In this brief guide, we will answer the question “Can you eat oak leaves?”. We will also elaborate on the possibilities of safe consumption of oak leaves, what are the benefits and other uses of oak leaves.
Can you eat oak leaves?
Yes, you can eat the oak leaves. The young leaves of oak are edible while the others are important from the medical point of view. Different uses have been recorded for several species of oaks, such as food and as infusions for the treatment of many diseases (1).
Oaktree belongs to the genus Quercus which has a variety of tree species such as a white oak tree or red oak tree. The whole tree is beneficial along with its leaves, bark, and acorn.
Oak leaves consist of various phytochemicals which play a significant role in the medical world. Quercus species represent an important genus of the Fagaceae family. It is widely distributed in temperate forests of the northern hemisphere and tropical climatic areas. Oaks are considered monecious plants, having separate male and female flowers on a single tree. Many of its members have been used in traditional medicine to treat and prevent various human disorders such as asthma, hemorrhoid, diarrhea, gastric ulcers, and wound healing (2).
The health benefits of Oak leaves
Some of the benefits which we could obtain from oak leaves are as follows:
Acts as Antioxidant against free radicals
Oak leaves consist of a phenolic compound which is a strong antioxidant chemical that works significantly against the free radicals which are found in our body. Infusions of oak leaves contain phenolics acids, such as gallic acid, protocatechuic acid, 4-hydroxybenzoic, catechin, vanillic acid, syringic acid, epigallocatechin gallate, epicatechin, vanillin, benzoic acid, salicylic acid, chlorogenic acid, and caffeic acid. Antioxidants are substances that delay the oxidation process, inhibiting chain reaction initiated by free radicals (1).
Inhibit the growth of cancer cells
Oak leaves are also capable of fighting against cancer cells. This potential effect of anti-carcinogens in oak leaves comes from the antioxidant that prevents the inhibition of free radicals which are responsible for the growth of cancerous cells in our body. Several studies have confirmed the cytotoxic and anticancer activity of a wide variety of oak leaf extracts, against various cancer cell lines. This property is related to a variety of triterpenoids present in the leaves (2).
Responsible for cardioprotective activities
Oak leaves are also capable of flavonoid activities. Flavonoid particles are capable of carrying cardioprotective activities which are responsible for lowering the cardiovascular diseases in the body by following several mechanisms like by inhibiting the plaque formation or by inhibiting the inflammation of vessels. Flavonoids and polyphenols present a significant antioxidant/radical scavenging property and the mechanisms by which they express their beneficial effects against various common chronic diseases, such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and cancer are not totally clear, but appear to involve their interaction with molecular signaling pathways and related machinery that regulate cellular processes such as inflammation (3).
Plaque formation leads towards the blockage of arteries by forming plaque inside them, while the flavonoid activity of oak leaves enables the regular flow of blood without forming blockages.
Support the immediate healing of the superficial injury
The flavonoid compounds of oak leaves are also responsible for the immediate healing process. These immediate healing mechanisms especially take place for superficial injuries. In addition, studies show that the extract from oak leaves showed effectiveness in the prevention of photo-induced oxidative stress in the skin through scavenging multiple reactive oxygen species (2).
It is easy to just place the fresh oak leaf on the injured area or at the surface of the wound, which will be quickly healed by the oak leaves.
Helping agent in the treatment of gastric ulcer
Flavonoid compounds are multi-dimensional compounds that are also capable of the treatment of gastric ulcers. Flavonoid releases some of the agents that aids in healing the mechanism of gastric ulcers and preventing the inflammation that could happen due to ulcers. It has been documented that from oak leaves extract tannic acid together with other polyphenols such as quercetin and ellagic acid can inhibit the proton pump present in the parietal cells and thereby participate in protecting the stomach against harmful agents (3).
Oak leaves suppress the local inflammation
Local inflammatory conditions can also be reduced through the oak leaves. These inflammatory conditions are presented by the symptoms such as swelling, redness, and pain in a particular area of the body.
