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In this country we call oak, the long or summer oak, one of around 400 Quercus species from the Fagaceae family, the beech family. It was the sacred tree of Thor, the god of thunder, and the symbol of the German forest, a symbol of steadfastness and eternal life. The fantasies surrounding the “German oak” hide that the real tannins in the tree are ideal for stopping bleeding and preventing inflammation.
Profile to the oak
- Scientific name: Quercus robur
- Common names: Pedunculate oak, summer oak, German oak
- family: Fagaceae (beech family)
- distribution: Almost all of Europe, from Great Britain and southern Scandinavia to northern Spain and northern Greece, in the east to the Baltic States and western Russia. The post-ice age flora of Central Europe is of course characterized by oak-beech forests.
- Parts of plants used: Seeds (acorns), bark, wood, leaves
- application areas: Inflammation of the skin and mucous membranes in the mouth and throat, inflammation around the anus and genitals, diarrhea and gastrointestinal disorders, oily hair
Pedunculate oak - the most important facts
- Oak forests ensured survival in Central Europe. They provided food for the animals, firewood and building materials. This is another reason why the oak plays an outstanding role in the religions of Europe.
- Since ancient times, oak bark has been used as a remedy, especially for diarrhea and diseases of the gastrointestinal tract.
- Various medical effects of oak bark, oak leaves and acorns have been scientifically proven.
- The healing substances of the oak mainly include tannins of the catechin type. Polyphenols, tannins, quercitol and triterpenes also work.
- Oak bark has an astringent, anti-inflammatory and weakly antiseptic effect.
Oak - ingredients
Oak bark contains tannins in abundance, with (plus) -catechin, (minus) -epicatechin and (plus) - gallocatechin as the main components. The proportion of tannins is up to 20 percent, the amount depending on the age and time of harvest. In addition, there are ellagitannins, complex tannins, quercitol, triterpenes and ß-sitosterol.
The dried leaves contain six to eleven percent tannins, seven percent polyphenols as well as triterpenes and cyclitols. The fruits (acorns) and the seeds freed from the seed coat contain seven percent tannins as well as quercitol and mesoinositol. Oak also has small amounts of pectins, resins and bitter substances.
How do the fabrics work?
The ingredients of oak bark, leaves and seeds have an astringent, slightly antiseptic effect and inhibit inflammation. The tannins contract hides and mucous membranes. They react to proteins in the skin and mucous membranes and change their structure. The upper layers of the skin become firmer and small blood vessels close. As a result, bacteria are less able to penetrate and stop bleeding. The skin reacts less sensitively, and so these tannins are also effective against itching. The contracting effect tightens the gums and prevents tooth loss like bleeding gums. It also prevents inflammation of the gums.
A study from 2015 examined whether the use of oak bark against diarrhea, skin inflammation and other inflammatory diseases, which is widespread in European medicine, can be explained in concrete terms. The antimicrobial activity of oak bark had already been scientifically proven at this time, and its so-called anti-quorum sensing ability (QA) had also been described shortly before.
Dmitry G. Deryabin and Anna A. Tolmacheva from Orenburg State University (Russia) now analyzed how the bioactive components of oak bark extract reacted and compared their direct antibacterial and regulatory anti-QS effects against Chromobacterium violaceum CV026 in a bioassay. It was found that only a few components showed direct antibacterial activity: 1,2,3-benzenetriol and 4-propyl-1,3-benzenediol. However, indirect effects were much more common.
Quorum sensing (QS) describes the ability of unicellular organisms (in this case bacteria) to use chemical communication to measure the density of their population and to activate certain genes when the cell density is exceeded or undershot. In the case of pathogens, it is important to prevent this ability; it serves the bacteria to keep the population optimal - and that is exactly what must be prevented.
