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Seed - raw or cooked[1, 2, 46, 61].

It can be sweet or
bitter[K]. The seed is up to 3cm long[200], it can be dried,
ground into a powder and used as a thickening in stews
etc or mixed with cereals for making bread. The seed
from some trees contains bitter tannins, these can be
leached out by thoroughly washing the seed in running
water though many minerals will also be lost. Either the
whole seed can be used or the seed can be dried and
ground it into a powder. It can take several days or even
weeks to properly leach whole seeds, one method was to
wrap them in a cloth bag and place them in a stream.
Leaching the powder is quicker. A simple taste test can
tell when the tannin has been leached. The traditional
method of preparing the seed was to bury it in boggy
ground overwinter. The germinating seed was dug up in
the spring when it would have lost most of its
astringency. The roasted seed is a coffee substitute. An
edible oil is obtained from the seed[183].

Any galls produced on the tree are strongly astringent
and can be used in the treatment of haemorrhages,
chronic diarrhoea, dysentery etc[4].


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Young male catkins - raw or cooked. Used as a

flavouring[172]. Immature female cones - cooked. The
central portion, when roasted, is sweet and syrupy[172].
Inner bark - dried, ground into a powder and used as a
thickener in soups etc or added to cereals when making
bread[172]. An emergency food, used when all else fails.
Seed - raw. Rich in oil and with a pleasant slightly resinous
flavour, but too small and fiddly to be worthwhile unless
you are desperate[172]. A refreshing tea, rich in vitamin
C, can be made from the young shoot tips[172]. These
tips are also used in making spruce beer[183].

The buds, leaves and resin are antibiotic, antiseptic,
balsamic, expectorant, sedative[7]. A pitch, or resin,
obtained from the trunk is rubefacient and
stimulant[240]. It is used externally in plasters etc for its
healing and antiseptic properties[7]. A poultice of the sap
or gum has been used in the treatment of boil and
abscess pain[257].

The roasted seed is used as a coffee substitute[2, 7]. Seed

- cooked. It can be dried, ground into a powder and used
as a gruel[7, 46, 55, 61]. The seed is quite large, about
3cm in diameter, and is easily harvested. It is usually
produced in abundance in Britain. Unfortunately the seed
is also rich in saponins, these must be removed before it
can be used as a food and this process also removes many
of the minerals and vitamins, leaving behind mainly
starch. See also the notes above on toxicity. The seed
contains up to 40% water, 8 - 11% protein and 8 - 26%
toxic saponins[218]. The following notes apply to A.
californica, but are probably also relevant here:- The seed
needs to be leached of toxins before it becomes safe to
eat - the Indians would do this by slow-roasting the nuts
(which would have rendered the saponins harmless) and
then cutting them into thin slices, putting them into a
cloth bag and rinsing them in a stream for 2 - 5 days[213].

Horse chestnut is an astringent, anti-inflammatory herb
that helps to tone the vein walls which, when slack or
distended, may become varicose, haemorrhoidal or
otherwise problematic[254]. The plant also reduces fluid
retention by increasing the permeability of the capillaries
and allowing the re-absorption of excess fluid back into
the circulatory system[254]. This plant is potentially toxic
if ingested and should not be used internally without
professional supervision[254]. Alterative, analgesic,
haemostatic and vulnerary[165, 218]. The bark is antiinflammatory, astringent, diuretic, febrifuge, narcotic,
tonic and vasoconstrictive[4, 7, 222]. It is harvested in the
spring and dried for later use[4]. The plant is taken in
small doses internally for the treatment of a wide range
of venous diseases, including hardening of the arteries,
varicose veins, phlebitis, leg ulcers, haemorrhoids and
frostbite[238, 254]. It is also made into a lotion or gel for
external application[254]. A tea made from the bark is
used in the treatment of malaria and dysentery,
externally in the treatment of lupus and skin ulcers[4,
222]. A tea made from the leaves is tonic and is used in
the treatment of fevers and whooping cough[222, 240,
254]. The pericarp is peripherally vasoconstrictive[7]. The
seeds are decongestant, expectorant and tonic[7, 21].
They have been used in the treatment of rheumatism,
neuralgia and haemorrhoids[4]. They are said to be
narcotic and that 10 grains of the nut are equal to 3
grains of opium[213]. An oil extracted from the seeds has
been used externally as a treatment for rheumatism[254].
A compound of the powdered roots is analgesic and has
been used to treat chest pains[257]. The buds are used in
Bach flower remedies - the keywords for prescribing it are
'Failure to learn by experience', 'Lack of observation in
the lessons of life' and hence 'The need of
repetition'[209]. The flowers are used in Bach flower
remedies - the keywords for prescribing it are 'Persistent
unwanted thoughts' and 'Mental arguments and