To treat this local inflammation just use the fresh oak leaf and place it on the surface of the inflamed body part and give it enough time until the flavonoid agents are released through the oak leaves. These flavonoid components are responsible for reducing inflammation.
Studies have shown that triterpenes isolated from oak inhibit nitric oxide production and other proinflammatory cytokines. Moreover, lupeol isolated from oak leaves was evaluated for their ability to inhibit Cyclooxygenase-1 and -2 enzymes (2). These enzymes catalyze the conversion of arachidonic acid to prostaglandin (PG) H2, the precursor of PGs and thromboxane. These lipid mediators play important roles in inflammation and pain and in normal physiological functions (4).
Capable to fight against different microorganism
Along with its anti-inflammatory role, oak leaves are also responsible for antimicrobial activities. The flavonoid compound of oak leaves is capable of working against different microbes like bacteria and viruses where these compounds aid in the recovery of infection that might be caused due to these microbes.
Investigations show that antimicrobial activity of oak leaves extract was evidenced against Staphylococcus aureus, Escherichia coli, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Salmonella typhimurium, and Candida albicans, and the results showed disinfection of eggshell microbial contamination, by immersion in 1% oak extract solution, sharply reduced total colony count, yeasts, and molds, and Enterobacteriaceae, E. coli, and S. aureus were completely inhibited after 60 min of immersion in the extract (2).
Prevents the formation of atherosclerotic
Oak leaves have the antioxidant role which works to enhance the HDL, HDL is the good cholesterol in the body, and in LDL reduction: LDL is bad cholesterol in the body.
Atherosclerotic is a plaque formation in the vessel that blocks the flow of blood, this mechanism of oak leaves emits the forming of atherosclerotic that will ultimately lead towards the lower risk of heart stroke or ischemic syndrome.
Other actions related to oak leaves that prevent atherosclerosis are the reduction of oxidative stress in endothelium, attenuation of endothelial proinflammatory activation, inhibition of endothelial cells apoptosis, anti-inflammatory activity, decrease of foam cells formation, inhibition of platelet activation and aggregation (5).
Aids to reduce the Blood pressure
The flavonoid component of oak leaves is responsible for the inhibition of ACE. ACE is defined as Angiotensin-Converting Enzyme, which is responsible for hypertension activity in the body.
Oak leaves consist of compounds that are similar to the antihypertensive drug which decreases the level of blood pressure in patients with hypertension.
Play a role of antiseptic medication
The flavonoid agent in the oak leaves works as an antiseptic component. Oak leaves can be applied to an injured area but make sure to clean the wound with water before applying the oak leaves. Indigenous peoples, in many areas of the world, use them as antiseptics (2).
It may reduce the skin itching and irritation
Oak leaves also have an anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial role which helps to reduce skin irritation. It also decreases the redness which is caused due to the wound. Oak leaves promote antiinflammatory and antiproliferative activity against dermatitis (2).
In this brief guide, we have answered the question “Can you eat oak leaves?” We have also elaborated what are the possibilities of safe consumption for oak leaves, what are the benefits and other uses of oak leaves.
- Rocha‐Guzmán, Nuria Elizabeth, et al. Chemical evaluation, antioxidant capacity, and consumer acceptance of several oak infusions. J food sci, 2012, 77, C162-C166.
- Taib, Mehdi, et al. Medicinal uses, phytochemistry, and pharmacological activities of Quercus species. Evid-based complement altern med, 2020.
- Vázquez-Cabral, Blanca D., et al. Mexican oaks as a potential non-timber resource for Kombucha beverages. Rev Chapingo ser cien forest amb, 2016, 22, 73-86.
- Smith, Christopher J., et al. Pharmacological analysis of cyclooxygenase-1 in inflammation. Proceed Nat Acad Sci, 1998, 95, 13313-13318.
- Kirichenko, Tatiana V., et al. Medicinal plants as a potential and successful treatment option in the context of atherosclerosis. Front pharmacol, 2020, 11, 403.