I was walking in the woods today surrounded by a mix of beech and oak.  The ancient oak forests are part of Ireland’s great heritage, but the mighty oak also traditionally has a variety of therapeutic uses.

In herbal medicine, oak or Quercus robur/Quercus alba is a very strong medicine.  The tree, like many trees has a high tannin content.  Tannins bind proteins and other molecules.  It is for this reason that historically tannins have been used in leather making – it binds proteins together making it more durable.

Tannins help diarrhea and bleeding

So what kind of illnesses has Oak been used for?  Because it binds, think of oak as something which will dry things up.  Quercus has traditionally been used for diarrhea, dysentery, weeping or discharge conditions, spitting of blood, haemorrhaging and haemorrhoids.

Oak for Oedema

Oak is also about strengthening – think of the tree.  Matthew Wood traditionally uses white oak bark tincture for oedema resulting from removal of lymph glands or the spleen.  He has used it, in particular, for women who have had lymphatic glands removed near the breast, resulting in oedema[1].

Another use of oak is also for bleeding gums and there are some anecdotal stories of it being used for loose teeth.

When Strong People Collapse

Oak has been distilled into an essence and is one of the Bach Flower remedies.  These remedies are used traditionally to balance the mental and physical.  In the case of Oak, it is used for people who are considered as strong as oaks.  They have great endurance, willpower and a strong sense of commitment.  They are used to being relied on and so will ignore tiredness, exhaustion, illness and keep going.  Over time they will become depressed, exhausted and may eventually have some kind of breakdown.  Oak essence helps these people to re-balance making them less rigid and able to relax and enjoy!

Oak is such a strong herb however, you should really only use it under the care of a herbalist.  Strong tannins, while beneficial in disease, can tonify the digestion, binding the proteins and therefore stopping absorption of key nutrients.  They can also cause stomach upset and are usually combined with other herbs.  So use under guidance and only for a short period of time. For more information contact us at info@freshperceptions.com.


[1] Matthew Wood, The Book of Herbal Wisdom, North Atlantic Books, 1997, ISBN-13:978-1-55643-232-3.

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