This section is from the book "Meals Medicinal", by W. T. Fernie. Also available from Amazon: Meals Medicinal: With "Herbal Simples" Curative Foods From the Cook in Place of Drugs From the Chemist.
The Chesnut, as already described, is probably of the chiefest dietetic value among Nuts. Evelyn says of them "they are a lusty and masculine food for rustics at all times, and of better nourishment for husbandmen than cole and rusty bacon, yea, or beans to boot." One of the witches in ' Macbeth' tells of "a sailor's wife with chesnuts in her lap," who "munch'd, and munch'd, and munch'd." Brazil Nuts (Juvia, or Castanha) are of true use against chronic constipation, and piles. One pound of these Nuts will yield eight ounces of the kernels, which furnish five ounces of vegetable oil, the residue being proteids, and mineral constituents. If well masticated, and taken even as a principal dish at a meal, they will not disagree. The entire fruit contains four, five, or even eight of these Nuts. When grated they are an excellent substitute for suet, and may be used for making cakes, and puddings, instead of other fat: four ounces of the grated kernels to twelve ounces of flour; thus teaches Mr. Albert Broadbent, of Manchester.
Similarly, thirty large Walnuts, without the shells, will contain as much fat as two and three-quarter pounds of moderately lean beef. The Walnut is botanically Juglans regia, "the Royal Nut of Jupiter "; it is also named Ban nut, Ball nut, and Welsh nut (Walnut). Whilst unripe this Nat has medicinally worm-destroying virtues; if pickled when green, it serves to make by the vinegar, diluted with water, a capital gargle for sore throats, even if slightly ulcerated. The kernel, or inside edible part (minus its skin), affords an oil which is not congealed by cold, and which painters find very useful on this account; it proves, further, of service when applied externally for troublesome skin diseases of the leprous type. Indeed, the Walnut has been justly termed vegetable arsenic, because of its curative virtues in eczema, and other obstinate skin diseases. The unripe fruit is laxative, also of beneficial use in thrush; whilst the leaves are found to antidote syphilis, as likewise do the green husk, and the unripe shell. Obstinate ulcers may be cured with sugar well saturated with a strong decoction of Walnut leaves.
Kiln-dried Walnuts, well kept, and of some age, are better digested than newer fruit; in contrast to old gherkins, about which it has been humorously said, "Avoid stale Q-cumbers: they will W up." In many parts of Germany the peasants literally subsist on Walnuts for several months together. The bark, or thin, yellow skin, which clothes the inner nut, is a notable remedy for colic, being first dried, and then rubbed into powder, its dose ranging from thirty to forty grains, with a tablespoonful or two of peppermint water. To eat Walnuts produces troublesome coughing in some persons. After expressing out the oil from the kernels, a cake can be made of the residual pulp, which is good food for cattle. These kernels contain oil, mucilage, albumin, mineral matter, cellulose, and water. Nucin, or juglon, is the active chemical principle of the nuts, and of the whole Walnut tree. The leaves, when slightly bruised by rubbing, emit a rich aromatic odour; they are of the highest value (particularly those of the American black Walnut tree) for curing scrofulous diseases, and for healing chronic indolent sores.
The affected parts should be washed several times a day with a strong decoction of the leaves, and a tea made therefrom should be drunk internally, half a teacupful at a time (one ounce of the leaves to twelve ounces of boiling water). A green Walnut boiled in syrup, and preserved therein, is an excellent homely preventive of constipation; the nuts become black by boiling. But, says Charles Lamb, in his simple story of Rosamund Gray, "Shall the good housewife take such pains in pickling and preserving her worthless fruits, her walnuts, her apricots and quinces; and is there not much spiritual housewifery in treasuring up our mind's best fruits, our heart's meditations, in its most favoured moments? "