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Health Benefits and Uses of Silver Birch

Silver Birch (Betula pendula) || Health Benefits and Uses of Silver Birch

The Birch, scientific name Betula pendula, is the name of a genus of trees of the family Betulaceae, which also belongs to hazel. Native to Asia and Europe, where it typically occurs in wood margins, heaths, hills and slopes, and its distribution extends into Siberia, Asia Minor, especially in northern Turkey, to the Caucasus and northern Iran. It has been introduced into North America, where it is known as the European white Birch, and is considered invasive in some states in the United States and in parts of Canada.The tree can also be found in more temperate regions of Australia. It has been widely planted in Canada and the northern U.S. as an ornamental. The Birch is a small or medium-sized tree with temperate northern hemisphere characteristics, with alternating and simple leaves that can be lobed or toothed, and its fruit is a small fruit tree. Due to its properties, the birch, also popularly known as Silver Birch or White Birch, can be used as a medicinal plant. The name of this beautiful tree comes from the Sanskrit Bhurga, meaning “a tree whose bark can be written on”. From Bhurga, the word has evolved to Celtic "Betu", in English to "Birch", in Russian to "Bereza" and in Serbian to "Breza". Pliny wrote that the Latin name betula comes from the "Gauls (Celts)" who collected tar from "Birch bark". Birch tar is still produced and sold today as an analgesic and stimulant, and is also used for the production of a special type of beer. Birch was the first tree to grow after the Ice Age, and the same scenario is repeated every spring when birch trees are the first to come into leaf. Birch wood is flexible, but also durable, so everything has been made of it for centuries, from canoes to baskets to huts. American Indians believed that lightning could not strike the birch and would therefore seek refuge under it on stormy nights. It is logical that our ancestors recognised the power and symbolism of this tree and transferred it to mythology: Birch twigs have long been used to make brooms to which magical properties have been attributed; this lives on today in fairy tales about witches flying on brooms and has even been transferred to modern literature.

Betula pendula is claimed as the symbol of purity in a garden that owes its rights to family Betulaceae. It is planted by gardeners to renew or purify the garden bed for the upcoming yield. Birch is part of traditional rituals around the world. In Serbia, when wedding guests leave the house for the church, they jump over a broom made of birch, something that will “Cleanse” all evil and spells. It is believed that this custom originated from the Celts who used to live in the Balkans and mixed with the new Slav settlers. For the Celts, the broom represented a perfect balance of higher powers, because in their belief system it contained male and female energy. Male energy is symbolised by a phallus-shaped handle and female energy by a part with intertwined twigs. Even today it is also used in wedding ceremonies in Scotland. Russians place Birch twigs above their front door to keep evil forces out. England’s Victorians would whip children with Birch twigs in order to expel evil forces from them. Cradles used to be made of birch wood to protect newborns, and in the Scottish Highlands cows would be chased with birch sticks to give birth to healthy calves. All over the world, birch is a symbol of renewal and purification. And that is not by accident. Modern phytopharmacy has proven that birch has a great power to purify the body.

Silver Birch is a fast growing, striking, medium-sized deciduous tree that grows about 15 to 25 m (49 to 82 ft.) tall (exceptionally up to 31 meters (102 ft.)) with a slender trunk usually under 40 cm (16 in) diameter. The plant is found growing in dry and moist forests, eskers, rocky hills, drained mires, various marginal scrub, also a park and forestry tree. It is best grown in medium to wet, well-drained sandy or rocky loams. The root system of the silver birch varies according to soil conditions. Tap root is formed on dry places (e. g. sandy dunes). Shallow roots develop on wet sites and on spoil heaps, mined land or bare land. The root system can be deep and lateral roots achieve even 40 m in length. Silver Birch drawing a light sophisticated canopy with its drooping branches. The beautiful leaves with double serrated margin and silver bark are the main identifiers of the plant. Its canopy serves as a shelter to many shrubs that require light shade to grow.

