White Oak Bark (Quercus alba)
The ability of the white oak tree to induce within us a state of its essence is derived from the tree’s literal physical strength, which can elevate and power an individual tree over the course of centuries.
The white oak tree’s properties of resistance to water damage and disease, the high degree of hardness of its wood conferred by such properties, have driven various woodworking industries to utilize the tree in the creation of mine timber, railroad ties, ships, and beer and wine barrels, products having the most need of sturdy, water-resistant, healthy wood.
If from a tiny acorn, the mighty oak grows, then it’s from tiny tannins that the white oak tree is helped to achieve its considerable durability and length of life. Microscopic, complex, polyphenolic compound molecules that contribute to the quality of wood, tannins are in rich supply in this tree.
The mechanisms used by tannins are, therefore, those of binding (securing, fastening to), precipitating out (making insoluble), aggregating (drawing together; forming a complex), and drying up (reducing exudate; shrinking) for the purpose of establishing a stable barrier that assists in protection and healing. In other words, tannins both astringe and help prevent the growth of pathogenic organisms and the diseases they cause.
Use a white oak bark decoction as a compress to stop bleeding, absorb seepage, and reduce inflammation, such actions helping to form new tissue where skin is wounded. Use gently on lesser cuts and slight burns that are at risk of infection; avoid use on more grievous, extensive injury with broken skin and raw skin exposure.
A compress of the decoction may be applied to bruises, as well as to varicose veins.
The decoction may be used in a sitz bath to help heal hemorrhoids or introduced directly into bath water to ease itching, irritated skin.
To tighten gums, firm up teeth in their sockets, and strengthen tooth enamel; for tooth decay and bleeding gums; for infections in the mouth or a sore throat, rinse and gargle with the decoction, holding it in the mouth for a few minutes before spitting it out. Note: for these applications, it’s advisable to brush and floss thoroughly beforehand.
For cleansing and removal of excess scalp and hair oil, to clarify the scalp and hair, to make hair shine; to soothe a dry, itchy, flaky scalp; to smooth coarse hair (particularly gray hair); to strengthen hair and its follicles, use the decoction as a scalp rinse.
White Oak Bark may be used when tissue is relaxed with too much fluid such as in conditions of profuse dampness from fever or exhaustive night sweats; overstretched, porous veins flaccid with pooling blood; excess menstrual flow swelling the uterine lining; or irritated, inflamed tissue presenting infectious discharge. Whether obstinate, intermittent fever accompanied by copious perspiration; veins weeping with age; menstrual cycles of heavy bleeding and long duration; wet, catarrh-soaked lungs; intestinal mucosal ulcerations; chronic diarrhea; irritated bladder with bloody efflux; or the discharge of sexually-transmitted bacterial infections, the effect of tannins is to wall off a space from offending forces that can further weaken and/or infect, counter immoderate flow of perspiration, blood, or exudate, and create a space high and dry that accommodates resolution.
In other words, the tannins in white oak bark become steps toward a higher level of healing, the force of their actions holding us on the rise.
(Important to note is the critical caveat attached to the use of white oak bark. Owing to the strength of its tannins in their ability to astringe tissue, the use of white oak bark in any form requires strict limitation).
To make a decoction of white oak bark, use a tsp of the bark for every 8 ounces of water: bring the water to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and introduce the bark. Cover and let simmer 20 to 30 minutes.
Apart from infrequent use of white oak bark decoction in the bath or as only an occasional scalp and hair rinse, daily application of it topically may be safest within a one - to two-week range of time.
Internally, use is best within two to three days. Suggested dose of a decoction is one to two cups a day; for a liquid extract, one to two dropperfuls twice daily.
Should skin irritation or gastrointestinal upset develop while using white oak bark, discontinue its use.
Use internally only between meals, as white oak bark may disturb digestion and absorption of nutrients.
Existing liver and kidney conditions prohibit the use of this herb. Some sources indicate that overuse of white oak bark may even create such conditions.
Avoid white oak bark while pregnant or breastfeeding.
Appropriately, if under medical supervision and using prescription medicine, please discuss possibility of the use of white oak bark, as well as herbs you wish to use in tandem with it, with your physician(s).
Sources available upon request.
Maria and Ingrid are Co Owners of STL Herbs and Aromatics. They have been working in the field of Herbal and Aromatic Medicine for over twenty years. This blog is intended to inform and empower people to begin utilizing plant medicine for personal health and well being.