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Birch – The Miraculous tree









Birch is one of the most recognisable trees. Its white and black tree bark makes it recognisable from a long distance. Due to the components it contains, such as flavonoids, salicylic acid, tannins, vetsulin and a lot of vitamin C; birch is considered a healing plant. The flavonoids are connected to many healing procedures. They help with the fight against viruses and bacteria, they lower arterial blood pressure and they optimise blood circulation. Tannins, with their bitter taste, help with digestion and contain the growth of bacteria, muci and viruses. The great concentration of vitamin C helps, as we know, with the immune system.

Phytotherapy is the first form of medicine applied by people and instinctively by animals. Archaeological research has placed phytotherapy in the last ice age with evidence of its existence found to be more than 12000 years old. In ethnobotany, it is believed that the similarities of the use of the various kinds of birch and other medicinal plants from traditional phytotherapy in North America, Siberia and Russia are a result of the common ancestry of the finn-hungarian, turk, mongol and indian from the area of Northern Asia during the last ice age. Specifically, we’re talking about the use of birch to lower fever and tackle illnesses in the kidneys, the urine bladder, the breathing canal and the skin. These applications either result from common ancestry, or, unlikely, every one of those ancestries developed the same techniques.

Uses of birch in today’s herbal medicine

Birch is used to help with tackling numerous health issues:

    • cleans the blood and the liver,
    • diuretic
    • digestion problems
    • black circles underneath the eyes
    • cystitis
    • kidney failure
    • kidney stones
    • rheumatism
    • feet fungi
    • menstruation related issues
    • breastfeeding
    • child tooth development 
    • mouth health and teeth health in general
    • swelling
    • skin problems
    • eczema
    • lichen
    • allergies
    • diabetes (to support with the treatment of light cases)
    • coughing
    • hair loss
    • dandruff
    • diarrhea
    • spring fatigue

The uses of Birch:

1. Birch flowers have a mild taste, like a dried nut and they look like linseeds and thus can be used in various ways in cooking. Fresh birch leaves have a mildly bitter taste, but can be used in many food recipes.

2. Birch seasoning in place of salt: Birch leaves, along with various other seasonings can be used in order to reduce salt consumption. In the regard, birch dried leaves can be grinded by hand or in a pot and seldomly added, like with salt, in food.

3. Birch sugar (xylitol): For the production of sugar from birch , birch wood is used. Unfortunately it is unclear for most of the products found in shops if the sugar comes from natural birch or the cheapest artificial one. Birch wood, after being grinded, soaked and processed only gives 25kg of birch sugar in crystal form. This makes birch sugar a more expensive but a healthier alternative to common sugar. Compared to common sugar, birch sugar has many advantages: it contains 40% less calories and can be used to prevent tooth decay, since it can’t be metabolised by the bacteria that cause it. It is also suitable for diabetics and it also creates a much milder sugar addiction than common sugar.

4. Birch Juice: In the old days, for the Germanic people, birch juice was considered an elixir of beauty and medicine for improving sexual function for men. Today it is sold in pharmacies and health food shops for its detoxifying and diuretic action.

5. Healing Birch tea from leaves and flower buds: The tea has great detoxifying and diuretic action which are very welcome during the spring, while at the same time improving the mood. Birch tea helps the kidneys exhume liquids so that the skin does not have to. This was we can limit skin problems such as acne, psoriasis, and difficulties with healing wounds. Birch leaf extracts can also be used with compresses or in the bath to cope with rheumatism, gout and cellulite .


6. Shampoo, masks and hair lotion: Birch leaves are suitable for natural hair care since , in combination with an alkaline based diet they can reduce hair loss. Shampoo, masks and hair lotion from birch make sure we are clean by natural means and help with the hematosis, removing dandruff and any remaining smegma on the hairy part of the head, a fact that helps hair roots absorb inorganic matter.

We can find recipes for beautiful, thick hair in Maria Treben’s work. She has provided us with a recipe for a birch lotion. For the production of the lotion she used equal parts of birch juice and 40 degree alcohol which she would but in a bottle and shake thoroughly. The mixture is then used for a daily light massage on the head. This made the hair thick and bright. For good hair growth Maria Treben gave the following treatment: Take a handful of leaves from nettle, birch, elderberry (sambucus), walnut tree and a small branch of chelidonium; and put them in 5 litres of cold water and heat them without letting the mixture boil. After that leave the mixture to drain for a few minutes and use half of it to wash the hair. Then wash again with clean water and then wash again with the other half of the mixture without using clean water so that the mixture can dry on the hair and take effect.