There are many subspecies of Birch, and the two most familiar to us are the Silver (ordinary) Birch and the Flowering (northern) Birch. Both have medicinal properties as their leaves, buds, bark and juice can be used for medical purposes. Today we know that birch leaf contains flavonoids, tannins, saponins, phenyl carboxylic acids, triterpene alcohols and vitamin C. What does all this mean? First of all, birch is a strong urinary antiseptic and diuretic. The European Medicines Agency says that preparations based on birch extract are used to treat disorders of the urinary tract. However, extensive studies show that the range of its medicinal properties is much wider. Believe it or not, this noble tree has proven immunomodulatory, anti-inflammatory, antirheumatic, antioxidant, antimicrobial, antiviral, dermatological, antidiabetic, gastro-protective, hepatoprotective and anticancer properties. Throughout history, Birch bark was used in Traditional Medicine practices by North American indigenous people for treating superficial wounds by applying bark directly to the skin. Birch leaf has also been proved as a weakly diuretic for irrigation of the urinary tract, especially in inflammation and renal gravel cases, and as an adjuvant in the treatment of bacterial infections and spasmodic disorders of the urinary tract. Birch leaves contain salicylates and exhibit both anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving characteristics. Therapeutically, birch leaves have been used in Traditional Medicine for joint pain ingested as a tea or used as an external rub. Birch extract administered topically is also effective in healing and protecting boils and sores. Birch leaves are miraculous when it comes to hosting the whole army of diseases. They are medicinally useful for treating the infections that involve kidney, bladder, ureter, urethra, and other sensitive parts of the urinary tract. Birch leaves are highly potent at inducing diuresis to boost the fashion of urinary output. There are more than 50 species of Birch trees globally, 19 of which are native to the United States. Its leaves, bark, and buds of the trees are often used in Traditional Medicine.

The Birch has a number of medicinal properties, including its antirheumatic, depurative, antiseptic, anticonvulsive, diuretic, healing, sweating, antiseborreic, laxative, tonic, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and digestive stimulant properties. The leaves are antibacterial and, along with the diuretic properties, it is effective in removing toxins from the body and purifying the blood, relieving infections, inflammation and pain. Due to its medicinal properties, the Birch is indicated as a supplement in the treatment of renal cramps, urethritis, jaundice, edema, cystitis, muscle aches, psoriasis, to prevent urinary and renal calculi, skin irritation, rheumatism, gout, baldness and dandruff. This plant is often used to heal and relieve burns, bruises, wounds and eczema. During bathing, it can assist in the treatment of rashes and the healing of bruises. The Birch leaves have diuretic action and therefore this plant also enters the composition of herbal diuretic tea or herbal tea to treat the kidneys and bladder. This plant continues to be studied, as there are indications that it would also have anticancer potential. Among the constituents of the Birch are the flavonoids (derived from quercetin), tannins, essential oil and saponins.

Health Canada Monograph acknowledges evidence supporting the safety and efficacy of Birch leaf for use in Herbal Medicine as a diuretic when provided at a crude dried equivalent dose of 0.6-9.0 g/day. In The Science and Practice of Herbal Medicine, Medical herbalist David Hoffmann writes, “Birch leaf is an effective remedy for cystitis and other urinary system infections and helps eliminate excess water from the body. Perhaps because of this cleansing, diuretic activity, the plant has been used to treat gout, rheumatism, and mild arthritic pain”.

Kidney Health:

Urinary Tract Conditions:

The diuretic effect of Birch was confirmed a long time ago, and today it is used as a therapy for inflammation of the urinary tract and kidney stones. Birch stimulates the elimination of fluids thanks to resins and flavonoids. In addition to having an effect on bladder, urinary tract, kidneys and prostate, this effect is extremely important for people who suffer from rheumatism and gout. Gout is known to occur due to the deposition of monosodium urea crystals and uric acid in the joints, which causes severe pain. Birch improves the elimination of these harmful crystals and thus reduces swelling.

Studies have shown that Birch extract has the ability to reduce the motility of the most persistent bacterium, Escherichia coli. By increasing diuresis and inhibiting bacteria, Birch successfully treats bacterial infections of the urinary tract.