The cones and young branches are anthelmintic,
antipyretic, antirheumatic, antiseptic, astringent,
balsamic and vasoconstrictive[7, 46, 240]. They are
harvested in late winter and early spring, then dried for
later use[7]. Taken internally, it is used in the treatment
of whooping cough, the spitting up of blood, spasmodic
coughs, colds, flu and sore throats[254]. Applied
externally as a lotion or as a diluted essential oil (using an
oil such as almond), it astringes varicose veins and
haemorrhoids, tightening up the blood vessels[254]. A
foot bath of the cones is used to cleanse the feet and
counter excessive sweating[254]. The extracted essential
oil should not be taken internally without professional
guidance[254]. A resin is obtained from the tree by
making incisions in the trunk[7]. This has a vulnerary
action on slow-healing wounds and also encourages
whitlows to come to a head[7]. An essential oil from the
leaves and cones is used in aromatherapy. Its keyword is

Seed - raw or roasted and used in breads, cakes, biscuits,

sweets etc[2, 5, 9, 12, 13, 34, 183]. An excellent nut for
raw eating[K]. They can also be liquidized and used as a
plant milk[183]. Rich in oil. The seed ripens in mid to late
autumn and will probably need to be protected from
squirrels[K]. When kept in a cool place, and not shelled,
the seed should store for at least 12 months[K]. A clear
yellow edible oil is obtained from the seed[7, 9, 183]. It is
used in salad dressings, baking etc.

The bark, leaves, catkins and fruits are sometimes used
medicinally[7]. They are astringent, diaphoretic,
febrifuge, nutritive and odontalgic[7]. The seed is
stomachic and tonic[240]. The oil has a very gentle but
constant and effective action in cases of infection with
threadworm or pinworm in babies and young children[7].

Inner bark - raw or cooked. It can be dried, ground into a

powder and added to cereal flour then used in making
bread etc[2]. A very bitter flavour, especially when
fresh[2, 115], it is used as a famine food when all else
fails[172]. Leaves and young shoots - raw or cooked[2,
177]. Not very palatable[172]. They are used only in times
of scarcity[105]. The leaves can be used as a tea

Justly famous as the original source of salicylic acid (the
precursor of aspirin), white willow and several closely
related species have been used for thousands of years to
relieve joint pain and manage fevers[254]. The bark is
anodyne, anti-inflammatory, antiperiodic, antiseptic,
astringent, diaphoretic, diuretic, febrifuge, hypnotic,
sedative and tonic[4, 7, 9, 21, 165]. It has been used
internally in the treatment of dyspepsia connected with
debility of the digestive organs[4], rheumatism, arthritis,
gout, inflammatory stages of auto-immune diseases,
feverish illnesses, neuralgia and headache[238]. Its tonic
and astringent properties render it useful in
convalescence from acute diseases, in treating worms,
chronic dysentery and diarrhoea[4]. The fresh bark is very
bitter and astringent[222]. It contains salicin, which
probably decomposes into salicylic acid (closely related to
aspirin) in the human body[213]. This is used as an
anodyne and febrifuge[213]. The bark is harvested in the
spring or early autumn from 3 - 6 year old branches and is
dried for later use[7, 9]. The leaves are used internally in
the treatment of minor feverish illnesses and colic[238].
An infusion of the leaves has a calming effect and is
helpful in the treatment of nervous insomnia[7]. When
added to the bath water, the infusion is of real benefit in
relieving widespread rheumatism[7]. The leaves can be
harvested throughout the growing season and are used
fresh or dried[238].

Young leaves - raw[183]. A very nice mild flavour, they go

well in a mixed salad. However, the leaves quickly become
tough so only the youngest should be used[2, 5, 12, K].
New growth is usually produced for 2 periods of 3 weeks
each year, one in spring and one in mid-summer. Seed raw or cooked[2, 5, 7, 63, 183]. A pleasant sweet flavour,
though rather small and fiddly[K]. The seed can also be
dried and ground into a powder and then used with
cereal flours when making bread, cakes etc[12]. The seed
is rich in oil. The seed should not be eaten in large
quantities because it contains a deleterious principle[65,
238]. The seed contains 17 - 20% of an edible semi-drying
oil[4, 7, 8, 57]. This stores well without going rancid and is
said to be equal in delicacy to olive oil[183]. It is used as a
dressing for salads and also for cooking[238]. The seed
residue is poisonous[9, 57]. The roasted seed is used as a
coffee substitute[2, 63].

