Birch (Betula pendula, Betula pubescens, Betula alba)
Birch trees are found all over and they are known for their distinctive papery bark that peels off. The tree is small to medium sized, and they form catkins when they bloom. Today they are mostly planted as ornamental focal points in the landscape. Not many people realize that the leaves and bark are quite widely used in various herbal remedies but as can be seen below, it is very useful for treating a wide variety of common ailments.
Key Medicinal Uses
Internally Birch leaf tea was used as a spring tonic to provide much needed nutrients after a long winter. It is also a diuretic, useful for irrigation therapy, in conditions of inflammation of the bowel. It also control bacterial growth. The tea also prevents gravel of the urinary tract and it also addresses joint and bone complaints. It has good qualities when taken for hair loss and to purify the blood. A tincture made from leaf buds was effective at clearing up antibiotic-resistant infections.
The Native Americans used bark tea as a herbal remedy to relieve pain as it contains methyl salicylate, a natural aspirin. Studies have recently shown the bark of Betula alba to negatively affect cancerous skin cells. Birch can act as a gentle sedative, therefore it can help in cases of insomnia. It helps break down the buildup of uric acid that causes gout.
Externally Birch tea can be used on the skin to heal skin rashes and blemishes. Tea made from the bark is also effective against warts. Bark oil can be used on the skin. Poultices from crushed leaves can be used for bruises, wounds and burns. It is also useful for eczema and bleeding gums as well as for arthritis and rheumatism complaints.
Other Uses: The sap has been used in hair tonic and as shampoo.
Leaves & Bark The leaves and bark are the parts of the tree that are used medicinally. The leaves are made into tea and tincture, while the bark is extracted. Oil can be pressed from the bark.
There are no known contraindications for birch except in cases of edema caused by heart or kidney malfunction. Since the herb is a diuretic, be sure to drink enough fluid so you don't become dehydrated. If you are pregnant or nursing, let your caregiver prescribing birch know that you are taking it.
Preparation and Dosage
Unless prescribed differently by your herbalist, take 5 to 10 grams (about 5 to 10 level teaspoons) of powdered or cut leaves every day. Pour boiling water over the dried herbs and strain after 15 minutes. Birch leaf tea can be taken 3 to 4 times per day. If you are buying commercial herbal remedy preparations, follow the directions for use precisely.