Birch can be consumed as tea, but the body can make much better use of it in the form of tincture. In addition to four other medicinal plants, Birch has found its place in a modern preparation based on the postulates of Traditional Herbal Medicine. Birch is a natural formula intended to revitalise and preserve good health of the kidneys, the urinary tract and the prostate. It may also help treat edema and flush the kidneys. Birch soothes kidney, bladder and urinary tract inflammation, it is effective against bacteria, Escherichia and other infections, it helps flush out sand and kidney stones. Used three times a day, Birch, a metaphorical broom, will sweep away sand and stones from the kidneys. Birch leaves have diuretic properties meaning that a tea made from them can help promote both the volume and the frequency of a person’s urination. This, in turn, helps to flush uric acid, toxins and excess fluids throughout the body. It can also help maintain good liver and kidney health and may even help eliminate unsightly cellulite.

Urinary Tract Infections (UTI):

Birch seems to have the same effect as utilizing water pills. However, taking birch and other water pills together may cause the body to lose too much water. Birch leaves are a common component of diuretic/urological combination products, as they contain chemicals that flush out excess fluids, increasing the volume and frequency of urination. This is useful to flush out uric acid, toxins, and excess edematous fluids. Birch leaf wine is traditionally used in Germany as a diuretic in urinary tract disorders.

In controlled and open clinical studies, Birch leaf showed its usefulness as an anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial agent in patients experiencing urinary tract infections, cystitis, and other inflammatory illnesses.

The German Commission E monograph also recommends the tea to prevent urinary tract gravel and treat bone and joint ailments. Birch leaf also contains allantoin, which soothes, strengthens, and tightens irritated and inflamed tissues such as those in the bladder and kidneys.

Bladder:

Birch Leaf is traditionally used in Herbal Medicine as a urinary tract antiseptic to help relieve mild UTIs. It contains D-mannose, a natural sugar found in birch and beechwood trees. This sugar travels directly to the bladder, where it attaches to the walls forming a protective barrier and prevents bacteria from sticking. It is then flushed away, taking the bacteria with it.

Boosts Immune System:

Birch leaves can be consumed in the form of a tea to help boost the body’s immune system. Leaves consist of antiviral and antibacterial properties that help protect the body against infection and also speed up recovery from any infection that you may have. Birch leaf tea also contains numerous natural antioxidants in the form of flavonoids and vitamin C which can further improve general health and help to reverse the damage done to the body by free radicals.

Improves Digestive Health:

Drinking a few cups of Birch tea made with the leaves and the bark can help to stimulate your digestive system and improved overall digestion. Because of its anti-inflammatory nature, it is highly effective in relieving digestive upset. The tea can also be used to relieve common digestive complaints like a cramp, abdominal pain, bloating and diarrhea.

Leaves also possess mild laxative properties meaning that they can be consumed to help relieve constipation and support more regular bowel movement. It has also been used throughout the centuries as a general digestive tonic.

Stomach Disorders:

Birch also has a sedative effect on smooth muscles, thus preventing cramps, which is important for painful inflammation of the urinary tract, and for stomach cramps. Flavonoids found in birch, specifically quercetin and flavonol glycosides, regulate the stool, prevent diarrhoea and have anti-ulcer and anti-inflammatory effects, which is very useful in the treatment of peptic ulcers, ulcers of the stomach and duodenum. Just as we use a Birch broom to clean our house and garden, we can use Birch to cleanse our body, to expel everything that has no place there. Therefore, it is of great benefit in liver disease, high cholesterol and obesity.

Reduces Inflammation:

Leaves and the bark can be used to help make an anti-inflammatory tea to help treat various forms of inflammation. Bark, in particular, is high in betulinic acid which has strong anti-inflammatory activity. Because of this, Birch tea can be used to help treat common joint conditions like arthritis and rheumatism. It can also be used to help relieve internal inflammation affecting the digestive and respiratory systems.

Bone Health:

Rheumatoid Arthritis:

Rheumatoid arthritis is a common chronic systemic inflammatory disorder that affects approximately 1% of the population worldwide. Its predominant symptoms include pain, stiffness, and swelling of peripheral joints. The synovial membrane of patients with arthritis is characterized by hyperplasia, increased vascularity, and a strong infiltrate of peripheral inflammatory cells from the blood, primarily lymphocytes. They regulate cell-mediated immune-inflammation and maintain activation of macrophages and synovial fibroblasts, transforming them into tissue-destructive effector cells. Peripheral T lymphocytes are the dominant cell types in the synovial filtrate and there is at least a partial therapeutic effect of T-cell depletion for patients suffering from rheumatoid arthritis. Several effective therapies, including methotrexate, which act through the induction of apoptosis of proliferating cells (e.g. T-lymphocytes), are in use to treat patients with rheumatoid arthritis. Despite the existence of effective conventional medications, approximately 60–90% of patients with arthritis use alternative therapies to avoid side-effects.

