Appalachia Appalachian Medicine

Additional Uses for Black Walnuts

Uses for black walnuts

“Ringworm is caused by various species of fungi. The most frequently reported remedy for ringworm in Southern Appalachia was a topical application of juice from green walnut hulls. A magical twist to this remedy involved applying the juice and then using a thimble to press several rings , probably three or nine, around the infected area. Some ringworm suffers recited the following charm while rubbing the bottom of an iron pot in a circle with and index finger moistened with their own saliva: “Ringworm round, ringworm red, ringworm die, to make (name of sufferer) glad.”

Folk Medicine in Southern Appalachia by Anthony Cavender pg 101.


“Long, long ago in a place far away we used crushed walnut shells to clean jet engine turbine blades. It was easy. Very carefully toss handfuls of the granular shells into the air intake of the running engine. The shells were just coarse and hard enough to scour the (extremely expensive) fast spinning blades without damaging them. Of course, the shell residue went out with the exhaust.”

George Pettie – November 2015


“My ancestors, the Cherokee Indians used the walnut bark to dye their basket splints, carvings and used the nut meat to cook with in some dishes. My Mom told me that when she was a young girl living on Blue Wing (Soco) section of the Reservation that the women would beat up walnut hulls to make a pulp and would dam up the creek and put this in the creek water to make the fish come to the top of the water for air, then they would pick up the fish and put them in their baskets to take home to cook and eat. The squirrels bury them in my flower beds for the winter and the ones that come up in the spring and have leaves on them I break them off. I love the smell of the walnut.”

Peggy Lambert – November 2015




You Might Also Like


  • Reply
    Maxine Appleby
    December 7, 2017 at 1:35 pm

    One of the best posts yet. I have boxes of black walnut shells gathered from our Walnut Grove Planationsite, waiting to be used by my sister to dye the yarn from her alpacas. She will then make beautiful brown socks and shawls for sale in her shop. She is an “Appalachian Woman ” born in SC and now using her skills in Colorado. Visit her website at : blazingstarranch to see some of what she has made!

  • Reply
    December 8, 2015 at 4:49 pm

    Barbara-thank you for the great comment! I swear I’d like to try it myself : )

  • Reply
    BarbaraLunsford Davis
    December 3, 2015 at 6:57 pm

    I can remember when the ladies boiled the black walnut hulls strained the water out ,and colored their hair , with the water They strained out,like a rinse.All natural! ha I even tried it when i got older.

  • Reply
    b. Ruth
    December 3, 2015 at 4:14 pm

    I think black walnuts are easier on ones evacuation system than the stately lost chestnut…..Ha
    My granny used to say on occasion, even after they could get no more native chestnuts….”I think someone in here has been eating chestnuts!” How do you know that one of the kids would ask….we don’t have any! “Well, I’m sure I can smell chestnuts she would laugh!”
    Thanks Tipper….just a “nutty” comment to a post about nuts!
    PS….How about some stories about Chestnuts, Hazel nuts, beech nuts, and hickory nuts etc…..
    PS…I’ve painted with Black Walnut (homemade) ink as well…beautiful natural dark brown…

  • Reply
    December 3, 2015 at 2:03 pm

    -Another “old” use for fine ground walnut shells: as fill for a pin cushion to keep needles and pins shiny and sharp.
    -A “new” use for crushed walnut shells: reptile litter for pet lizards.

  • Reply
    Ken Roper
    December 3, 2015 at 1:59 pm

    I never heard of so many uses for walnuts. I’ve even bought ’em for my vapor honing (sand blaster) to clean steel from heat treating. I use to make precision injection molds and vapor hone the inserts with finely ground-up walnut hulls,
    wouldn’t scar the surfaces.
    Being a trout fisherman, I was impressed with Peggy’s comment about how her folks (the Cherokee) use the walnut surroundings to catch fish.
    I have a friend who had a heart attack and it left him pretty feeble, so he cracks walnuts on his porch and takes them to Cherokee to unload for $16.00 a bag.
    He sold me a couple of bags for my girls for $8.00 each. I can’t think of his first name right now, but we just call him Red Wooten.
    My daddy was born in 1910 and I’ve heard many stories of the American Chestnut Tree before it went by the wayside…Ken

  • Reply
    December 3, 2015 at 1:34 pm

    I’ve seen black walnut shells used on icy steps and other slickedy places where you need to get a grip.
    Sometimes when you are cracking walnuts, pieces of the shells will go flying and I you won’t see where they went. If you bring out the broom, they’ll hide until you’re done. All you need to do in that case is to take off your shoes and walk around barefooted for a few minutes. You’ll find them!