Oak bark stops the chemical mail
1,2,3-benzenetriol and 4-propyl-1,3-benzenediol also effectively prevented the quorum sensing of the bacteria. Another five components had no direct effect on the bacteria, but also contained quorum sensing. Among others, it was 4- (3-hydroxy-1-propenyl) -2-methoxy-phenol; 3,4,5-trimethoxyphenol and 4-hydroxy-3-methoxybenzaldehydes. Overall, the oak bark extract showed a weak direct antibacterial activity, but a strong effect against the quorum sensing of the bacteria. Accordingly, it effectively prevented the protozoa from chemically communicating to increase the density of their population.
Which parts of the plant act as a drug?
We use the oak bark, more precisely the dried bark of young twigs and stick eruptions as well as the dried leaves and the lightly roasted seeds from the shell.
Oak bark as a medicine - application
Applied externally, the bark helps
- inflammatory skin diseases,
- Inflammation of the mucous membranes in the mouth,
- Sore throat
- and inflammation around the anus and genitals.
We prepare a foot bath, hip baths, compresses or envelopes with oak bark extract. A hip bath in bark extract is an old home remedy for after-itch and for hemorrhoids. Baths relieve dermatoses and certain diarrheal diseases.
The tannins contract the skin, making the extract effective against excessive sweating. Internally, an oak bark tea helps against acute diarrhea caused by viruses or bacteria and against inflammation in the intestinal area. The extract is suitable as a deodorant. It slows down the flow of sweat under the armpits and on the feet. In folk medicine, oak bark extract also served as a conditioner for dandruff and greasy hair.
Recipes for oak bark essence
For internal use, we add one gram of oak bark to 100 milliliters of water, let everything steep for 20 minutes and drink three small cups a day. Or we put two grams on 100 milliliters of red wine for seven days and take three to four tablespoons a day. This helps against intestinal inflammation and bacterial diarrhea.
For external use, we add three grams of bark in 100 milliliters of water, use it to rinse out the mouth, gargle and place soaked compresses and / or envelopes on the respective lots. Gargling does not mean drinking, but spitting out the essence after the process. This helps against gingivitis, hemorrhoids and inflamed mucous membranes.
Traditionally, oak leaves are used internally against bleeding, bloody expectoration, diarrhea, urinary incontinence and vaginal discharge. Externally, they are also used against vaginal discharge, and also against inflammation of the uterus. We prepare an essence with three to four teaspoons of dried leaves in 100 milliliters of water.
We call acorn coffee the acorns freed from the seed coat and lightly roasted in a pan, in the oven or on the grill. These were brewed or chewed into a potion in folk medicine and should help against diarrhea in children and as an antidote for poisoning of all kinds. The tannins contained in the seeds, as well as quercitol and mesoinositol are not known to be directly antitoxic.
What should you pay attention to?
You should not use oak extract if you suffer from heart failure, high blood pressure, or illnesses that are associated with high fever. You should also not treat large skin wounds with oak. The amount of tannins can cause discomfort and stomach upset in people who are sensitive to it. Oak bark as a home remedy for diarrhea should not be used for longer than three days.
When do we collect oak?
We peel the bark in spring or autumn in ring-shaped strips of young twigs. The leaves are collected in late summer before they change color. The fallen acorns are harvested between late September and late October. The best way to dry the leaves is between paper. The bark dries in the sun and is then stored in paper or fabric bags. Plastic, on the other hand, is unsuitable because moisture can accumulate here.
Myth and survival
Hardly any tree in Europe is covered with myths like the English oak. The ancient Greeks thought they heard the voice of Zeus in the rustle of old oak leaves. In the Celts, the summer oak was the seat of their climate god Taranis, the Teutons saw the oak as the tree of the god of thunder Thor, who was particularly revered by warriors and free farmers.
Why did the oak tree have these enormous symbolic values in very different cultures such as the Romans, Greeks, Celts and Germanic tribes? This was probably due to the existential importance for real life: In ancient times, oak forests offered everything that people needed to live: they supplied building materials for houses, furniture, trolleys, tools and weapons. In ancient times, oak bark extract also served as a remedy. They offered a coveted firewood that burned longer than pine, spruce or fir.