One of these traditionally used therapies includes herbal remedies of members of the Betulaceae family, which grow mainly in northern Europe (Demirci et al., 2004). Leaf extracts of Betula pendula Roth, also well known as the European White Birch or Silver Birch, are traditionally used all over Europe to treat rheumatism and arthritic diseases (Havlik et al., 2010, Saric-Kundalic et al., 2010). Studies suggest that extracts from Betula pendula have mild diuretic effects by inhibiting endopeptidases (Schilcher and Rau, 1988, Major, 2002), and anti-inflammatory capacity (Tunon et al., 1995, Trouillas et al., 2003). They were also used for the supportive treatment of rheumatic diseases in anthroposophic medicine (Pieroni and Gray, 2008, Girke, 2010).

The leaves are very diuretic and effective in the treatment of edema and cystitis. They’re excellent for healing joint inflammation as they have anti-inflammatory properties. They’re also used in cases of rheumatoid arthritis, psoriatic arthritis and gout. Decoction or tincture of the bark can be effective in the treatment of muscular and joint pain. You can soak a cloth in the liquid and put it on the painful area. In addition, flavonoids act locally in the tissues, they restore balance in the body and reduce rheumatic pain. Because peripheral blood lymphocytes play an important role in the perpetuation of the autoimmune processes in rheumatoid arthritis and the maintenance of these cells might be caused by the dysregulation of proliferation and apoptosis, we investigated the influence of an extract of Betula pendula on primary human lymphocytes in comparison to the synthetic anti-arthritis drug methotrexate in vitro.

A 2011 study "An aqueous birch leaf extract of Betula pendula inhibits the growth and cell division of inflammatory lymphocytes" published in Journal of Ethnopharmacology, Vol. 136, Issue 3 by Carsten Gründemanna, Christian W.Gruberb, Anke Hertrampfa, Martin Zehlb, Brigitte Koppb, Roman Hubera investigated the anti-proliferative capacity of an aqueous leaf extract of Betula pendula on human primary lymphocytes in vitro, because activated lymphocytes play a major role in the initiation and maintenance of rheumatoid arthritis. The results give a rational basis for the use of Betula pendula leaf extract for the treatment of immune disorders, like rheumatoid arthritis, by diminishing proliferating inflammatory lymphocytes.

Treats Sleep Disorders:

Insomnia:

Like many herbal teas, Birch leaf tea may help promote a good night of sleep if you drink a cup or two before bedtime. The effects are probably mild and improbable to help you overcome more serious sleep issues,but if you are simply feeling a little on edge, it is worth giving it a go.

Skin Care:

When our body is so thoroughly cleansed, this becomes visible in our skin. This medicinal plant is excellent for dermatitis and lesions, it soothes the skin and balances its pH value. Leaves and the bark of Birch tree consist of astringent properties making them an effective treatment for numerous skin conditions.Birch bark also contains excellent anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties making it a good natural treatment for numerous inflammatory skin conditions. Conditions that birch may help treat include eczema and dermatitis. It also explains its traditional use as a wound healer. Birch is also excellent for skin diseases such as eczema and psoriasis.

To treat your skin with the leaves, soak Birch leaves in a jug of water for at least a few hours and then strain the solution. Use the leaf water to wash your skin paying particular attention to the affected areas.Bathing in water infused with Birch leaves is another effective way of treating the skin, prevent dandruff and to help strengthen your hair roots. Birch leaves can also be added to a compress to treat the irritation or to relieve joint pain while you may also be interested in making your own oil.

Hair Care:

We all remember the famous Birch shampoos sold in big one-litre bottles, from the humble times of the cosmetics industry. Birch is used in hair products as it can stimulate hair growth. Herbalists have traditionally used Birch both internally and externally to promote hair growth.

