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(Beech family)


Between 800 and 900 species are of cosmopolitan distribution excluding tropical South America and tropical and southern Africa.

The cork oak (Quercus suber L., syn. Quercus occidentalis J.Gay) provides cork.

[Summary yet to be added]

Castanea mollissima Blume
[syns Castanea bungeana Blume, Castanea formosana Hayata, Castanea sativa Mill. var. mollissima Pamp.]
Chinese Chestnut

The wood is said to be irritant (Schwartz et al. 1957).

Castanea sativa Mill.
[syns Castanea vesca Gaertn., Castanea vulgaris Lam.]
Sweet Chestnut, Spanish Chestnut, European Chestnut

Schulmann & Détouillon (1932) noted that "le châtaignier" — chestnut; probably this species — is commonly implicated in woodcutter's eczema. The wood is useful and the bark is used in tanning. Basket makers working with chestnut wood were said to develop herpes labialis (Weber 1953). Workers in tanneries develop characteristic sub-ungual hyperkeratoses (Silva & Cozzolino 1952, Silva 1957). Labourers who sawed chestnut wood developed erythema and remarkable thickening of the skin which ultimately deformed the hand; this condition was called "crocodile hands" (Horand 1907) and attributed mainly to the tannin. Contact sensitivity to the wood was reported by Navarro Martin & Torres Ordax (1932).

Hanslian & Kadlec (1966) listed the wood of Castanea vesca as irritant.

Fagus sylvatica L.
Beech, European Beech

Schulmann & Détouillon (1932) noted that "le hêtre" — beech; probably this species — is commonly implicated in woodcutter's eczema. Dermatitis attributed to contact with beech trees (Longin 1929,1930) may actually be caused by lichens and liverworts (fam. Frullaniaceae) present on the barks of the trees (Spillman 1921, Le Coulant & Lopes 1960). Dermatitis (Howes 1951, Jones 1946) and asthma (Hausen 1973) have been reported in wood-workers. Oleum Fagi and Oleum Betulae (Betula) (of each 5%) produced positive patch tests in 3% of patients with stasis dermatitis (Rudzki & Baranowska 1974). Woodworkers in the High Wycombe area of England have a higher incidence of adenocarcinoma of the paranasal sinuses than the general population (Acheson et al. 1968). It is not known which sawdust, if any, might be responsible but beech is the most largely used wood.

Quercus faginea Lam.
Portugese Oak, Lusitanean Oak, Muricated Oak, Quejigo

According to Merzouki et al. (2000), the powdered galls from this oak are haemostatic and are applied externally; the powdered galls are also applied to the eyes in ophthalmia.

Quercus robur L.
[syn. Quercus pedunculata Ehrh.]
Oak, English Oak

Spillman (1921) described dermatitis on the ear and right side of the neck in a man who had carried feshly-cut oak logs on his shoulder and suggested that fungi on the bark might be resposible. Schulmann & Détouillon (1932) noted that "le chêne" — oak; probably this species — is commonly implicated in woodcutter's eczema now known to be caused by lichens and liverworts (Frullania) (Le Coulant & Lopes 1960).

Woods & Calnan (1976) reported three patients who had positive patch test reactions to oak. One of the patients was sensitised to Calocedrus. One of the patients also showed a positive patch test reaction to teak (Tectona grandis L.f., fam. Labiatae). A joiner who had dermatitis showed positive patch test reactions to Thuja plicata Donn ex D.Don (fam. Cupressaceae) and to oak (Woods & Calnan 1976). The wood is said to be more irritant when moist than when dry (Schulmann & Détouillon 1932). Wood workers can develop asthma from oak wood dust (Scheven et al. 1963, Sosman et al. 1969).

The oak processionary caterpillar can cause dermatitis (Gougerot & Carteaud 1952, Touraine et al. 1947).


  • Horand R (1907) Mains de crocodile. Dermatose professionnelle produite par le bois de chataignier. [Crocodile hands. Occupational dermatitis produced by chestnut wood]. Gazette des Hopitaux Civils et Militaires 80(22): 255-258
  • Le Coulant P, Lopes G (1960) Rôle pathogène des muscinées-hépatiques dans les industries du bois. [Pathogenic role of liverworts in the wood industries]. Archives des Maladies Professionnelles, de Médecine du Travail et de Sécurité Sociale 21(6): 374-376
  • Merzouki A, Ed-derfoufi F, Molero Mesa J (2000) Contribution to the knowledge of Rifian traditional medicine. II: Folk medicine in Ksar Lakbir district (NW Morocco). Fitoterapia 71(3): 278-307 [doi] [url] [pmid]
  • Schulmann E, Détouillon P (1932) L'eczéma du bois et la sensibilisation sylvestre. [Wood-induced eczema and forest-associated sensitisation]. Paris Médical (83): 55-61 [doi] [url] [url-2]
  • [Others yet to be added]

Richard J. Schmidt

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