Walnuts in a Bowl


I always think it’s a good idea to learn to derive your special nutrients from foods rather than pills and nutritional supplements. Certain foods, like garlic and onions for example, are so potent that they are included in the Chinese materia medica. Walnuts, or he tao ren in Mandarin Chinese, are classified as sweet, warm, and have a special benefit to the Kidney-adrenals, Large Intestine and Lungs. The recommended daily dose of 9-30 grams can be eaten or added to herbal formulas to relieve lower back pain, chronic knee weakness, calm wheezing and promote bowel movement by lubricating the large intestine.

Walnuts for Back Pain

About 65 million Americans suffer from back pain each year, (the second most common reason for medical visits. These people should include a small handful of walnuts in their diet every day.

Walnuts for Constipation

Constipation caused by intestinal dryness in the elderly (the Metamucil crowd) as well as a wide number of other GI tract conditions can all be remedied by including a small handful of walnuts in your diet once or twice a day.

Walnuts to Strengthen the Lungs

As for the Lungs, walnuts are specific for asthma, emphysema and wheezing. Be sure to include the thin pericarp (skin) on the walnut meat, as this apparently has a special therapeutic benefit for the Lungs. A famous and simple classical Chinese formula called Ginseng and Walnut Combination (Ren Shen Hu Tao Tang) consists of the following:

  • 6-9 g Chinese ginseng
  • 10-15 g walnuts
  • 3-6 g fresh ginger

This formula that tonifies both the Lungs and the Kidneys, relieves chronic coughing and is anti-asthmatic. (Note that the organs, such as the Kidneys and Lungs, not only refer to the actual organs but also refer to a variety of functions associated with them. Most notably, the TCM kidneys include the adrenals, which in turn include the entire endocrine system.)

This combination is specific for low energy, weakness, cough, asthma, bronchial asthma, chronic bronchitis, pulmonary emphysema as well as cold extremities, lower back pain and facial edema.

While much of the benefit can be derived from simply eating about five walnut meats twice a day, the formula given above would be even stronger. Prepare it by bringing four cups of water to a rolling boil, add the walnuts and ginseng and continue to simmer until two cups of fluid remain, remove from the heat, add 3 to 5 slices of fresh ginger and cover to steep until cool enough to drink. Have a cup twice a day and you should notice a significant improvement within a week or two. I suggest continuing this regime for about three months.

Because this is a strongly heating formula, it is contraindicated for symptoms of yellow or blood-streaked phlegm, night sweats and for those with loose watery stools.

Another tasty way to enjoy the benefits of walnuts is mixed with honey perhaps with a sprinkling of ginger, cinnamon and cardamom. This is an excellent way to have children take them and they make a wonderful, albeit somewhat ‘sticky’ snack.

Walnuts: A Rich Source of Omega-3 Fatty Acid

Walnuts are high in alpha-linolenic acid, which is an omega-3 fatty acid found in plants, and similar to the omega-3 fatty acids in fish oil. While not as concentrated in alpha-linolenic acid as flaxseed oil, it offers a worthy alternative especially when included as part of the diet.

Omega-3 fatty acids are good for heart disease, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, arthritis, asthma, breast cancer prevention, inflammatory bowel disease, depression, menstrual pain, and a wide range of other inflammatory disorders.

An article published in Science Daily (Oct 4, 2010) described how Penn State researchers found that foods high in polyunsaturated fats, in this case especially referring to walnuts, reduce low density lipoproteins (LDL) and other markers of inflammation including C-reactive protein and generally relieve cardiovascular responses to stress leading to high blood pressure. This was the first study showing that walnuts and walnut oil reduce blood pressure caused by stress and thereby reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.

Walnuts for Weight Loss

Walnuts pack up to 6,500 calories per kilogram (slightly over 2 pounds). Despite this, walnuts can actually promote weight loss because they keep one satisfied for a longer time, thus reducing hunger and cravings.

The Walnut Tree

One species of walnut, Juglans cinerea, is also known as butternut bark and instead of the round nut of European walnut, it has a longer nut shaped more like a pecan. The Iroquois natives boiled them to extract the oil, which was used for cooking and a spread, like butter. It was reported that they would use the butter as a topical poultice to relieve toothache.

