Tincturing Black Walnut

Black Walnut (Juglans nigra) trees are all around here.  This time of year they are thumping on roofs, smashing into cars, and sending the squirrels into a frenzy.  I was first introduced to Black Walnut as a medicine over 15 years ago while in herb school, though it wasn’t until we moved onto our little homestead, and had outdoor animals to take care of, that I really got to know it.

Black Walnut is traditionally used as an anthelmintic (That’s your vocabulary word of the day.  Use it the next time you are talking to your vet or doctor about worms and they’ll think you are super smart! 🙂  )  That basically means that it works by expelling parasitic worms from the body.

Animals that spend most of their lives out doors (in our case, our farm dog and our chickens) are super prone to getting worms.  I’ve talked about my use of Black Walnut with Suki and heart worm (see the comment section of that post), but I also use Black Walnut as a dewormer for our chickens.  Twice a year, in the spring and late summer, when the weather is humid and muggy, I give them a Black Walnut preventative in their water (60 drops in a gallon of water) for two weeks.  If I ever notice those classic symptoms of a wormy chicken (sluggish, droopy wings, decrease in laying), I will give them another week of it.  It works wonderfully!

Black walnut tincture can cost $10-$15 an ounce in the store…. I can make a quart of it (32 ounces) for about $10.  That’s about .31 cents an ounce!

So, how do you do it?  It’s easy!

Here’s what you need:

  • Black Walnuts (I used about 12 to make a quart of tincture)  You can harvest them this time of year.  It’s easiest to grab them off the ground after they have fallen, because they grow pretty high up in the trees.
  • Alcohol (I like to use 100 proof vodka, but any alcohol that is 80 to 100 proof, or 40-50% alcohol is fine.  Since my chickens aren’t picky about the taste of their tinctures, I just use the cheep stuff.  This 1.75L bottle cost me $18)
  • A large jar (I’m using a 1/2 gallon mason jar)
  • Sharp knife
  • Wax paper
  • Gloves (though you can see, mine are mysteriously absent from this picture.  Oh, yeah.  I wasn’t wearing any.)

The state of your black walnuts is important.  You want them nice and green.  A black spot like this on the outside:

will look like this inside.  Ewwwww!  Though the chickens might not mind tinctured worms, I do!

This is what you want your walnuts to look like when you cut off the hull (or outer layer).

Cut the hull off of the walnuts and put the hulls in your jar.  You will see the black walnut start to darken before your eyes!  Seriously!  It starts oxidizing immediately!!

I begin pouring the alcohol into the jar as I’m cutting the hulls.  This keeps them from oxidizing so rapidly in the air, and puts all the good medicine in the alcohol.

So, the gloves.  Yeah.  It’s a good idea to wear gloves while you are cutting Black Walnuts as they can stain really badly.  I forgot to pick any up at the store, so I just went for it.  I think, from all the Black Walnut juice that I soaked up through my skin, I can safely say that I am now free of worms!

By the end of the cutting process the color of the alcohol had already changed dramatically, as had my fingers.


Once you cut the hulls, put them in the jar and cover them with the alcohol, you want to put the top on the jar.  A layer of wax paper goes in between the glass and the lid.  This keeps the alcohol from reacting with the metal.

You will also want to label your tincture!!  Always label!!  ‘Cause you might just forget what you put in there and what a waste it would be to have to throw it all out because you didn’t label it.  On my labels, I always put the name of the plant, along with the percentage of alcohol, and when it will be ready to strain.  (Sometimes, on you might see things on tincture bottles like 1:2 or 1:5…. that is the scientific method of tincturing and it means amount of herb:amount of alcohol or menstrum used.  We’re not doing that here.  We’re keeping it simple.)

Put your tincture in a shady place indoors and shake it gently for the next two weeks.  Here is mine, happily resting on the kitchen counter.  (Yes, those are many bottles of home made hard apple/peach cider that you see in the background!!  You are very observant!)

About 15 minutes after taking the above picture, Leif asked if he could be in one of the pictures with the Black Walnut.  Check out the color difference already!!

And my hands…… My fingers are about 10 shades darker as I type this!!

After letting the tincture sit for 2 weeks, you can strain the hulls out.  I use muslin/cheese cloth to get all the little bits out of the fluid.  Save your tincture in a clean, labeled jar (don’t forget that layer of wax paper) and store in a cool, dark place.  You can bottle it up in little dropper jars for easy use.

See, wasn’t that easy???

(The happy, worm-free ladies say ‘hello!’)

