English oak

English oak

Quercus robur Fagaceae

Venerated by the Druids the oak was well known for its medicinal powers in the ancient world. The long-lived tree can grow to over 50m tall, with boughs spreading to a circumference of nearly 100m. In spring, dense clusters of oval lobed leaves appear along with dangling male flowers, or catkins. Female .flowers are barely visible, turning to the familiar brown, egg-shaped fruits, or acorns, by autumn.

Parts used

  • Bark from young branches
  • The bark is collected in April and May, then cut up or crushed.
  • It is used in infusions, decoctions, tinctures and compresses, and may be added to foot and hand baths.
  • Oak bark also used in combination with other astringent plants, such as bilberry and witch hazel.


Tannins make up about 10 to 20 per cent of oak bark. These include epicatechin, gallocatechin and catechin. The highest concentration of tannins is found in trees that are about 10 years old.

Medicinal uses

Oak bark is known for its ability to combat various viruses, and the tannins give it astringent properties. For these reasons, when taken internally in small doses, it can help to relieve non-specific, acute diarrhoea and indigestion.

Applied externally, it can treat inflamed or chapped skin, chilblains, wet eczema and minor bleeding.It can also be added to baths to combat foot odour.Gargles and mouthwashes made with oak bark are used to soothe inflammation of the gums and lining of the mouth, as well as sore throats.

Tests have recently shown that the tannins in oak are able to limit tissue damage in people suffering from rheumatic disease. This discovery may herald a new medicinal use for the bark of the oak.


Plant acorns in well-drained soil in sun or partial shade, or propagate by grafting in autumn or late winter.


  • Oak bark preparations should not be taken internally for more than four weeks at a time.
  • Do not use oak bark baths on skin that is cut or affected by dermatitis. Also avoid them if you have an infectious illness or feel feverish.
  • Make sure an oak bark bath does not come into contact with the eyes.


For internal use

TO TREAT non-specific acute diarrhea

INFUSION Put 10g of bark powder into 1 cup of boiling water. Drink 4-5 cups a day. For external use

TO TREAT foot odour, inflamed or chapped skin, chilblains, wet eczema, light bleeding
BATHS AND COMPRESSES Put 100g of bark powder into 1 litre of water. Boil for 20 minutes and filter. Bathe the feet or hands three or four times a day. Alternatively, apply soaked compresses to the area affected.

TINCTURE (diluted to 10% strength) Add to a bath or apply on a compress three or four times a day.



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