What is Ostrya?

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  • Written By: A. Leverkuhn
  • Edited By: Andrew Jones
  • Last Modified Date: 07 December 2019
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Ostrya is a name for a group of deciduous trees belonging to the birch family. One of these, Ostrya Virginianus, is native to the North American region, and is commonly known as the ironwood tree. It has been known to supply some types of medicinal uses.

The Ostrya Virginianus, also called the Eastern Hop Hornbeam, is an open crowned, broadly rounded tree with a hard wood. It has grayish brown or steel gray bark, formed into narrow, sometimes ragged, vertical strips. The tree flowers in late spring.

It is traditionally the bark of the tree that is supposed to have some medicinal qualities. Naturalist books identify the plant extracts from this tree as “astringent,” and containing a lot of iron. Some refer to it as a potential tonic for the stomach, or a digestive aid.

According to a lot of medical resources, Ostrya Virginianus is not popularly used in modern medicine. It is something that has largely gone by the wayside as common medicine moved from a homeopathic based pursuit to a pharmaceutical industry. Some experts claim that with a wide variety of chemically produced medicines available, there's little need for something like Ostrya Virginianus to treat medical conditions.


Available reference materials show that the use of essential oils of the ironwood tree was quite common into traditional Native American communities that originally inhabited most of the areas of the United States. Native Americans used Ostrya Virginianus to treat toothaches or sore muscles. It was also used to treat more serious ailments like rectal cancer. It seems that the traditional communities believed in the healing properties of this naturally occurring substance.

Modern US government resources show that these trees are still common fixtures in American scenery. Ostrya Virginianus is a popular landscaping tree. Experts point out that a wide variety of wildlife can find sustenance from the seeds of this tree type.

Horticultural sources reveal that the Ostrya Virginianus can thrive in a variety of soils and climates from the North of the US to the South. Birds like the sharp-tailed grouse and wild turkey often rely on its buds and nuts for food. Red and grey squirrels, cottontails, white-tailed deer, ring-necked pheasant, and other kinds of animals and birds also feed on the tree.

Although herbal remedies from this plant may still be used in some communities as a healing agent, because of its relative obscurity, all precautions should be taken before trying to use the bark or other items from the tree as a home remedy. Consult medical professionals and homeopathic medical experts before trying this kind of homeopathy as a cure for any medical condition.


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