Antioxidant:

Studies have shown that birch bark has the ability to fight free radicals due to a high level of phenol in its composition. In this way, it protects the body from oxidative stress and helps it fight infections and inflammation. In addition to phenols, Birch bark is rich in triterpenes, whose role in the treatment of cancer and HIV is only slowly being discovered by science. Pentacyclic triterpenes are thought to act in synergy with other substances present in Birch bark, including betulinic acid; unlike conventional anti-tumour therapy, they act much more selectively on cancer cells, with lower systemic toxicity. Birch’s antioxidant properties have also found application in the food industry, as extracts from it can be safely used as a natural additive to meat products to prevent changes in their natural colouring.

Cancer - Treatment and Prevention:

A group of compounds consisting of cancer-fighting agents, pentacyclic triterpenes, were researched and studied. This compound, containing betulinic and betulin acid, were found in Birch barks. An advanced method was used to extract betulinic and betulin acid from the bark of Betula pendula. The study revealed that the bark extracts from Birch could prevent the proliferation of cancer cells.

Birch leaf is the common name for the leaves of the tree Betula pendula Roth. Birch trees are native to Europe, parts of Asia, and the Northern Hemisphere, in northern areas of temperate ecosystems and boreal climates. Throughout history, Birch bark was used in Traditional Medicine practices by North American indigenous people for treating superficial wounds by applying bark directly to the skin. Birch leaves contain salicylates and exhibit both anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving characteristics. Therapeutically, Birch leaves have been used in Traditional Medicine for joint pain ingested as a tea or used as an external rub. Birch extract administered topically is also effective in healing and protecting boils and sores. Its additional anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, and tonic actions have made the herb particularly useful in Traditional and modern Herbal medicine for: cystitis, catarrh of the bladder, kidney stones, urinary gravel, infections and irritability of the urinary system in general, gout, rheumatism, dropsy 

Consult with a doctor before introducing birch leaf into your routine if you are pregnant or breastfeeding, as there is not enough knowledge surrounding its use in these circumstances.  Those allergic to Wild Carrots, Mmugwort, Celery, and other spices could react to Birch pollen. Birch pollen may also induce allergic reactions to those sensitive to other plants such as apples, soybeans, hazelnuts, and peanuts. Side effects that have been reported with birch leaf medicines include: diarrhea, feeling or being sick, and allergic reactions such as itching, rash, and stuffy and runny nose, although this frequency is unknown. If you live with high blood pressure, speak with your health care provider before using Birch leaf. There is some concern that it may increase the amount of sodium your body retains, which can worsen your blood pressure over time.

Fresh birch tree sap is described as water-like, with hints of sweet flavors. It has a clear and uncolored appearance, similar to that of regular water. After a few days, Birch water ferments and starts to taste more acidic. Birch tree water is thinner than maple syrup. Its texture is often compared to that of coconut water, as it is somewhat silky. Many people believe that Birch sap provides several health benefits, from protecting against eye diseases to improving skin health. For this reason, it’s starting to become more trendy and available in the United States. Birch sap has been used cosmetically for centuries. Some people use it as a moisturizer, and it has been said to help keep skin protected from the sun. Due to the nutrition content of Birch juice, it is believed to promote health in several ways. There are also some reports of Birch juice being used to treat specific skin conditions, such as acne and eczema. Birch sap water’s potential to promote skin health is often attributed to its antioxidant content, which may help protect the skin against damage caused by inflammation. Birch juice has also been touted as a tool to strengthen hair growth and prevent baldness due to the amino acids that it provides. There is not any scientific evidence behind cosmetic uses of Birch sap water, but it’s worth a try if you want to add it to your beauty routine. You can use Birch sap water on its own for skin and hair care, but it’s also added as an ingredient to several types of skincare products. Perhaps the most important health benefit of Birch juice is its hydrating properties. It has been used historically as a diuretic, and claimed to have cleansing and detoxifying properties for this reason.

