Betula pendula (Betula alba)
Silver birch, warty birch
Birch trees are a beautiful and common tree throughout Scotland, being mainly the White birch and Silver Birch. They are easily identified by the bright, striking, often peeling bark and small vivid green leaves. They grow in woodlands in light soils.
The chopped leaf.
Birch leaves can be used to make wine and herbal teas. The tree can also be tapped in the early Spring for its watery semi-sweet sap, which can be evaporated to create a syrup, made into birch beer or birch sap wine, and drunk plain or fermented as a health drink.
Use 1 teaspoon of dried herb to one cup of boiling water to make a tasty tea. Infuse for 5-10 minutes. Sweeten with honey or lemon to taste.
Alternatively add half a teaspoon (2.5 ml) of tincture to a cup of warm water for a quick alternative to tea.
The herb can be added as a flavouring to gin, vodka and other infusions.
The essential oil extracted from birch 'tar' (the late sap) has a very strong, smoky scent reminiscent of coal tar and was traditionally used in medicinal soaps to treat eczema. The bark is also traditionally used as a light-brown plant dye.
Birch is used as a food supplement as it may help to support the urinary system. It is a popular plant in traditional bitters formulas.
Supports the treatment of rheumatic organic complaints; flushing treatment for inflammation of the urinary tracts. The active agents of birch flush out the urinary tracts. A treatment with juice from fresh birch leaves is recommended for those with a susceptibility to renal stones. The juice also helps to soothe rheumatic complaints.
Key actions: Bitter, astringent, cholagogue, diuretic, laxative, anti-inflammatory.
In clinic: Herbalists use this herb to treat rheumatism and kidney stones.
If you are interested in the medicinal use of this herb please consult a herbalist. Herbs are generally used at medicinal strength, in blends, prescribed for each unique patient's condition.
Infusion: 1 teaspoon of herb to a cup of cold water. Pour boiling water over the herb and leave to infuse for 5 to 10 minutes. Flavour with lemon, ginger or honey if desired. Drink 3 times a day unless otherwise told by a medical herbalist.
Tincture: Take 5 ml (1:3 in 25% tincture), 3 times a day or as directed by a practitioner.
This herb is considered safe in food amounts. Do not take if you are allergic to this plant or other members of this plant's family (Betulaceae). Not all herbs are suitable in pregnancy, breastfeeding or for young children. If in doubt, please ask us or your medical herbalist.
Plant extracts cause few side effects when taken correctly but if a side effect is experienced please contact us.
Interactions with drugs
Herbal remedies and supplements can interact with medicines. If you are taking medication please check with your medical practitioner, or call us, before taking herbs, supplements and medication together.
In early history it was used to make food containers, taking advantage of its highly antifungal, antimicrobial and antibacterial qualities to keep food fresh.
The outer bark was used to make an early form of paper. Its dry, easily peeled bark also makes it attractive kindling when trying to start a fire (although please don't!). It also has a history of use in drums, musical instruments and speakers as it has a great range of frequency resonance.
In the Scottish highlands, birch timber was often used for its lightweight strength and flexibility to make roof frames for the shielings while the twigs were used to make ropes and brooms. These qualities also lent it for use in building light boats and canoes.
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