in color. Young twigs are light brown. Flowers appear in April or May with both male and female flowers borne on the same tree. The fruit appears slightly slender being approximately ¾ to 1 inch in length and not very wide. The cap covers about 1/3 of the acorn. The bark of older trees is light to medium grey with moderately ridged furrows at maturity.

Oak trees have been historically linked to the gods Zeus, Jupiter, and Dagda, who were all gods of thunder and lighting. In ancient Rome, emperors were presented with crowns of Oak leaves during victory parades, and the Druids also supposedly worshiped the Oak tree, regarding it as sacred. In English culture, a spray of Oak was engraved on one side of sixpences and shillings, and the Yule Log was traditionally cut from Oak. The English Oak is also referred to as the Sherwood forest tree, and legend has it Robin Hood used to hide in the hollowed trunk of an English Oak that is still standing today in the Sherwood forest. In England, the Oak is a national symbol of strength. Couples were wed under ancient Oaks in Oliver Cromwell’s time. Oak is the emblem of many environmental groups, including the Woodland Trust.

Oaks were used as medicine and food for millennia. Many Native American groups used Oak to treat bleeding, tumors, swelling and dysentery. European herbalists used Oak as a diuretic and as an antidote to poison. Snuff made from powdered root was used to treat tuberculosis. The leaves have been employed to promote wound healing. Oak has been used as a Quinine substitute in the treatment of fevers. Tannins provide many of the healing properties of Oak. Tannins bind with proteins in tissues, making a barrier resistant to bacterial invasion. Tannins strengthen tissues and blood vessels. They reduce inflammation and irritation, especially of skin and mucus membranes. The Oak bark is comprised of 15-20% tannins, which have not only astringent, but also antioxidant properties. They can inhibit the growth of fungi, yeasts, bacteria, and viruses. Tannins are also able to stop bleeding by speeding up blood clotting, as well as to reduce blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Modern scientific research confirms that Oak possesses the following healing properties, such as astringent, fever reducing, tonic, antiseptic, anti-viral, anti-tumor, and anti-inflammatory actions. In addition, Oak has been used to get rid of worms and other parasites. The plant parts used for healing include the inner bark, leaves and acorns.

Oak is excellent for controlling loose stools. Either a tincture (alcohol extract) or decoction (boiled tea) of root bark is effective. Decoctions are used to promote healing of bleeding gums when used as a mouthwash. Finely powdered dried inner bark has been used to control nosebleeds. Oak is said to relieve poor digestion. It has been used to treat ulcers internally and externally. Finely powdered dried inner bark can be sprinkled on external ulcers to soothe, reduce swelling, prevent infection and strengthen tissue. A decoction or tincture can be used to heal internal ulcers. Compresses made from a root bark decoction soothe and shrink hemorrhoids, varicose veins and bruises. A bark decoction can be used as a gargle to relieve a sore throat. Skin problems such as rashes, irritation and swelling may be relieved with the application of poultices or compresses made from the root bark or leaves. Oak has been used in the treatment of cholera and gonorrhea. Decoctions have been used as douches to treat vaginal infections

Leaves may be used fresh for first aid in the field. They can be softened by immersing them in boiling water or steaming until limp. If boiling water is not available, the leaves may be softened by crushing them. Apply the leaves topically to the affected area as an antiseptic, soothing poultice to reduce swelling, skin irritation or bleeding. Acorns are soaked to remove tannins prior to using the acorn meat for food. The tannin rich soaking water has antiseptic and anti-viral properties. It may be used as a wash to relieve skin irritations from rashes, minor burns and poison ivy. Oak bark combines well with Chamomile for soothing the digestive system. Do not use Oak for people who suffer from constipation. Oak is not recommended for large open wounds or for treatment of weeping eczema. Antiseptic and astringent properties can also be found in trees like Acacia and Aspen.

Skin Care:

Skin Irritation:

The anti-inflammation and antimicrobial effect of Oak leaves can be used to reduce the skin irritation. It will reduce the redness and swell on the irritation skin area. Oak bark may contain up to 20% tannins depending on the type and time of harvesting. Tannins act as astringents, or agents that bind to proteins in the skin to constrict body tissues, therefore tightening pores and drying out irritated areas. In particular, the tannins in oak bark have been shown to inhibit the release of inflammatory compounds. They may also exhibit antibacterial properties by binding with proteins involved in bacterial growth.

These specific properties of tannins are responsible for the possible topical uses of oak bark in treating skin irritation and wounds. Hemorrhoids, or swollen veins around the anal area, are sometimes treated by bathing in water mixed with Oak bark powder to dry out sores. Oak bark is also used for its astringent and antibacterial properties for wounds, irritated gums and teeth, and burns at risk of infection. It may be gargled, drunk, or applied topically.

One test-tube study found that an ointment consisting of Oak bark and other extracts was effective against drug-resistant bacteria, including Staphylococcus aureus. However, it cannot be determined whether oak bark or one of the other extracts was responsible for these antibacterial effects. Thus, more extensive research is needed to understand the safety and effectiveness of oak bark.