The bark is antacid, antipyretic, antiseptic, antitussive,
expectorant, odontalgic[7, 9]. A tar (or creosote),
obtained by dry distillation of the branches, is stimulating
and antiseptic[4]. It is used internally as a stimulating
expectorant and externally as an application to various
skin diseases[4, 238]. The pure creosote has been used to
give relief from toothache, but it should not be used
without expert guidance[7]. The plant is used in Bach
flower remedies - the keywords for prescribing it are
'Intolerance', 'Criticism' and 'Passing judgements'[209].

The leaves are astringent and vulnerary[7]. The fresh
leaves are bruised and applied to the eyes in the
treatment of ophthalmia[240]. A decoction is used to
treat dysentery and a cream made from the leaves is used
to heal wounds and chilblains[7]. The leaves are
harvested in the spring and summer and can be dried for
later use[7]. The bark is boiled in vinegar and then used in
the treatment of diarrhoea, dysentery, hernias and

Fruit - raw or cooked[2, 3, 5, 7, 9]. The fruit is very acid and

large quantities of the raw fruit can cause stomach
upsets[10, 13]. It can be used to make delicious, if slightly
acidulous, jams and preserves[7], the fruit can also be
dried and used as a flour mixed with cereals[2, 66]. The
fruit is about 7.5mm in diameter[200] and is produced in
quite large bunches making harvest easy[K]. The leaves
and flowers are used as a tea substitute[61, 183]. Young
leaves are said to be a famine food but they contain a
cyanogenic glycoside so you should be very hungry
before even thinking of eating them[179]. A coffee
substitute[183]. The report was referring to the fruit, it
probably means the roasted seed.

The bark is astringent, it is used in the treatment of
diarrhoea and as a vaginal injection for leucorrhoea
etc[4]. The fruit is antiscorbutic and astringent[4, 7]. It is
normally used as a jam or an infusion to treat diarrhoea
and haemorrhoids[254]. An infusion can also be used as a
gargle for sore throats and as a wash to treat
haemorrhoids and excessive vaginal discharge[254]. The
seeds contain cyanogenic glycosides which, in reaction
with water, produce the extremely toxic prussic acid[254].
In small quantities this acts as a stimulant to the
respiratory system but in larger doses can cause
respiratory failure and death[K]. It is therefore best to
remove the seeds when using the fruit medicinally or as a
food[254]. Both the flowers and the fruit are aperient,
mildly diuretic, laxative and emmenagogue[9, 13, 21]. An
infusion is used in the treatment of painful menstruation,
constipation and kidney disorders[9].

Inner bark - cooked or dried and ground into a meal[2, 15,

105]. It can be added as a thickener to soups etc or can be
mixed with flour for making bread, biscuits etc. Inner bark
is generally only seen as a famine food, used when other
forms of starch are not available or are in short
supply[115, 177, K]. Sap - raw or cooked. A sweet flavour.
It is harvested in early spring, before the leaves unfurl, by
tapping the trunk. It makes a pleasant drink[115]. It is
often concentrated into a syrup by boiling off the
water[2, 9, 13, 15, 177]. Between 4 and 7 litres can be
drawn off a mature tree in a day and this will not kill the
tree so long as the tap hole is filled up afterwards[115].
However, prolonged or heavy tapping will kill the
tree[115]. The flow is best on sunny days following a
frost. The sap can be fermented into a beer. An old
English recipe for the beer is as follows:- "To every Gallon
of Birch-water put a quart of Honey, well stirr'd together;
then boil it almost an hour with a few Cloves, and a little
Limon-peel, keeping it well scumm'd. When it is
sufficiently boil'd, and become cold, add to it three or
four Spoonfuls of good Ale to make it work...and when
the Test begins to settle, bottle it up . . . it is gentle, and
very harmless in operation within the body, and
exceedingly sharpens the Appetite, being drunk ante
pastum."[269]. Young leaves - raw or cooked[15]. Young
catkins[15]. No more details are given. A tea is made from
the leaves[15, 161] and another tea is made from the
essential oil in the inner bark[21].