Hat forests and acorn fattening
It provided food for the cattle - in autumn the farmers drove the pigs into so-called hat forests (i.e. forests where cattle were tended), where they filled their bellies with acorns before they were slaughtered in winter. This acorn fattening is still common in Spain today and gives the Spanish ham its spicy taste.
The eternal oak forest
The oak became a symbol of eternity because of its long life. The trees can live up to 1000 years. For societies based on oral tradition, the difference between long-lived and immortal was marginal if they had old oak trees in their villages. These sometimes stood when the village was founded and before the ancestors of the stories saw the light of day.
Dryads and druids
In Greek mythology, tree nymphs should live in oaks. These so-called dryads got their name from the Greek word dryswhat oak means. The oak tree was assigned to Zeus, the father of the gods, and to Jupiter, the Roman equivalent.
The Celts not only used oak leaves in their cultic acts, the name of the ritual priest itself was derived from the oak. Druid comes from duir, i.e. oak, as well as the words door and gate. On the one hand, doors and gates were preferably built from oak wood, on the other hand, oak trees and oak groves were considered gates to the world of gods and spirits. Anyone who felled oaks with the Celts without special permission was punished by the gods with death.
Lightning rod and sacrificial tree
In this country the oak was dedicated to the god Thor, who is called Donar in Central Europe, from which our Thursday is derived. The thunder arises because Donar drives his goat cart through the sky. The oak tree did not only have a male symbolism: the original mother Ana nourished the first animals and people with the acorns of a goddess tree.
The Teutons made sacrifices to their gods in sacred oak groves, which the uninitiated were not allowed to enter with the death penalty. Felling oak without permission was punishable by death. Germanic warriors hung the trophies captured by their enemies - in addition to weapons, including cut heads - in the sacred trees. Victorious warriors were honored with oak leaves.
The oak survives the terror
When Charlemagne wanted to force the polytheistic Teutons into Christianity with terror, deportation and genocide, he let his Christian murderers cut down the holy oaks everywhere in today's Germany. But the awe of the oaks remained. In the 11th century, a monk from Regensburg wrote: "There are farmers who consider it a crime to fell trees in a forest under which the pagan priests once predicted."
Everywhere, despite Christian terror, magical rituals were held around the oak. The Westphalian burned an oak log on the night of the winter solstice to protect the house from fire. They paid homage to the Germanic god of lightning and thunder Thor / Donar, probably without knowing this. In Franconia, three oak posts were hammered into the garden with a heavy hammer. As far as the sound could be heard, the poultry should be safe from the fox.
The oak becomes a symbol of terror
In modern times, the oak developed into a symbol of folk nationalism. The stable oak should now reflect the Germans rooted in "blood and soil". In the 19th century, it became a symbol of militarism and soldiers. In the Nazi party sign, the eagle wore an oak wreath in its fangs. Even today, senior officers of the Bundeswehr carry their rank with oak leaves. (Dr. Utz Anhalt)
Author and source information
This text corresponds to the specifications of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.
- Berger, Markus: On the healing power of trees, Neue Erde Verlag, 2008
- Hiller, Karl; Melzig, Matthias: Lexicon of medicinal plants and drugs. 2. Volume L-Z, Spektrum Akademischer Verlag, 1999
- Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture (BMEL): Our forest trees. Interesting facts about the poster series (accessed: January 27, 2020), BMEL
- Lagoni, Norbert: Quercus species - use in naturopathy, in: Bavarian State Institute for Forest and Forestry (ed.): LWF knowledge 75: Contributions to the sessile oak (retrieval: 27.1.2020), LWF knowledge
- Honarmand, Shokouh; Dabirmanesh, Bahareh; Amanlou, Massoud; Khajeh, Khosro: The interaction of several herbal extracts with α-synuclein: Fibril formation and surface plasmon resonance analysis, in: PLOS ONE, June 2019, PLOS ONE
- Deryabin, Dmitry G .; Tolmacheva, Anna A .: Antibacterial and Anti-Quorum Sensing Molecular Composition Derived from Quercus cortex (Oak bark) Extract, in: Molecules, 20 (9): 17093-17108, September 2015, MDPI