Oh, and unlike many of the chemical dewormers for chickens that are on the market today, you can still eat the eggs of your chickens while they are taking Black Walnut tincture!!


66 thoughts on “Tincturing Black Walnut

  1. That’s so cool! My mom has a huge black walnut tree on her property. I don’t have any chickens, though. 🙂

  2. Thanks Maria for the easy-peasy tute! Off to buy vodka today and start mine!!!

  3. Maria,
    Lovely job of helping us learn more on Tincturing! Great pictures and easy to follow along 🙂 I loved your comment of not having worms yourself..ohhhh..I have been there myself!! I also use the powder of Black Walnut hulls as a natural colorant. Thank You! CindiQ.

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  5. Maaaany years ago when my daughter was about 2, we always said she ate her pound of dirt a day! All quite funny until she got the runs the drs couldn’t diagnose the reason for. A lady at the health food store told me to buy black walnut tincture and give her some each day. Nothing to lose I tried it and it worked like a charm!
    Most glad to have found your blog!

  6. I am going to copy this, don’t know where I will find any black walnuts, but I’m going to try, really dounded great, thanks

  7. I’m assuming you put it in their water…how much do you use per gallon? I would be treating about 40 chickens. Just found you and so glad you are sharing some alternatives to chemicals. I remember gathering Black Walnuts and other things, with my grandmother but was too young and don’t remember all the recipes and uses. I learned a lot from my grandmother but she is gone now…I miss her wisdom.

  8. Hey Jo,
    I put two droppers (or 60 drops) of Black Walnut Tincture in one gallon of water, and I will usually do this for one week. If it’s been a rainy or particularly wormy season, I might use it for 2 weeks.

  9. I’ve just started my flok of 6 last spring. My Black walnut tree has been giving fruit for 3 years. I believe this is better use of them than feeding squirels !!!
    Thanx Much *<:o)

  10. Hey Nan, Good question. Because this is an alcohol extract, the shelf life is years. It’s basically like keeping vodka in the pantry, except this vodka is laced with black walnut 🙂 (So, yes, pantry is fine.)

  11. Have chickens, have black walnut trees. Always looking for good ideas from the good old days. Thank you for sharing.

  12. Hi,

    Just wondering what the best/safe way is for a human to take the tincture? Maybe a drop or 2 in a glass of water?



  13. Hey Donna, The recommended dosage range in my herbal books is 10-30 drops 2-3 times a day. It’s not an herb you’d use long term, but more of an acute situation herb.

  14. My black walnuts are over ripe (black spotted). I’m still using them because it’s all I have right now. Will it still have the same properties?

  15. Brenda, black spotted is fine, as long as it’s not full of worms, or completely black. The more it has turned from green to black, the less potent the medicine will be.

  16. I noticed you cut the husks with a knife. I’d like to recommend cracking them with a Kenkel hardshell nutcracker. I use a Kenkel in the fall to crack the green husks, then at any time of year to crack the shells. In the process of cracking the husks lots of husk juice pours out. I keep a small bowl under the cracker to collect the husk juice, them fill jars with it and keep it in the fridge. I dye my hair and clothes with it and use it to stain wood. When I make Black Walnut tincture I press the husks just hard enough that they crack open and separate from the nut, but not so hard that the juice comes out since that juiciness makes the tincture strong. Otherwise I squeeze as much of the juice out as I can. I value it as much as I do the nutmeat.

  17. I went ahead with my tincture. I didn’t cut the husks off or crack them. Rats! I just saw that suggestion. Does the stuff smell really nasty? Cause mine does. Anyhow, I’m about to test it out on myself. I think I’ll wait until I hear from you. :}

    Many people are interested in this to help increase health by just doing a general parasite killing. Have you taken the tincture?

  18. Hey Brenda. Your tincture should not have a nasty smell to it. It should mostly smell like alcohol. Did you make your tincture back in October after you posted your first comment? If you waited too long, the husks may have begun rotting. Cutting the husk away from the nut (or cracking it) helps to expose the ‘meat’ of the husk, which is what you are wanting to extract your medicine from. It also allows you to see if the husk is too rotten to work with.

    I have taken the tincture in the past. I use it short term (2-4 weeks) at 1 dropper three times a day. That’s my personal regime.

