American Beech : American Beech: Native American Use

American Beech nut

American Beech nut (Suzanne Cadwell, August 17, 2007)

The American Beech has proven to be a very valuable tree for medicinal purposes, serving as a remedy for a variety of aches and illnesses. Beech bark and leaves contain a substance effective for ulcers and reducing the inflammation of dysentery. Leaves are also soothing to the nerves and stomach. A tonic can be made from beech leaves that cleans the digestive system and stimulates the appetite. Additionally, the American Beech can be used to create herbal medications to improve diabetic conditions and can be formulated into a chewing tar that soothes chapped lips and relieves gum pain.
Native Americans have used water found in hollow areas of decaying American Beech trees to cure scrapes and skin disease. The Rappahannock tribe used beech tonic to soothe poison ivy. The Iroquois applied a compound of boiled American Beech leaves as a dressing to burns and scalds. Leaves were also used by the Potawatomi to heal frostbitten extremities. Mixing the oil from beechnuts with bear grease, the Iroquois fashioned an ointment to repel mosquitoes. This tribe also boiled American beech bark along with bark of the swamp white oak to drink as tea to help cure consumption. The Iroquois also ingested bark tea as a pain killer during abortions.
American Beech nuts provide several health benefits as well. They have been ground into a powder to medicate headaches, epilepsy, hydrophobia, and vertigo. Beechnuts are mildly toxic, so they were chewed by the Cherokee to expel worms. It is the tannin content in beechnuts that gives them this toxicity, which is only a concern when consumed in large quantities. Other tribes including the Potawatomi, Algonquin, and Ojibwe ate beechnuts raw with no mentioned ill effects.The Iroquois crushed and boiled nuts into a drinkable liquid or powdered them and mixed them into bread, often with cornmeal and beans or berries. The Chippewa searched for caches of American Beech nuts hidden specifically by chipmunks since it saved them the work of both gathering and shucking the nuts. They also noticed that chipmunks never stored bad beechnuts, which is something to keep in mind should you find yourself in dire need of American Beech nuts.