Northern Red Oak : Medicinal Uses

Red Oak 6

Bark of the Northern Red Oak. Stadlin, E. (2013).

The medicinal effects of the Northern Red Oak were well known to the Ancients. The bark and inner bark are strongly febrifuge (fever-reducing), antiseptic, and astringent.  Like other astringents, it has been recommended for fevers and hemorrhages and can be used as a substitute for Quinine in cases of intermittent fever.

If you remember from earlier, galls can form on the surface of the Northern Red Oak. These galls contain the compound tannin, which has powerful medicinal qualities. The tannins have been shown to be astringent and are prepared into tinctures to treat dysentery, diarrhea, and cholera. As an external local astringent, a Gall ointment (1 ounce powered galls and 4 ounces benzoated lard) can be applied to painful hemorrhoids or to stop hemorrhage from the nose and gums.

The Potawatomi, a Native American tribe, used the bark of the Northern Red Oak to treat sores, flux, sore throat, and Indian itch. The bark was chewed to heal mouth sores or used externally to wash the skin for rashes, burns, or eruptions.

During the Civil War, the scarcity and expense of imported drugs forced the Confederate Army to establish several medical laboratories to manufacture drugs for military use. The laboratories often produced medicines from indigenous plants. An inventory revealed that the bark of the Northern Red Oak was collected and prepared in the medical laboratories. The Northern Red Oak may have been an essential substitute for medicines that were difficult to procure during that time.

Today, the Northern Red Oak has been shown to have benefits for cancer patients. It is known that stress can affect immune function and that the immune system can regulate tumor growth. Depending on the site of the tumor or body systems that are under stress, normal cells need to be supported to diminish the damage of cancer cells and to create an environment where cancer cells can be regulated. Cancer patients can suffer from a wide range of physical ailments that make them vulnerable. For cases of diarrhea, the bark of the Northern Red Oak has been used for treatment.