Walnut bark, hulls and leaves all contain juglandic acid, juglone and tannins. Juglandic acid and juglone have a mild cathartic action due to the presence of napthaquinones.

Bark: For Constipation and Cleansing

Herbalists use the chopped inner bark of the walnut tree as a laxative for treating constipation. By stimulating the release of bile from the liver and gall bladder, it promotes overall internal cleansing and detoxification including the process of regulating hormones through liver detoxification.

Further adding to walnut’s detoxifying properties, it is also one of the best vermifuge and anti-parasite herbs. For this, an ounce of walnut bark powder with several slices of ginger can be soaked in a pint of brandy or vodka to make an alcoholic extract. Begin by taking a teaspoon once or twice a day and adjust the dose more or less as needed. The average transit time for bowel movement with walnut bark is between four to eight hours and does not cause cramping, especially when it is taken with ginger or angelica, which have warming anti-spasmodic properties. Of course the powder can also be taken mixed with honey or in capsules.


Taken as a tea, walnut leaves can be used alone or in formulas as an alterative, antibacterial, cholagogue, or blood purifier.

Hulls: Potent Anti-Parasite Remedy

Juglone, found in all parts of the tree except the nut, is a potent defense against worms and parasites. It is highly concentrated in the roots of the walnut tree causing many plants to not grow within a 40- to 60-foot radius of a walnut tree. Made into a strong decoction, walnut husk tea can be used as a spray in the early spring against insect herbivores.

Considering that the hulls have had widespread use for centuries, I consider them to be the finest and safest anti-parasite botanical remedy I know. Walnut husks taken internally as a powder or liquid extract are effective for all forms of parasites and worms. While black walnut hulls are recommended, either English or black walnut hulls are equally effective.

To make a potent black walnut tincture, assemble a number of mostly green-hulled black walnuts or English walnuts in a stainless steel pot or wide mouthed jar. Cover completely with alcohol or vodka. Sprinkle a teaspoon of vitamin C (ascorbic acid granules) over this. Cover with a lid and let sit for three days. Stir in another teaspoon of ascorbic acid, and using a funnel, poor into glass bottles, amber if available. Store in a dark or cool place or freezer. The ascorbic acid is used to maintain the green color of the extract. Potency will last for several years, especially if unopened and even if it darkens slightly.

Juglone also has anti-cancer properties, and the above formula is sometimes used as part of anti-cancer treatment.

Walnut hulls are a key ingredient in Planetary Herbals’ Wormwood Intestinal Detox formula where it is combined with a number of other herbs including butternut (walnut) bark extract, as a safe, mild laxative to help get the worms and parasites out of the body. Botanical detox formulas such as Wormwood Intestinal Detox should be taken over the course of two weeks at the therapeutic dose of two tablets three or four times daily with the treatment repeated at least once again in two weeks. At the same time, avoid sugar and refined carbs as these feed the parasites.

Walnut hull extract may be painted on topically for the treatment of scabies (it will temporarily stain the skin a darker color). A poultice or fomentation of mashed walnut hulls has antiseptic properties and is applied topically for healing sores and various wounds.

According to Appalachian herbalist Phyllis Light, walnut hulls (the outer green covering of the nut) contain a very high concentration of iodine and are used for treating iodine-deficient hypothyroid gland dysfunction. I do not have personal experience with this.

Despite popular use, the toxicity of walnut leaves and hulls to humans has not been sufficiently investigated, warranting the hulls to not be recommended in the German Commission E report on the safety and uses of medicinal herbs.

Walnut Hull Extract for Fish diseases

Finally, I personally discovered a hitherto unknown use for walnut hulls and consequently hold an exclusive use patent for a walnut hull-based extract known in the industry as Ich Attack. Ich Attack is a treatment for parasitic protozoa infections and all types of external fungus infections of fresh and saltwater fish. It is safely used for fresh and salt water aquariums and ponds. Unlike other drug based products, Ich Attack does not require water changes between treatments and is safe for use with aquatic invertebrates (snails, shrimp, crabs, coral, anemones, etc.).

Just as the use of walnuts and all parts of the walnut tree supplant the need for a number of potentially harmful drugs and a number of anti-inflammatory supplements, they now have a place in the of fish, giving a positive spin on the term ‘fishy’ for the medicinal properties of herbs.

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