Hickory – Carya 

Parts used: leaf, stem, nuts

Traditional uses: Leaves can be used for headaches and poultices. Bark can be used to help treat arthritis. The sap of the shagbark hickory is used like sugar or maple syrup.

Pegging for malaria, chills, fever, etc. – “To cure malaria, chills, fever, and ague all you need is a hickory peg about a foot long. Drive it into the ground in some secluded place, where you can visit it unseen. Do not tell anyone about this business. Go there every day, pull up the peg, blow seven times into the hole, and replace the peg. After you have done this for twelve successive days, drive the peg deep into the earth so that it cannot be seen, and leave it there. You’ll have no more chills and fever that season. If the cure doesn’t work, it means that you have been seen blowing into the hole, or that you have inadvertently mentioned it to somebody.” ~Randolph OMF 133-134

Hickory stick used to “beat” a witch – “Old Granny Bryant, of Reeds Spring, Missouri, used to tell of a family whose cow suddenly began to give bloody milk. They talked the matter over and called in a witch doctor. ‘Put some of that bloody milk in a fryin’ pan,’ said he, ‘an’ bile it over a slow fire. While the milk’s a-bilin’, beat on the bottom of the pan with a hickory stick.’ These instructions were carried out, and people who went to the local witch’s cabin said that her back and buttocks were a mass of bruises, so sore that she could not walk for several days. The spell was dissipated, and the cow gave no more bloody milk.” ~Randolph OMF 296

Hole in tree with hickory nut plug for asthma – “Fer asthma, youen’s bores a hole in a convenient tree, put in a hank of hair, and plug it with a hickory nut. Be sure it is a hickory nut. When you grow up past the hole, the catarrh will be gone.” ~Pompey GG

“If a child has asthma drill a hold in a hickory tree equal to the child’s height and put a lock of the child’s hair in the hole. When the child has grown to a height taller than when first measured the child will be cured. It must be a hickory tree.” ~Parler FBA II 1433

String ritual for colds – “His mother gave him a string and sent him to a hickory tree. As he tied the string around the tree he said:

With chills and fever I cannot agree,

I tie you hard and fast around this hickory tree.” ~Parler FBA II 1774

With wild cherry bark for colds – “Boil hickory bark and cherry bark together for a bad cold.” ~Parler FBA II 1834

Hickory juice used for earache – “Take a White Hickory limb two feet long, put this over the flame of fire in the center of the stick or limb, and catch the juice from each end of the stick as the heat drives out the juice, and put this in your ear, if it is hurting and you want have the ear ache no more.” ~Parler FBA II 2101

Hickory nut for a wasp sting – “You can heal a wasp sting by cutting a green hickory nut and rubbing the juice on the sting.” ~Parler FBA III 3253


Moerman, Daniel E. Native American Ethnobotany (NAE)

Parler, Mary Celestia Folk Beliefs from Arkansas (FBA)

Randolph, Vance Ozark Magic and Folklore (OMF)