While the use of Oak bark in soothing skin irritation may be widespread, research on its use for this purpose is scarce. In some instances, Oak bark may even aggravate irritation, especially when used on broken skin.

Skin Inflammation:

Relieving skin inflammations. Due to its astringent, antiseptic properties, oak is effective treating eczema, acne, and itchy skin, as well as aiding recovery from mouth sores, burns, cuts, and scraps.

Soothes Poultices:

Oak leaves can help soothing the poultice. This health benefit comes from the anti-inflammation effect of flavonoid inside the oak leaves.  You can reduce the swelling in the poultice.

Antiseptic:

Flavonoid compound in Oak leaves can also act as antiseptic. You can use Oak leaves to clean the debris or the bacterial at your wound area. Don’t forget to clean the wound first with the water before you clean it with Oak leaves.

Helps to Stop Bleeding:

Oak leaves play the role in wound healing mechanism. It has a substance that helps to stop the bleeding. Just put the clean fresh oak leaves on the site of bleeding and press it until the bleeding has stopped.

Heals Superficial Injury and Wounds:

Oak Leaves contain flavonoid compound which plays the role in the healing process, especially for the superficial injury. You can put the fresh Oak leaves on the top of your wound or injury area and it will heal quickly.

Improves Digestive Health:

Gastric Ulcers:

Through its flavonoid compound, Oak leaves can help to treat the gastric ulcer. Flavonoid will release the substance that can heal the gastric ulcer and prevent the inflammation happen.

Diarrhea:

Oak have been traditionally used to stop diarrhea and other infections of the gastrointestinal tract. In addition to its topical applications, Oak bark is thought to provide healing benefits when ingested. Oak bark tea, in particular, is used to help treat diarrhea because of its antibacterial properties.

Test-tube studies suggest that Oak bark may help fight bacteria that can lead to stomach upset and loose stools, including E.coli. Tannin compounds may also strengthen the intestinal lining and prevent watery stools. Furthermore, research in humans supports the use of tannins to treat diarrhea.

One study in 60 children with acute diarrhea found that those who received a supplement with tannins along with a rehydration regimen had significantly fewer stools after 24 hours, compared with their baseline. However, there was not a significant difference in the median duration of diarrhea after treatment between those who received the supplement and rehydration, compared with those who just received rehydration.

While these results are interesting, no studies have specifically focused on the compounds in oak bark. Thus, it’s unclear if the long-term use of oak bark tea and other products is safe and effective at treating diarrhea.

Antioxidant:

Some of the compounds in Oak bark, such as ellagitannins and roburins, may act as antioxidants. Antioxidants protect your body from underlying damage caused by reactive molecules called free radicals. The antioxidant activity of these compounds is thought to boost heart and liver health and possibly offer anticancer effects.

One study on ellagitannins from Oak bark found that rats who received Oak bark extract for 12 weeks while eating a high fat, high carb diet experienced improvements in heart and liver function, compared with rats who did not get the extract.

Another study in 75 adults with temporary liver failure found that those who took Oak wood extract for 12 weeks had significantly better improvements in markers of liver function, compared with those who did not take the supplement.

However, the availability of ellagitannins and their byproducts in the body varies by individual. Thus, Oak bark may not provide the same benefits for everyone. More extensive research is needed to understand the safety of the long-term use of Oak bark products.

In 2014, the benefits of the Oak wood extract were confirmed in an in vitro pilot study. Researchers assessed the product’s antioxidant capacity using the Trolox Equivalent Antioxidant Capacity (TEAC) method. This measures the antioxidant capacity of a given substance, as compared to the standard, Trolox. In this case, the result was a very positive 6.37 µmol Trolox equivalent/mg of Robuvit. Given the confirmed antioxidant potency of Oak wood extract, scientists decided to evaluate the benefits of supplementing with Oak among a group of 20 volunteers for a period of one month. They measured a number of different parameters including markers of oxidative stress damage, activity of several antioxidant enzymes (superoxide dismutase, catalase, and glutathione peroxidase) and total antioxidant capacity in plasma. At the end of the study, the researchers observed significantly increased activity in certain antioxidant enzymes as well as a rise in total antioxidant capacity of plasma. They also noted a significant decrease in serum levels of advanced oxidation of proteins and lipid peroxides. These results confirm both the antioxidant activity of Oak supplements as well as their efficacy in protecting the body against damage caused by oxidative stress.

Free Radicals:

The phenolic compound has been found in Oak leaves. This compound acts as a strong antioxidant which fights against free radicals in the body.

Supports Cardiovascular Health - Heart Health:

Protects the Heart (Cardioprotective):

Flavonoid activities have also been found in Oak leaves. This compound has a cardioprotective activity that can decrease the risk of cardiovascular disease through its several mechanisms, such as inhibit the inflammation of the vessel and inhibit the plaque formation.

High Blood Pressure:

The flavonoid compound in Oak leaves has the capability to inhibit the ACE (Angiotensin Converting Enzyme) activity that makes hypertension happen. Oak leaves have the substrate which is similar to the anti-hypertension drug in the class of ACE inhibitor. It can reduce the blood pressure effectively in the hypertension patient.

