Herb of the Day: Butternut Bark

Thousands of Americans roasted up butternut squash this week to enjoy with their Thanksgiving feast.  Did you know there is an herb called butternut as well?  While not related to the winter squash, we thought this herb would be a fun one to take a look at this week with the similarities in names.


Butternut known by the scientific name Juglans cinera, is a small tree typically found in moist soil.  Found primarily in the midwest, butternut trees grow hairy leaves as well as nuts.  It is the pale greenish-grey bark of this tree that herbalists use.

Traditional Uses

Butternut bark has been documented as widely used by Native Americans for parasitic infections.  In addition, butternut bark is also used by herbalists for:

  • Arthritis
  • Laxative
  • Toothaches
  • Stimulate bile production
  • Hemorrhoids
  • Dysentery
  • Headaches
  • Jaundice


Butternut as a Dye

Not only is this plant used by herbalists and in culinary preparations, it’s used as a dye!  While not as common now, the nut rinds can be used to dye wool and other materials.  The plant can make a dye anywhere from a soft, pale yellow to a deep, dark brown.  The root is used for a black dye, and the leaves yield a green dye.  


The bark is collected in late Spring and then dried for herbal preparations.  Seeds, roots, leaves and the nuts are also used in culinary preparations.  The seeds will germinate in late winter, home gardeners often begin their plants in pots as rodents love to eat these seeds!  Plant the tree in well-draining soil in early summer, the nuts begin growing biennially after a couple of years.  In some countries, butternut is grown to be used as timber.  These trees have a relatively short lifespan for a tree, of about 80 years.  They’ll grow into beautiful trees which need very little pruning and care.

Have you ever heard of this plant?  


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