Therapeutic use of birch in three cultures

Indians in North America, Germanic botanic medicine and China have all been using the various kinds of birch the same way for centuries now to tackle inflammatory ailments, skin problems and illnesses connected to the kidneys and the urine bladder. There are other similarities, but the aforementioned are the most definitive. The folk medicinal tradition of the Indians of North America uses additional concoctions from birch for digestive issues and issues with the liver and the gull, something that is also very common in Germanic botany; while the use of birch to cope with jaundice was also common in China. To conclude, birch was also used in North America by the indegenous people to cope with women-related illnesses, such as the ones linked to menstruation.

Use of birch in skin conditions

Skin problems with itchiness: They boiled the bark of blonde birch combined with other plants and used the mixture on the skin.

They used ash from burnt birch wood to treat scabies and aphthous stomatitis and other skin problems.

Ointments for eczema, fungi, allergies, parasites and wounds: According to Heinz- Josef Stammel’s notes, after boiling birch wood and bark in water they extracted an oil that was the basis of the ointment. This ointment could be used against allergic or parasitic eczema. The red birch flowers (B; occidentalis) were boiled and mixed with sulfur. After that the mixture was applied in ointment form on fungi or open wound inflammations.: Από ξύλο και φλοιό σημύδας (σύμφωνα με τις σημειώσεις του HeinzJosef Stammel, βράζοντάς τα σε νερό) έπαιρναν ένα έλαιο που το χρησιμοποιούσαν ως βάση αλοιφής. Η αλοιφή αυτή εφαρμοζόταν σε αλλεργικά και παρασιτικά εκζέματα. Τα άνθη της κόκκινης σημύδας (Boccidentalis) βράζονταν και αναμειγνύονταν με θειάφι. Στη συνέχεια, το μείγμα εφάρμοζαν με μορφή αλοιφής σε μυκητιάσεις και φλεγμονές ανοικτών τραυμάτων. 

Ως πούδρα για βρέφη και σε δερματίτιδες: Το αλεσμένο ξύλο σημύδας της παπυροφόρου χρησιμοποιούνταν ως βρεφική πούδρα για την προστασία από εκζέματα και εξανθήματα. Ο φλοιός σημύδας της παπυροφόρου χρησιμοποιούνταν στον ερεθισμένο ποπό του μωρού και σε άλλους ερεθισμούς του δέρματος. Επίσης, από το φλοιό της σημύδας της παπυροφόρου αναμεμειγμένο με πίσσα και λίπος παρασκεύαζαν μια αλοιφή για δερματικά εξανθήματα. Έβραζαν τον εσωτερικό φλοιό της σημύδας και έκαναν πλύσεις του δέρματος στα σημεία που αυτό είχε προσβληθεί. 

Πληγές: Αφέψημα από νεαρά φύλλα σημύδας χρησιμοποιούνταν –είτε με λήψη από το στόμα είτε εξωτερικά– σε εγκαύματα και άλλα τραύματα. Θεωρούσαν ότι το αφέψημα είχε αντισηπτική, αντιφλεγμονώδη και αναπλαστική δράση.

A mush of the outer bark of paper birch was used with compresses to treat burns. In this case they boiled the bark until it softened. Furthermore, they mashed boiled birch bark between two rocks until it melted and then they applied it as an ointment on wounds that have been infected or swollen to ease the pain, to treat or prevent infection and accelerate healing. The mashed boiled birch wood was also used for scrapes. The juice extracted during the spring by drilling through birch wood, especially black birch, was used to treat burns, wounds with pus and skin ulcer.

Diseases of the digestive system

Ulcer and stomach cramps: : Dust from the roots of the paper birch that are near the earth’s surface or bark from its roots heated up in maple syrup was used for stomach cramps. Healing properties that affect the stomach were also attributed to a brew from black birch, or from birch flower buds, which they took multiple times per day.

For stomach pain and digestion problems they boiled dwarf birch either alone or combined with other plants.

Hemorrhoids: To treat them they boiled bark from gray birch (Betula populifolia).

Παθήσεις των αναπνευστικών οδών και των πνευμόνων
Κρυολογήματα και πυρετός: Αφεψήματα σημύδας, ή σημύδας και άλλων φυτών, έπιναν σε κρυολογήματα και στον πυρετό. Ο τρυφερός εσωτερικός φλοιός θρυμματιζόταν και μουλιαζόταν σε ζεστό νερό. Στη συνέχειαέπιναν το αφέψημαΕπίσης, σε κρυολογήματα και για το βήχα έπιναν χυμό που έπαιρναν την άνοιξη από τον κορμό της σημύδας της παπυροφόρου. 