Dyslipidemia:

The capability of Oak leaves through its flavonoid compound can help to treat dyslipidemia (cholesterol level disorder). It can increase the HDL level and lower the LDL level effectively.

Prevents Atherosclerotic Formation:

The antioxidant effect in Oak leaves can increase the HDL (good cholesterol) and reduce the LDL (bad cholesterol) effect. This mechanism is important to prevent the atherosclerotic formation that may become the plaque in the vessels. It will help to prevent the heart ischemic disease or stroke.

Respiratory Health:

Respiratory Disorders:

The anti-inflammatory properties of Oak bring relieve to the irritation and swelling in sore throats. Oak has a long history of use for respiratory conditions, such as cough and bronchitis.

Fever:

Oak leaves have the component that can be used as a quinine substitute. This component helps to treat fever symptom.

Cancer - Treatment and Prevention:

Oak leaves have the anticarcinogenic potential effect. It comes from its antioxidant which can inhibit the free radicals that can cause the growth of cancer cells.

Kills Bacterial Infections:

Besides as the anti-inflammatory agent, the flavonoid compound in Oak leaves has the antimicrobial effect. It can fight against viruses and bacteria and help you recovering from the infection.

Reduces Inflammation:

Oak leaves can reduce the local inflammation symptom such as redness, swell, and pain in the specific local area. You have just to put the fresh Oak leaves on the local inflammation area and wait until the flavonoid compound within Oak leaves works to reduce that inflammation symptom.

Traditional Uses of English Oak:

  • Has been used internally and externally for centuries to relieve diarrhea, hemorrhoids, vaginal discharge, vomiting, nosebleeds, womb troubles and dysentery.
  • Used for centuries to control diarrhea, internal and external bleeding, excessive menstrual flow, nosebleeds, and hemorrhoids. It is also a potent antiseptic that has helped to control bacterial invasion and infection and has been employed to relieve vaginal and bladder infections, among others.
  • Effective in cases of excessive menstrual flow and hemorrhages, including hemorrhaging of the lungs, bowels, stomach, and spitting of blood.
  • As a diuretic that increases the flow of urine,
  • Helps to expel mucous discharge, flush out kidney stones and gallstones, and improve the health of the bladder.
  • It is also said to be helpful for ulcerated bladder or bloody urine.
  • Is believed to normalize the function of the kidney, liver, and spleen and has been used to relieve jaundice and other liver ailments.
  • It has been very helpful in treating a wide variety of infections, such as vaginal infection (including vaginitis and leukorrhoea), gleet (urethritis), bladder infection, chancre (canker) sores and venereal diseases. Its diuretic properties enhance many of these applications.
  • As an antiseptic and parasiticide agent, it destroys and expels worms (including pinworms) and other parasites from the intestinal tract.
  • When used externally, it can control and stop bleeding. It has a protective coat under which regeneration of new tissues may take place, and this has been useful in treating burns, wounds, bee stings, skin abrasions and bleeding or infected mouth sores.
  • Astringents are utilized in topical medicines to relieve flabby ulcers, in douches for vaginal and cervical discharges and in washes for hemorrhoids.
  • It is said to help relieve goiter and swelling of the neck and varicose veins.
  • It is also thought to reduce swelling and hard tumors when applied topically.
  • Oak bark’s main uses relate to treating inflammatory conditions, such as bleeding gums and hemorrhoids.
  • It’s also used to treat acute diarrhea.

Culinary Uses of English Oak:

  • Oak saplings or leaves are rarely eaten directly.
  • Oak wood is sometimes used for smoking fish and meats because of its unique aroma and flavor.
  • Preparing food with acorn seeds.

Other Uses of English Oak:

  • Acorns have also been used to make flour for bread making.
  • Tannin found in the bark has been used to tan leather since at least Roman times.
  • Landscaping: Because they provide ample shade and have an impressive appearance when mature, oak trees are often used in landscape design. 
  • Environmental Support: Oak trees provide habitat for wild animals, and their acorns are an important food source for game species, such as deer, turkeys, and squirrels. They also help prevent long-term soil erosion.
  • Timber. Oak timber is widely used to make architectural beams, furniture, and casks for wine and spirits. Traditionally, oak was used for shipbuilding and tanning leather because of its strength and high tannin content.

Uses of Oak Timber:

  • It has been a prized hardwood timber for thousands of years and is still used for flooring, wine barrels and firewood.
  • It was used to make ships in the olden days.
  • There are many ancient architecture that are made of oak wood including the houses. In fact HMS Victory was made of Oak.
  • In the houses, the flooring wood is also made of Oak timber.
  • Dining tables are made of oak timber too.
  • Wooden barrels to carry liquids or powders.
  • These days even the car and yacht dash boards have a wooden interior to have a vintage look.
  • We have also seen many luxury cars also made of Oak wood exterior.
  • You may even find them in wooden ladders.
  • It is supposed to be so longer lasting that it has outlived people and and their future generations too.

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