Anti-inflammatory, cholagogue, diaphoretic[21, 165, 201].
The bark is diuretic and laxative[7]. An oil obtained from
the inner bark is astringent and is used in the treatment
of various skin afflictions, especially eczema and
psoriasis[4, 238]. The bark is usually obtained from trees
that have been felled for timber and can be distilled at
any time of the year[238]. The inner bark is bitter and
astringent, it is used in treating intermittent fevers[4].
The vernal sap is diuretic[4]. The buds are balsamic[7].
The young shoots and leaves secrete a resinous
substance which has acid properties, when combined with
alkalis it is a tonic laxative[4]. The leaves are
anticholesterolemic and diuretic[7]. They also contain
phytosides, which are effective germicides[7]. An infusion
of the leaves is used in the treatment of gout, dropsy and
rheumatism, and is recommended as a reliable solvent of
kidney stones[4]. The young leaves and leaf buds are
harvested in the spring and dried for later use[238]. A
decoction of the leaves and bark is used for bathing skin
eruptions[4]. Moxa is made from the yellow fungous
excrescences of the wood, which sometimes swell out of
the fissures[4].

The sap contains a certain amount of sugar and can either

be used as a drink, or can be concentrated into a syrup by
boiling off the water[4, 105, 177]. The syrup is used as a
sweetener on many foods. The concentration of sugar is
considerably lower than in the sugar maples (A.
saccharum)[2]. The tree trunk is tapped in the early
spring, the sap flowing better on warm sunny days
following a frost. The best sap production comes from
cold-winter areas with continental climates.

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Manna - a sweetish exudate is obtained from the stems

by incision[2, 4, 11, 114, 171, 183]. The quality is better
from the upper stems. A mild sweet taste[114], its main
use is as a mild and gentle laxative[171], though it is also
used as a sweetener in sugar-free preparations and as an
anti-caking agent[238]. The tree trunk must be at least
8cm in diameter before the manna can be harvested[4]. A
vertical series of oblique incisions are made in the trunk
in the summer once the tree is no longer producing many
new leaves[4]. One cut is made every day from July to the
end of September. A whitish glutinous liquid exudes from
this cut, hardens and is then harvested[2]. Dry and warm
weather is essential if a good harvest is to be realised[4].
The tree is harvested for 9 consecutive years, which
exhausts the tree. This is then cut down, leaving one
shoot to grow back. It takes 4 - 5 years for this shoot to
become productive[2]. Average yields of 6 kilos per
hectare of top quality manna, plus 80 kilos of assorted
manna are achieved[2].

The manna obtained from the trunk is a gentle laxative
and a tonic[4, 46]. It is especially valuable for children and
pregnant women[4, 238]. Its action is normally very mild,
though it does sometimes cause flatulence and pain[4].

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Seed - cooked[2, 55, 61]. Oily[161]. They are boiled and

used like peas[183]. After boiling the seeds lose their acid
taste[213]. The seed is about 4mm long and is produced
in pods up to 10cm long that contain 4 - 8 seeds[82]. A
nutritional analysis is available[218]. Young seedpods cooked[105]. The pods contain a sweetish pulp that is
safe to eat and is relished by small children[201]. (This
report is quite probably mistaken, having been confused
with the honey locust, Gleditsia spp[K].) A strong, narcotic
and intoxicating drink is made from the skin of the
fruit[13]. Piperonal is extracted from the plant, it is used
as a vanilla substitute[105]. No further details. All the
above entries should be treated with some caution, see
the notes at the top of the page regarding toxicity.
Flowers - cooked. A fragrant aroma, they are used in
making jams and pancakes[7, 183]. They can also be made
into a pleasant drink[183].

Febrifuge[13, 46]. The flowers are antispasmodic,
aromatic, diuretic, emollient and laxative[218]. They are
cooked and eaten for the treatment of eye ailments[218].
The flower is said to contain the antitumor compound
benzoaldehyde[269]. The inner bark and the root bark are
emetic, purgative and tonic[4, 7, 218, 257]. The root bark
has been chewed to induce vomiting, or held in the
mouth to allay toothache[222, 257], though it is rarely if
ever prescribed as a therapeutic agent in Britain[4]. The
fruit is narcotic[13]. This probably refers to the seedpod.
The leaves are cholagogue and emetic[7]. The leaf juice
inhibits viruses[218].