  • Reply
    Carol Rosenbalm
    December 3, 2015 at 1:31 pm

    I docent at a museum near the smokies and we have a man who volunteers his services and knowledge because he is part Cherokee and lived with them for a while. I give tours of the Native American part of the museum a lot and have really learned . The Cherokee learned about thei plants and ways from trial and error. They learned that certain wood gave different colors when they used it for their pottery. If u look at their baskets they learned that by trial and error. Same way with their medicines. The native Americans were very smart and had to learn or they couldn’t survive. I tell the children that the Cherokee were the first people who recycled everythingz.
    Carol Rosenbalm

  • Reply
    December 3, 2015 at 12:14 pm

    Another interesting story on your site. I wish I could still use black walnuts for curing ringworm as my two cats currently have ringworm and their medicine certainly has an ugly smell!

  • Reply
    Everett Clausen
    December 3, 2015 at 11:36 am

    Year ago when I worked in an ammunition factory in Quebec I remember when the
    centre fire empty shell cases were ready to load, these cases would be tumbled in
    a motorized tub along with crushed walnut shells to give a brilliant polish to the
    brass shells.

  • Reply
    eva nell mull wike, PhD
    December 3, 2015 at 9:38 am

    Oh Ethelene: Do these posts bring back wonderful memories? I can not wait to come to Choestoe! I just wish you could make it to YOUR SCHOOL HOUSE! We plan to arrive early and take many photos of YOUR SCHOOL!
    Love, ENMW
    Tipper: THANKS for a beautiful post!

  • Reply
    Pamela Danner
    December 3, 2015 at 9:29 am

    When we lived in Marble, I had a friend who taught me to watercolor paint. We used some ink on our painting and that ink was made from walnut shells. It was a beautiful brown color. She would boil the walnut shells in water then pour the “ink” into little jars, wa-la ink.

  • Reply
    Henry Horton
    December 3, 2015 at 9:21 am

    i have used black walnut tincture for stubborn athletes foot also.

  • Reply
    December 3, 2015 at 8:13 am

    This is a great week, and certainly enjoying your blog along with the interesting posts. I knew this hard to wash off brown stuff on black walnuts was once used for dye. Who would have thought the stately Black Walnut tree would have been so valuable for many reasons.
    One post had mentioned using the Black Walnut juice to rid oneself of Ringworm. Our remedy was a dab of simple bleach. I learned later probably should have used more care with the bleach. An old country doctor once told us to dab bleach on poison ivy rash. I have since really pondered over that advice, as scientifically it does not make sense–didn’t work either. Then there was the family from Oklahoma who swore tapeworm was cured by the swallowing of tobacco juice,
    I would like to learn more about many of the nut trees native to America. The American Chestnut was always mentioned fondly, and I remember seeing the old downed logs. Many talked about how plentiful and big those chestnuts were. I guess it was hard to go hungry in such a plentiful land, and is why some were able to make it through the Great Depression.
    I tend to ramble before my morning coffee, Tipper, and this is totally off the subject. There is a mountain nearby called Peel Chestnut Mountain, and it is said was named this when the Cherokee Indians marked a trail by peeling back the bark on the chestnut tree. In many ways the days back then seem so much more interesting than today. Your subject matter and research on this blog say a lot about why it is so successful! Folks are starved for anything away from what is today’s norm.

  • Reply
    Don Casada
    December 3, 2015 at 7:46 am

    I saw Peggy Lambert’s note when she first posted it. Even though I’d heard of it before in a generic way, it was neat to hear Peggy’s personal recollection.
    Give this some thought….how in the world did her Cherokee ancestors know to do that? What would have given someone the idea that such a thing would work?
    Daddy used to say that he thought each generation was getting a little smarter. He was an astute man, but I’m not at all sure he was right in that observation (I know it was wrong in our own case).
    When I think about things like Peggy’s folks “shocking” the fish with a dose of juglone and consider some of the “make do” devices and strategies of our forebears, I’m convinced that when it came to observing and learning from nature’s ways, they were far, far wiser than we.

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    December 3, 2015 at 7:38 am

    I had a friend who rebuilt old guns, mostly rifles. He used dried walnut hulls to make the stain for the butt of the rifle. They turned out beautiful.

  • Reply
    Ethelene Dyer Jones
    December 3, 2015 at 7:18 am

    I enjoyed reading about the many uses of black walnut hulls. My aunts, Avery, Ethel and India Collins, were expert weavers. A room in Grandpa “Bud” Collins’ house in Choestoe was “the weaving room,” with a large loom set up in it. My aunts boiled the hulls of walnuts and used the water to dye the wool to make clothing and blankets on their loom. They even wove wool cloth and designed the dark brown “dress-up” suits that Grandpa wore when he represented Union County in the Georgia Legislature.

  • Leave a Reply