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Herb Library

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DISCLAIMER: These pages are presented solely as a source of INFORMATION and ENTERTAINMENT and to provide stern warnings against use where appropriate. No claims are made for the efficacy of any herb nor for any historical herbal treatment. In no way can the information provided here take the place of the standard, legal, medical practice of any country. Additionally, some of these plants are extremely toxic and should be used only by licensed professionals who have the means to process them properly into appropriate pharmaceuticals. One final note: many plants were used for a wide range of illnesses in the past, but be aware that many of the historical uses have proven to be ineffective for the problems to which they were applied.




BEECH
FAGACEAE
aka Bog Buk, Boke, Buche, Buke, European beech, Faggio, Fagos, Faya, Haya, Hetre
(Fagus sylvatica)
imageImage
Also: Fagus grandifolia syn F. Americana: aka American beech, Red Beech, White Beech
Also see: Fagus ferruginea aka American Beech, Beechtree, Beechnut Tree and Blue Beech

CONTAINS: Seeds contain choline.
The active ingredient in beech creosote is guaiacol which is also derived from Guaiacum officinale.
Wood shavings produce pyrolignic acid.
Well ripened beechnuts yield 17-20% of a non-drying oil similar to hazel and cotton seed oils which was once used in Europe for cooking and burning; the cake left when the oil was pressed was used as cattle feed.

An ornamental tree indigenous to England (found on chalky and sandy soil), but found throughout Europe, and is now grown world wide. Fagus is from the Greek meaning "to eat" in reference to the nuts. The wood was once used to fashion panels for carriages, carpenters' planes, stonemason mallets, wooden bowls, granary shovels, boot lasts, sabots, chair-making, and for making charcoal and gunpowder. It was also used for parquet flooring, wood pavement, and bentwood furniture. In England the nuts were used chiefly as park deer food.

F. grandifolia is a handsome ornamental tree native to North America in rich woods from Canada to Florida and Texas and with smooth, silvery gray bark (darker on mature trees) and blue-green leaves which are silky when young, but silky only the undersides when mature and with the upper leaf being leathery in texture. The buds are long and thin on slender, slightly zigzag twigs. The flowers appear, after the leaves unfold, in bell-like clusters on long drooping stalks. The fruit is a prickly husk opening to 4 parts containing 2 three-sided triangular nuts with sharp points; fruits are rarely produced until the tree has reached 50 years of age; when fallen, the nuts are called 'beechmast'.

Beechnuts have been found in archeological digs in Ontario, Canada and dated between 800-1400 A.D. In Michigan four sites have turned up carbonized nuts.

The wood is the main source of creosote (distilled from the wood tar) used for medicinal purposes. This is NOT to be confused with creosote prepared from wood tar and used to preserve wood. The wood is hard, close-grained, and firm, being heavy in proportion to bulk, and was used to make carpenters' tools, brushes and other small articles. Beechwood with a curly or wavy grain was preferred for making chopping bowls. However, the wood has been used chiefly as fuel.



PROPAGATION: By seed sown in autumn; by budding in late summer.
NEEDS: An ornamental which requires well-draining soil in sun or part shade. Young trees should be planted with amendments of well rotted compost or manure and watered frequently. It can be used for hedging (space 18-24" apart); remove top quater of hedges after planting, then again in first summer; in following summers, trim to shape. Specimen trees require no pruning. Susceptible to bracket fungi, canker, root rot, scale, aphids, and weevils. Foliage susceptible to damage by late frosts.
HARVEST: Wood is cut and distilled for tar and creosote from which guaiacol is extracted. The seeds are collected when ripe, then peeled and pressed for oil, leaving a poisonous residue.
PART USED: Creosote from wood, oil from seeds
SOLVENT: Water. The beech tar is completely soluable in 95% acetic acid.
CULTIVATED VARIETIES:
F.s. 'Dawyck', F.s. Heterophylla, F.s. purpurea
F. sylvatica var. purpurea aka Copper Beech. The leaves were once used like those of the Red-leaved Hazel for extraction of anthocyan pigment.



USES

MEDICINAL:
Antiseptic, stimulant, expectorant, tonic. Has burning taste and penetrating odor. The tar was once considered a stimulant and antiseptic and was used internally as an expectorant for chronic bronchitis, or else applied externally for various skin diseases; affects stomach, kidney, and bladder..
Has been used for ulcers and the inflammation of dysentary. It was also used for diabetes.
As a tonic it was used to tone the entire system and improve appetite.
Has been used internally for chronic bronchitis and upper respiratory tract infections.
The creosote has been used externally for skin diseases.
The leaves were applied to swellings and blisters; they were also chewed for chapped lips and gum pain. Bruised leaves were once applied directly to burns; they were also made into a decoction to treat scalds and frostbite.
The nuts were once eaten to ease the pain of kidney stones.
Called 'Buk' in Russia (pronounced 'book'), the creosote distilled from the tar has been used as an antiseptic and disinfectant. The odor is strong, so is combined with other more pleasant herbs.