For chronic nasal infections and infections of the upper respiratory system they placed birch seeds on the ashes of a fire that was put out recently and inhaled the smoke that came from it having great results.

Πνευμονία, φυματίωση και άλλες πνευμονικές παθήσεις: Σε αυτές τις πνευμονικές παθήσεις έπιναν ζεστό ή κρύο αφέψημα από φλοιό σημύδας.
Για την πρόληψη και αντιμετώπιση πνευμονικών παθήσεων εισέπνεαν επίσης αναθυμιάσεις από ξύλο σημύδας που έκαιγαν κατά τη διάρκεια λουτρών εφίδρωσης. Στην πνευμονική φυματίωση, την πνευμονία και τη βρογχίτιδα έκαναν δύο φορές την ημέρα ένα λουτρό εφίδρωσης, διάρκειας μίας ώρας, και ταυτόχρονα έπιναν κρύο αφέψημα από φλοιό σημύδας με μικρές γουλιές. Θεωρούσαν ότι αυτό είχε βέβαιο θεραπευτικό αποτέλεσμαΓενικά για να απολυμάνουν τον αέρα, για παράδειγμα σε περίπτωση επιδημιών, έκαιγαν μικρά κομμάτια από ξύλο σημύδας σε φωτιά μέσα στο χώρο στον οποίο βρίσκονταν.

Stones in the kidneys or the urinary bladder, pain during urination, gout, sexual incompetence

Θολά ούρα, δυσκολία στην ούρηση: Σε θαμπά ή θολά ούρα έπιναν αφέψημα από φλοιό σημύδας. 
Πέτρες στα νεφρά ή στην ουροδόχο κύστη, λοιμώξεις της ουροδόχου κύστης, ποδάγρα: Για αυτές τις παθήσεις έπιναν αφέψημα από μικρά φύλλα σημύδας ή εσωτερικό φλοιό της ξανθής σημύδας μουλιασμένο σε ζεστό νερό μαζί με σιρόπι σφενδάμου. Ο φλοιός χρησιμοποιούνταν επίσης στις πέτρες στα νεφρά και στην ουροδόχο κύστη, αλλά και στην ποδάγρα

Purifying the blood and the liver

Για τον καθαρισμό του αίματος έβραζαν φλοιό, είτε μόνο του είτε μαζί με άλλα φυτά. Αυτό πίστευαν ότι θεράπευε και αιματολογικές παθήσεις. Αφέψημα από μπουμπούκια σημύδας έπιναν για τον καθαρισμό του ήπατος.  
Αναζωογονητική εαρινή κούρα με φύλλα σημύδας ή αφέψημα από φλοιό σημύδας: Η δράση που είχε το αφέψημα από μικρά, τρυφερά φύλλα σημύδας έχει περιγραφεί ως διουρητική, αντισηπτική, εφιδρωτική, αντιφλεγμονώδης, αντιπυρετική, ανανεωτική αλλά και ότι ενισχύει το μεταβολισμό.

Therapeutic action in gynecology

For breastfeeding: To be able to provide enough milk for their children, mothers drank a brew they made by boiling wood from paper birch. The brew from birch bark or wood was also used as a treatment for the pain of menstruation.
After labor: Ashes from the burnt bark of the paper- birch were used to help with the regeneration of the womb after labor. A brew from the fruit of the american birch Betula pumila was consumed as a tonic during menstruation and after labor.
Contraception: Flowers and leaves of the red birch were tied into two seperate stacks during the fertile days. Afterwards, in case of delays in the menstruation cycle the boiled them and drank the brew to cause a misscarriage.

Discomfort in the musculoskeletal system

Pain in the limbs, back pain: To treat these kinds of pain they drank a brew from paper birch wood , which was thought to ease pain in general.

Other uses

Birch bark and birch leaves brew: The brew made out of equal parts birch bark and birch leaves (1tablespoon for each cup of hot water) was consumed because it was thought to have the following properties: antipyretic, analgetic, anticonvulsive (mainly for kidney stones), diuretic, hemodyalitic and antiseptic. It was also considered to help with treating gout as a mild vermifuge.
Salad oil rich in vitamin C: from young treebarks of the golden birch tree and the paper birch tree they extracted an oil that they added as a healthy seasoning for vegetables, salad and drinks. They knew that it was very rich in vitamin

Salicylic Methacrylate: In North America, in times past, they extracted from the red birch tree and the <>, that is rich in Salicylic Methacrylate, a substance similar to aspirin with comparable effects. The indigenous healers of North America knew about the healing properties of this oil and administered it in small doses to patients that suffered from hardening of the arteries. They also used it for headaches, toothache, gout , rheumatism but also externally to fight skin parasites and disinfect wounds.