Ozark Encyclopedia – B – Butternut Tree

Butternut tree – Juglans cinerea

Parts used: bark

Traditional uses: Infusion of bark taken to check bowels. Pills from inner bark used as a cathartic and compound infusion used for toothache. Pills prepared from inner bark and used as a cathartic.

“Butternut is a mild cathartic like rhubarb; it does not constipate and is often used as a habitual laxative, also for dysentery and hypatic congestions. It has been employed as a vermifuge and is recommended for syphilis and old ulcers. The expressed oil of the fruit removes tapeworm. The fruit when halfgrown is made into pickles and when matured is a valuable article of diet. The bark is used for dyeing wool a dark brown colour but is inferior to that of the black walnut for this purpose. It is said to be rubefacient when applied to the skin.” ~Grieve MH

Leaves used to repel insects – “Some Ozark women scatter fresh walnut or butternut leaves about their houses to repel insects…” ~Randolph OMF 68

As a laxative – “The inner bark of the white walnut or butternut is also a popular laxative; most people boil this down to a thick syrupy mess, then thicken it with flour and roll it into pills, which are allowed to dry with a little sugar on the outside.” ~Randolph OMF 97

“…take the juice from the inner bark of a butternut tree and make a laxative.” ~Carter and Krause HRIO

“Take the inner bark of a butternut tree root and boil it in water until about three-fourths of the water has boiled away. Give a teaspoonful for a purgative.” ~Parler FBA II 1906


Carter, Kay & Bonnie Krause Home Remedies of the Illinois Ozarks (HRIO)

Grieve, Margaret A Modern Herbal (MH)

Moerman, Daniel E. Native American Ethnobotany (NAE)

Parler, Mary Celestia Folk Beliefs from Arkansas (FBA)

Randolph, Vance Ozark Magic and Folklore (OMF)

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