Despite its potential medicinal and nutritional uses, there is not any conclusive scientific evidence behind the use of Birch juice for these health ailments. More human studies are needed to confirm the potential health benefits of consuming birch tree water. With that being said, some animal and lab studies have shown birch tree water to have anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties, likely due to its content of antioxidants and health-promoting minerals. Although Birch tree water is unlikely to solve all of your health problems, it is generally safe to consume. Including it along with an otherwise healthy diet and lifestyle is certainly worth a try if you want to add it to your regimen. The nutrition profile of birch tree sap varies depending on the species of birch tree, in addition to environmental and anthropogenic factors. Generally, all variations of birch tree water contain a combination of several nutrients, including a small amount of sugar and amino acids. Birch tree sap is known to consist of up to a dozen minerals, which provide many important health benefits. Calcium and potassium are the minerals typically found in the highest amounts in Birch sap. One liter of Birch sap is predicted to contain at least 150 mg of calcium, potassium, and magnesium. In one study, a liter of Silver Birch tree sap provided up to 40% of daily requirements for copper, 17% for zinc, 2% for calcium, 4% for magnesium, and 0.04% for sodium. Another study found birch tree sap concentrations of manganese, phosphorus, and zinc to exceed 1 mg per liter. Despite its high mineral content, birch water is not rich in vitamins, although some birch tree species contain detectable amounts of folic acid in their birch water. Birch juice is low in calories and high in antioxidants. Birch trees located in areas with environmental stresses and grown in soil with high heavy metal concentrations may have higher antioxidant activity in their birch water.

Overall, Birch tree sap is a healthy beverage. It provides minerals and antioxidants, and has a refreshing sweet flavor. However, Birch water isn’t a miracle beverage. There is not any conclusive scientific evidence behind its health claims and use in folk medicine. It can contribute to your hydration needs due to its water content, but hasn’t been proven to prevent or cure any health ailments. With that being said, there are many anecdotal claims that consuming birch water provides many health benefits, from improving digestion to reducing pain. Birch water is generally safe for most people to drink, so adding it to an otherwise healthy diet and lifestyle is certainly worth a try. The most common way to consume Birch tree sap is by drinking it plain. However, there are many other ways that you can enjoy this nutritious liquid. For example, you can pour it your quiet blender to add it to smoothies for a nutrition and flavor boost. Some people use it in place of regular water to brew herbal teas. You can also add your own healthy spices and seasonings, such as Ginger and Turmeric, to Birch water to enhance the flavor. Birch tree sap can also be used to make syrup, vinegar, and alcoholic beverages such as wine and beer. Additionally, the clear liquid is sometimes used as an ingredient to make certain types of candy.

Although Birch tree water is becoming more widely available in the marketplace, it can be expensive. If you live in an area with birch trees, you can learn how to tap them for water which is quite easy to do and completely free. To collect Birch water, you’ll need to drill a hole into the trunk of a birch tree at an upward angle and lead the sap into a container with a tube or other type of conduit. Birch water has to be tapped at the right time of year before it becomes unpalatable. Springtime, when the temperatures are above freezing and before any green leaves have appeared, is the best time to collect birch juice from birch trees. You’ll also want to make sure the birch tree you collect birch water from is healthy and at least 10 inches round in diameter. Once you’ve finished collecting the birch water, it can be consumed immediately. You can store it in glass bottles or another type of container, and should keep it cold in the refrigerator. Birch water ferments quickly, so you should drink it within a few days of tapping if you want to enjoy it fresh. There have not been any reported negative effects from consuming birch tree sap. However, those with allergies to birch should avoid drinking it. Drinking excessive amounts of birch juice should be avoided. Birch trees in some areas may accumulate heavy metals, which can cause adverse health effects when consumed in high amounts. With that being said, birch tree water is resistant to toxic minerals, so it’s unlikely to contain unsafe levels of heavy metals. Additionally, due to its perishability, birch tree water should be consumed within 5-7 days of tapping. Consuming birch water after it has fermented can be unsafe for some people, especially for those with compromised immune systems. Birch sap, birch water or birch juice is the sap directly tapped from birch trees, Betula pubescens (white birch), Betula pendula (silver birch), Betula lenta, Betula papyrifera, and Betula fontinalis. Birch sap may be consumed both fresh and naturally fermented. When fresh, it is a clear and uncoloured liquid, often slightly sweet with a slightly silky texture. After two to three days, the sap starts fermenting and the taste becomes more acidic.

