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Health Benefits of Black Walnut

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Updated July 07, 2014

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

Black walnut
Derek Ramsey/Wikimedia Commons/CC BY-SA 3.0

Black walnut (Juglans nigra) is a type of nut thought to offer a number of health benefits. Long used in certain systems of herbal medicine, black walnut extract is available in dietary supplement form. It is commonly eaten as a food in the United States. Black walnut is high in unsaturated fat and protein.

Black walnut contains several essential fatty acids, including linoleic acid, oleic acid, palmitic acid, stearic acid, and linolenic acid (an omega-3 fatty acid). In addition, black walnut contains tannins (a class of substances with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits), as well as minerals like magnesium and potassium.

Health Benefits of Black Walnut

There's currently a lack of research on the health effects of dietary supplements containing black walnut extract.

While research on the health effects of consuming whole black walnuts is also lacking, one small study published in the Journal of Medicinal Food in 2011 compared the cardiovascular effects of black walnuts to those of English walnuts. For the study, 36 people ate about 1.06 ounces of black walnuts or English walnuts every day for 30 days. Study results showed that participants who added English walnuts to their diets experienced greater improvements in several measures of cardiovascular health (compared to participants who added black walnuts to their diets).

Alternatives to Black Walnut

If you're seeking a dietary supplement that can increase your intake of essential fatty acids and possibly protect your heart health, consider using fish oil supplements. Rich in omega-3 fatty acids, fish oil has been found to keep cholesterol in check and lower blood pressure in a number of scientific studies.

Like black walnuts, natural remedies like echium oil are rich in omega-3 fatty acids.

Uses for Black Walnut

Black walnut is typically touted as a natural remedy for the following health problems:

  • asthma
  • constipation
  • diabetes
  • heartburn
  • high blood pressure
  • high cholesterol

In addition, black walnut is said to protect against heart disease, cancer, and infections caused by overgrowth of yeast (such as yeast infections, candida, and thrush).

When applied topically, black walnut is said to aid in treatment of conditions like canker sores, psoriasis, and warts.

Safety

Due to a lack of research, little is known about the safety of long-term use of supplements containing black walnut extract. However, there's some concern that black walnut may trigger certain side effects, including diarrhea.

Due to the high tannin content, people with liver or kidney disease or certain gastrointestinal conditions should avoid black walnut. People who are taking blood pressure medication should avoid black walnut. Pregnant or nursing women should avoid black walnut supplements.

People with allergies to black walnuts should not take black walnut supplements. Cross sensitivity or contamination with other nuts is possible, so people with nut allergies should avoid black walnut.

It's important to note that self-treating a chronic health condition (such as diabetes) with black walnut and avoiding or delaying standard care may have serious consequences. If you're considering the use of black walnut in treatment of a chronic condition, make sure to consult your physician.

Where To Find Black Walnut

Often sold in liquid extract form, dietary supplements containing black walnut are available for purchase online and in natural-foods stores, drugstores, and stores specializing in dietary supplements.

Black walnuts are also sold in whole form at many grocery stores and natural-foods stores.

Sources

Fitschen PJ, Rolfhus KR, Winfrey MR, Allen BK, Manzy M, Maher MA. "Cardiovascular effects of consumption of black versus English walnuts." J Med Food. 2011 Sep;14(9):890-8. doi: 10.1089/jmf.2010.0169.

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