This is the well-known fruit of our British Oak, to Which tree it

gives the name--Aik, or Eik, Oak.

The Acorn was esteemed by Dioscorides, and other old authors,

for its supposed medicinal virtues. As an article of food it is not

known to have been habitually used at any time by the inhabitants

of Britain, though acorns furnished the chief support of the large

herds of swine on which our forefathers subsi
ted. The right of

maintaining these swine in the woods was called panage, and

formed a valuable property.

The earliest inhabitants of Greece and Southern Europe who lived

in the primeval forests were supported almost wholly on the fruit

of the Oak. They were described by classic authors as fat of

person, and were called balanophagi--acorn eaters.

During the great dearth of 1709 the French were driven to eat

bread of acorns steeped in water to destroy the bitterness, and they

suffered therefrom injurious effects, such as obstinate

constipation, or destructive cholera.

It is worth serious notice medically that in years remarkable for a

large yield of Acorns disastrous losses have occurred among

young cattle from outbreaks of acorn poisoning, or the acorn

disease. Those up to two years old suffered most severely, but

sheep, pigs and deer were not affected by this acorn malady. Its

symptoms are progressive wasting, loss of appetite, diarrhoea, sore

places inside the mouth, discharge from [16] the eyes and nostrils,

excretion of much pale urine, and no fever, but a fall of

temperature below the normal standard. Having regard to which

train of symptoms it is fair to suppose the acorn will afford in the

human subject a useful specific medicine for the marasmus, or

wasting atrophy of young children who are scrofulous. The fruit

should be given in the form of a tincture, or vegetable extract, or

even admixed (when ground) sparingly with wheaten flour in

bread. The dose should fall short of producing any of the above

symptoms, and the remedy should be steadily pursued for many


The tincture should be made of saturated strength with spirit of

wine on the bruised acorns, to stand for a fortnight before being

decanted. Then the dose will be from twenty to thirty drops with

water three or four times a day.

The Acorn contains chemically starch, a fixed oil, citric acid,

uncrystallizable sugar, and another special sugar called quercit.

Acorns, when roasted and powdered, have been sometimes employed

as a fair substitute for coffee. By distillation they will

yield an ardent spirit.

Dr. Burnett strongly commends a distilled spirit of acorns as an

antidote to the effects of alcohol, where the spleen and kidneys

have already suffered, with induced dropsy. It acts on the principle

of similars, ten drops being given three times a day in water.

In certain parts of Europe it is customary to place acorns in the

hands of the newly dead; whilst in other districts an apple is put

into the palm of a child when lying in its little coffin.

The bark of an oak tree, and the galls, or apples, produced on its

leaves, or twigs, by an insect named [17] cynips, are very

astringent, by reason of the gallo-tannic acid which they furnish

abundantly. This acid, given as a drug, or the strong decoction of

oak bark which contains it, will serve to restrain bleedings if taken

internally; and finely powdered oak bark, when inhaled pretty

frequently, has proved very beneficial against consumption of the

lungs in its early stages. Working tanners are well known to be

particularly exempt from this disease, probably through their

constantly inhaling the peculiar aroma given off from the tan pits;

and a like effect may be produced by using as snuff the fresh oak

bark dried and reduced to an impalpable powder, or by inhaling

day after day the steam given off from recent oak bark infused in

boiling water.

Marble galls are formed on the back of young twigs, artichoke

galls at their extremities, and currant galls by spangles on the

under surface of the leaves. From these spangles females presently

emerge, and lay their eggs on the catkins, giving rise to the round

shining currant galls.

The Oak--Quercus robur--is so named from the Celtic quer,

beautiful; and cuez, a tree. Drus, another Celtic word for tree,

and particularly for the Oak, gave rise to the terms Dryads and

Druids. Among the Greeks and Romans a chaplet of oak was one

of the highest honours which could be conferred on a citizen.

Ancient oaks exist in several parts of England, which are

traditionally called Gospel oaks, because it was the practice in

times long past when beating the bounds of a parish to read a

portion of the Gospel on Ascension Day beneath an oak tree which

was growing on the boundary line of the district. Cross oaks were

planted at the juncture of cross roads, so that persons suffering

from ague might peg a lock of their hair into the [18] trunks, and

by wrenching themselves away might leave the hair and the

malady in the tree together. A strong decoction of oak bark is most

usefully applied for prolapse of the lower bowel.

Oak Apple day (May 29th) is called in Hampshire Shikshak day.