Birch sap is a traditional beverage in boreal and hemiboreal regions of the Northern Hemisphere as well as parts of northern China and Japan. Ancient Balts, Slavs and Finns regarded birch as one of their most sacred trees and made a traditional beverage from it. In Slavic regions the sap is known as birch juice as in Russia (Russian: берёзовый сок, romanized: byeryozovyi sok), Belarus (Belarusian: бярозавы сок, romanized: biarozavy sok, Byarozavik), Bulgaria (Bulgarian: брезов сок, romanized: brezov sok), Poland (Polish: sok z brzozy, oskoła), Ukraine (Ukrainian: березовий сік, romanized: berezovyi sik). Estonia (Estonian: kasemahl), Finland (Finnish: mahla), Latvia (Latvian: bērzu sula), Lithuania (Lithuanian: beržo sula, beržų sula). France, Scotland, Norway, Sweden (Swedish: björksav) and elsewhere in Northern Europe as well as parts of northern China and both Hokkaido and Aomori as parts of northern Japan. It is also widely used among the Pennsylvania Dutch, both as a traditional beverage in its own right, and particularly as a key ingredient in Birch beer.

Traditional Uses of Silver Birch:

  • Juice of the leaves, while they are young, or the distilled water of them, or the water that comes from the tree being bored with an auger, and distilled afterwards; any of these being drank for some days together can help to break the stone in the kidneys and bladder and is good also to wash sore mouths.
  • Bark is diuretic and laxative.
  • Oil obtained from the inner bark is astringent and is used in the treatment of various skin afflictions, especially eczema and psoriasis.
  • Bark is usually obtained from trees that have been felled for timber and can be distilled at any time of the year.
  • Inner bark is bitter and astringent; it is used in treating intermittent fevers.
  • Vernal sap is diuretic.
  • Buds are balsamic.
  • Young shoots and leaves secrete a resinous substance which has acid properties, when combined with alkalis it is a tonic laxative.
  • Leaves are anti-cholesterolemic and diuretic.
  • They also contain phytosides, which are effective germicides.
  • An infusion of the leaves is used in the treatment of gout, dropsy and rheumatism, and is recommended as a reliable solvent of kidney stones.
  • Decoction of the leaves and bark is used for bathing skin eruptions.
  • Moxa is made from the yellow fungous excrescences of the wood, which sometimes swell out of the fissures.
  • The German Commission E Monographs, a therapeutic guide to herbal medicine, approve Betula species for infections of the urinary tract, kidney and bladder stones, rheumatism.
  • It cures various Skin conditions like Eczema,Psoriasis and Skin Eruptions.
  • Oil extracted from the buds of the tree is used topically to cure Acne.
  • Birch leaves extract or decoction cures Baldness and also, used to treat insomnia.
  • It reduces the uric acid in the body when combined with garlic or onion.
  • The herb is used to cure Cramps and Wounds.
  • Decoction of bark is used to treat chronic Skin problems.
  • It also aids in the conditions of Diarrhea, Dysentery and Cholera.
  • Tea made up of the twigs and bark aids in ridding the mouth of the sores and Skin Eruptions as well.
  • It is an effective herb in removing Intestinal Worms.
  • Herbal tea prepared from Birch leaf is helpful in relieving Muscular pain.

Culinary Uses of Silver Birch:

  • Inner bark can be consumed cooked or dried and ground into a meal.
  • It can be added as a thickener to soups etc. or can be mixed with flour for making bread, biscuits etc.
  • Inner bark is generally only seen as a famine food, used when other forms of starch are not available or are in short supply.
  • Sap can be consumed raw or cooked.
  • Sap can makes a pleasant drink.
  • It is often concentrated into syrup by boiling off the water.
  • Sap can be fermented into a beer.
  • Young leaves can be consumed raw or cooked.
  • Tea is made from the leaves and another tea is made from the essential oil in the inner bark.