  19. I have done the above regime only never cracking or cutting the walnuts at all, i followed this from a book on the subject that indicated to just soak them until the alcohol extracts the potent extracts out of them and it seemed to work. I can’t remember how long this took but a number of days covered container with plastic wrap on the top. When the color of the walnuts turned from solid green to black I transferred the now black alcohol tincture to glass jars and store them in the fridge.This seemed to work for me. I am hoping it is safe to give to the chickens as well as myself but I honestly haven’t tried taking this yet. Hope I did it correctly. Any comments welcome.

  20. Dina, before posting this, I’d only ever heard that you need to cut up the husks before tincturing. But, the husk is porous, so it makes sense that you could extract the medicine through it. Especially if you are ending up with a black tincture. Let me know how it works when you try it!!

  21. Awesome! I’ve been looking for a recipe like this. About how much would you give dogs? I’m sure it would be figured by the pound.
    Now I just have to wait for walnuts to grow again. Can they be used VERY young (like as soon as they resemble fruit)?

  22. Cynthia, I’ve never used anything but the ripe walnut. I’m not sure if they will have the same constituents when they are very young. Has anyone else out there tried this?

    For dosage, I usually go by weight. A general rule for dosing children’s herbal remedies: divide the child’s age by 150 (the average adult weight) and get the fraction of the dose to be administered. Ex: for a 30 pound child 30/150 is 1/5th of the adult dose. So, if I were to give 60 drops of black walnut to an adult, I’d give 1/5 that or 12 drops to a 30 pound child (or dog). Make sense?

  23. Hi there! Wondering if you use the same rate for dogs as you did for chickens? Any idea on how it works with goats? Thanks! 🙂

  24. Would feeding the whole nut do the same thing for goats? Don’t think sheep would eat them independently so I’d tincture it for them? Rabbits? I’d read that black walnut wasn’t recommended for children…. Was that wrong? If I added it to dog food would it still be effective? Thank you for the article and all the answers 🙂

  25. Andrea and Lovina, I haven’t used it for other animals like goats, sheep, and rabbits, though I have heard from other farmers who have used it. The rule of thumb for humans is 60 drops for the average adult of about 150 pounds. So, if a goat is 75 pounds you would use 30 drops. (You can take the weight of the animal and divide it by 150. This would be the fraction of 60 drops that you would give. Does that make sense?) Juliette de Bairacli Levy has a nice farm herbal book…http://www.amazon.com/Complete-Herbal-Handbook-Farm-Stable/dp/0571161162

    It would be fine in dog food, in fact that is how I gave it to my dog…. as long as they eat all of their food.

    I’ve also used it with my children before. The problem with black walnut comes with chronic or long term use. It’s an herb to use only in acute situations for brief periods of time. Over long term use, it can be toxic. I have read from one source that black walnut can cause Equine laminitis. So, it is worth it to research a bit more if you have horses.

  26. My mother’s recipe for black walnut tincture called for quartered young walnuts to be soaked in alcohol for 1 week, strain into class jar. The walnuts in the first jar were then cover with equal amount of water as alcohol to soak for additional week. The two solutions were then mixed together with a light sugar syrup. Would you omit the second water soak and added sugar for more potency?

  27. If you want to create a syrup, then yes, you can use sugar. I think it would actually decrease the potency though. For tinctures, you’d just use alcohol. I love hearing about the different recipes that are passed along through families!

  28. Just what I’m looking for. I have Ever clear (190 proof). I use it for other tincture of fresh herbs because the herbs have water content, thereby diluting the end product to a perfect consistency. Can I use it for the hulls? If so, would the dosage change per adult?

  29. Everclear is just fine. You can just dilute it to be ~50% alcohol. The standard adult human dose is 2 droppers 2-3 times per day.

  30. I can’t wait to try this, although I believe I am too late this year. I read the dosing instructions by weight and would like to do this for my alpacas which are around 150#, so the same dose (60 drops) as a human. However, if you are adding it to their water, and 5 alpacas share the water in the paddock, do you multiply the dose x 5, and make sure they drink all of the water, and then do you put in another dose for 5 when you renew the water supply again, and continue this process for a week? Just like multiple chickens sharing a waterer? Thank you for this post!

  31. Hey there!

    So, the dose for a 150# person would be 60 drops 2-3 times a day. So, if you were wanting to do this for alpacas…hmmmm….. Do you refresh their water each day? If so, you could put the full daily dose in the water x5 for all 5 alpacas. The only problem with putting into the water is that you run the risk of one animal drinking a lot more than another, and getting a larger dose of the black walnut. You could also give it directly into their mouths (mixed in a bit of water so it doesn’t burn going down 🙂 But I’ve never given meds to an alpaca, so I don’t know how hard that is. You could also mix it in a little treat twice a day and give it to them that way, so you know they get the full/correct dose.