DOSE: TRADITIONAL DOSAGES FOR PROFESSIONAL NOTE ONLY
!All others buy commercial preparations and follow directions carefully!
OF the EUROPEAN BEECH = 60 to 120 grains.
Also: 1 tsp crushed leaves, or 1/4 tsp granulated bark, to 1 cup boiling water; steep 10 to 15 minutes; taken 3 to 4 cups daily.
OINTMENT = Can be made into an ointment by simmering in coconut oil.

HOMEOPATHIC:
Used for epilepsy, headache, hydrophobia, vertigo.

BACH FLOWER REMEDIES:
In this system Beech flowers are said to cultivate tolerance, and acceptance and understanding of differences between people.

VETERINARY:
Nuts should not be eaten by horses.
An infusion of the leaves has been used for ailments of the liver and kidneys, also diabetes, jaundice, and failing appetite; it is said to soften 'hard' wounds.
ANIMAL DOSE = 1 handful of buds, leaves or shaved bark, two times daily. For external use, an infusion of the buds and leaves is used.

CULINARY:
Oil has been used in salads and cooking.
In the past, the nuts were eaten in times of famine and roasted as a coffee substitute, but contain several toxins that make them unsafe in quantity. When hunting and agriculture failed, the Potawatomi ate the nuts after roasting, then pounding into flour. They collected the nuts by following the tracks of the deer mouse in the snow to their cache in a hollow tree or log; from 4 to 8 quarts could be gathered quickly in this manner. They were eaten raw or stored for winter use. The Iroquois, Menominee, and Ojibway also used the nuts in this manner as well as the swelling buds.
In Maine the swelling buds were used for food.
Canadian settlers collected the nuts in the fall, then dried them and used them instead of walnuts or hazel nuts.
The Iroquois added the nuts to corn soup.
Indians of Maine ate the buds.

OTHER:
The nuts were once an important food for pigs. Because of this, laws allowed for the rights of parmage which allowed farmers the right to pasture in the forest. Nuts are a source of food for wildlife as well as swine.
Native Americans sucked the sap from the trees when no water was available.
The ashes of the wood were once used in glass making.
The rainwater which collected in the hollows of the tree was once believed to cure the 'naughty scurf', tetters, and scabs of men and domestic animals if used as a wash.
The ashes were used for potash.
The Menomini used beech for building, fencing and fuel.
Early Canadian settlers in southern Ontario, used the dried leaves as a filling for mattresses; they were said to provide a 'springy comfort' that straw lacked.




AMERICAN BEECH
FAGACEAE
aka Beechtree, Beechnut Tree
(Fagus ferruginea syn Fagus grandifolia)
imageImage

PART USED: Bark, leaves.

MEDICINAL USES:
Considered tonic, astringent, antiseptic.
Leaves and bark were used for stomach troubles, ulcers, liver, kidneys, bladder, diabetes, and to stimulate appetite.
Leaves said to be soothing to nerves and stomach and have been applied to swellings, sores and wounds.
Native Americans steeped a handful of fresh bark in a cupful or two of water and used the tea for rashes, especially poison ivy; they also used it to bathe sores, swellings, wounds, and burns. The bark was also used with oil or butter for scalds, burns and frostbite.
The Menomini used the inner bark of the trunk and root in compound medicinals; it was never used alone.
The Rappahannock steeped a handful of the bark from the north side of the tree in one pint of water to which a little salt was added and applied three times daily to poison ivy rash.
The Malacite of Canada used the leaves for cankers.

DOSE: TRADITIONAL DOSAGES FOR PROFESSIONAL NOTE ONLY
!All others buy commercial preparations and follow directions carefully!
INFUSION = 1 heaping teaspoon ov leaves to 1 cup boiling water; steeped 1/2 hour; taken 3 to 4 cups daily, 1 cup before each meal and before retiring (has been used for diabetes [Kloss]). Also used to wash sores, especially old sores.




BLUE BEECH
BETULACEAE
aka American Hornbeam, Hornbeam, Water Beech
(Carpinus Americana)
No Image Available

Not a beech, but a member of the birch family. Small tree/shrub with furrowed trunks of ashy-gray to bluish bark and hard wood. Native to the eastern United States from New England to Minnesota and as far west as Texas, usually found on the banks of streams. Leaves are ovate-oblong to 4 inches, pointed, double serrate, becoming smooth. Fruiting catkins to 4 inches long flower in early spring.

PART USED: Leaves

MEDICINAL USES:
Bitter, tonic, antiperiodic, alterative





©2002-2006 by Ernestina Parziale, CH

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