Other Uses of Silver Birch:

  • Bark is used to make drinking vessels, canoe skins, roofing tiles etc.
  • Tar-oil is obtained from the white bark in spring.
  • It has fungicidal properties and is also used as an insect repellent.
  • It makes a good shoe polish.
  • An essential oil is obtained from the bark called’Russian Leather’ has been used as a perfume.
  • Decoction of the inner bark is used to preserve cordage, it contains up to 16% tannin.
  • Oil similar to Wintergreen oil is obtained from the inner bark.
  • It is used medicinally and also makes a refreshing tea.
  • Resin glands are used to make a hair lotion.
  • Brown dye is obtained from the inner bark.
  • Glue is made from the sap.
  • Cordage can be made from the fibers of the inner bark.
  • This inner bark can also be separated into thin layers and used as a substitute for oiled paper.
  • Young branches are very flexible and are used to make whisks, besoms etc.
  • They are also used in thatching and to make wattles.
  • Leaves are a good addition to the compost heap,improving fermentation.
  • Wood is used for a wide range of purposes including furniture, tool handles, toys and carving.
  • High quality charcoal is obtained from the bark. It is used by artists, painters etc.
  • Wood is also pulped and used for making paper.
  • It is a fast growing tree, increasing by up to 1 meter a year, but is short-lived.
  • It can be used to improve soil quality for other plants to grow.
  • Bundles of birch twigs were used to drive out the spirits of the old year.
  • Gardeners still use the birch besom, or broom,to ‘purify’ their gardens.
  • Bark is used for tanning leather.
  • It is planted decoratively in parks and gardens and is used for forest products such as joinery timber, firewood, tanning,racecourse jumps and brooms.
  • Slabs of bark are used for making roof shingles and strips are used for handicrafts such as wooden footwear and small containers.
  • Dead twigs are also useful as kindling for outdoor fires.
  • The silver birch is the national tree of Finland.
  • It is commonly used as an ornamental plant for parks, gardens and urban environments.
  • Catkin contains hundreds of seeds and a large tree can produce over 1 million seeds a year.
  • Average maximum biological age of silver birch is approximately 100 years, although sometimes trees can survive up to the age of 150 years.
  • It is known to keep away insects and prevent gnat bites when smeared on the hands.
  • Wood has been used for thread bobbins,herring-barrel staves, broom handles and various fancy articles.
  • Twigs were also used in broom-making and in the manufacture of cloth.
  • Analgesic: The essential oil of Birch can be applied externally to relieve headache, menstrual cramps, abdominal cramps, gout, rheumatism and other pains.
  • Aphthous Ulcers: Boil the inner bark of Birch in some water. Use this water as a mouthwash.
  • Arthritis: Prepare infusion of 1 teaspoon of Birch bark and 1 teaspoon of Dandelion root. Add 1 slice of grated Ginger Root. Keep on low heat. Turn off the heat when it boils. Drink half a cup when it cools. Cautions: Do not use if you are sensitive to analgesic drugs.
  • Baldness: Decoction of the leaves can be used as a hair rinse.
  • Blood Purifier: Use One tablespoon inner bark of Birch with one cup boiling water. Take One cup daily.
  • Gallstones: Take Dandelion root, Milk Thistle, Birch Leaves and Stinging Nettle leaves in equal quantities. Make a tea by boiling all these herbs together and drink regularly to prevent gallstones.
  • Kidney Stones: Boil one tablespoon leaves of Birch in half cup water for 10 minutes. Let it stand for 2 hours. Add half tablespoon Baking Soda. Take One cup a day.
  • Kidney Tonic: Take 30 gram Solidago Virgaurea, 5 gram Horsetail, 10 gram Spiny Restharrow, 20 gram Birch Leaves and 30 ml alcohol. Put all herbs in alcohol. Leave it for 2 to 3 days. After that, strain the preparation. Your tincture has ready to use. Put 10 drops in 20 ml of water and drink. Do this daily. It takes little more time than allopathy medicine but your problem will be cured completely.
  • Septicemia: Take equal amount of Stinging Nettle Root, Horsetail leaves, Birch leaves, Dandelion leaves. Prepare a decoction. Take one cup once a day.
  • Urinary Tract Infections: Leaf tea of Birch is quite useful for Urinary Tract Infection. It can be prepared by boiling some leaves in a cup of water for 5-10 minutes. Drink unsweetened.
  • Wounds: Boil the bark in some water and use the liquid as a wash for wounds.
Health Benefits and Uses of Silver Birch