    Let me know what you decide on and how it goes.

    (Oh, and I’d love to see pictures of your alpaca!! I’m a spinner and knitter, too. So, I love fiber animals!)


  32. Hi Maria, I love seeing the herbal remedies shared and keeping them alive. All this modern med is bad news. My Q is, Do you have a remedy for histoplasmosis ? I have 19 spots in my lungs for 3 years now that are diagnosed as histoplasmosis. Causing seasonal alergies to be worse and use inhaler at times of pressure. Also have a friend who is blind in one eye from same, as he got bird poop in his eye and slowly lost vision b4 Dr could relieve the pressure from infection. Any ideas on these Q’s . Dr’s don’t have any more advice and I’m always open for herbal ideas. Thank You !!

  33. Hello! Unfortunately I don’t have any experience with histoplasmosis. Do you know of any natural or herbal practitioners in your area? If not, I could help you find one. That would be your best best.

  34. Well, last year a threw away the tinture that smelled bad. I’m going to make it again tomorrow. I have fully green nuts. Some are just picked from the tree. My husband thinks I’m a nut! I’m excited to see how it goes this year.

    This year I will cut the husks off and put them immediatly into the vodka and fully cover them (which I didn’t do last year). I think I will be successful!

  35. I followed your recipe but forgot about it on my shelf for 4 months. Would the tincture still be good? It did not smell bad and the cut walnut husk were not rotten or mushy when I transferred it from my jar into droppers.

  36. Oh yeah!! What you have now is a super potent tincture! The black walnut won’t go bad in all that alcohol. You can strain it and it’s good to go!

  37. Hi,

    Your blog came up while i was doing a black walnut diy tincture search. I had no idea it was that easy. Thanks for sharing. I also didn’t know i could use it for my chickens. So my main question is what time of year do I harvest the black walnuts?

  38. Fantastic article and instructions. I know it’s a long shot but I’m wondering if you happen to know the dose recommended for goats? Thanks again for the great information!

  39. Janet, the general dose for a 150# human is 1 dropper full (30 drops) 3 times a day for 2 weeks to get rid of worms. This might be repeated in a few weeks in case there are eggs that might hatch and produce more worms in that time. For a goat, I would figure out their dose related to their weight. If you google for goats and black walnut, you may find some info. I know of some farmers around my area that use it. Of course, disclaimer, I’m not a human doctor or a vet. Just working from experience and historical knowledge.

  40. Sally, Black walnuts will start falling from the trees in the late summer and early fall. In fact, they are falling right now in NC.

  41. Thank you for this instructive post. I just went out and gathered some BWnuts and cut off the hulls and dropped them into the vodka that I bought a few weeks ago in anticipation of making this tincture. I’m way excited to feed this to my cats and dogs and to have around for us in case we need it.

  42. Hi. I harvested black walnuts in Ligonier, Pennsylvania at the end of August or beginning of September. I peeled them and put them in ball jars with the alcohol. It’s been 6 weeks and the alcohol/tincture has hardly turned green let alone black. Did I harvest them too early? Are the walnuts supposed to be ripe? I picked them off the tree and they were still green with no black spots. I was back up in Ligonier today and now they are falling off the tree and they are soft. The ones I processed were hard. Thank you for any advice you can offer.

  43. Hmmm… I’ve never had that happen. The only thing I can think of is, like you said, they were harvested too early. I usually harvest when they are falling off of the tree. I just pick up the green ones that haven’t turned black or rotten yet. You are certain it was a black walnut tree?

  44. I saw a video and they put 2 Tbs of lemon juice to a jar of black walnut tincture and then top it with olive oil to prevent it from oxidization. Do you think it is a good idea? Thanks!

  45. Hmmm… I’ve never heard of anything like that. For making a tincture, you definitely wouldn’t want to add oil to the alcohol. I’ve heard of adding lemon and olive oil when you canning certain fruits or vegetables in water… but not for a tincture. Did they say why they added those ingredients?

  46. Susan. I wonder if they were butternuts. Common to the ligonier area of western Pa. They have segmented husks

  47. I came across your blog and have been wondering what to do with the nuts beside using the meat. One year I picked them and put them in plastic pail over winter to hull in the spring, had a black slush in bottom of pail when I started to husk the black covering, so am using it as a stain but this yer will try to make tincture. I live in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan

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