Birch, Common (Betula alba)
Other common names: Monoecia triandria, white birch, Betula pendula alba, B. pubescens, B. verrucosa
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Actions: Anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, cholagogue, fungicide, diuretic, anti-carcinogenic, anti-tumour, astringent, diaphoretic, antilithic, tonic to the skin, hair and bones, alterative.
Harvest: Bark is best taken in spring or summer, sap is taken in early spring, and the leaves can be harvested between spring and fall (they are the most potent in May). Research appropriate harvesting methods for sap and bark – there is a right and wrong way, and it is important in order to minimize damage to the tree.
Part used: Leaves, bark, sap
Methyl salicylates, glucose, fructose, betulorentic acid, tannic acid, betulin, glycosides, bitters, saponins, flavonoids, volatile oils, resins, betuls camphor, triterpenes, terpenoids, vitamin C and ursolic acid, among others.
Used to treat fever, pain, inflammation, gout, swelling, bacterial, fungal and viral infections, skin conditions, bone injuries, urinary tract infections, rheumatism, and dropsy. It has shown promise for reducing tumour size, preventing cancer and breaking down kidney and gallstones (consult with a doctor first). It has been used for centuries to purify the blood.
Bark, leaves and sap can be used to make internal preparations – teas, syrups, lozenges and others.
The bark can be decocted and used externally, and the sap and leaves can be used to make topical salves, poultices etc. Putting a handful of the leaves into a bath can be helpful for arthritis and other painful conditions.
Do not take if you are allergic to NSAID drugs or any other salicylate herbs. Do not take with water pills, and consult with a doctor before using with any pharmaceuticals. Do not use if you have high blood pressure. If you suffer from compromised kidney or liver function, gallstones or kidney stones, talk to a doctor before using birch to treat these conditions. Stop taking two weeks prior to undergoing surgery.
Some people develop a particular allergy to a protein found in birch pollen (typically they are also allergic to apples, where that protein is found as well), called birch-apple syndrome.
I suggest consulting a pharmacist or physician before starting any herbal supplement if you are taking a prescription medication or have serious underlying health concerns.
Birch purifies the earth around it energetically, so people used to plant it in areas that they wanted to cleanse and make sacred. It has calm, structured energy and can help ground those who are working with it. It is associated with beginnings and endings…used in Beltane celebrations, and at Samhain. It has been affiliated with Hecate and the underworld, assisting in communicating with spirits from other realms. It has been used to make cribs due to its protective reputation, and a home with birch trees around it was considered to be a safe haven. Druids and fae folk consider it to be extremely sacred.
Disclaimer: The information on this website is intended as general education on herbs and is not intended to take the place of medical care. Please consult a health care professional before embarking on any health regime.