Common names: white birch, silver birch or warty birch
Birch species belong to the birch (Betulaceae) family. It is a tree that requires lots of sunlight, grows rapidly, reaching a height of 15-20 m. The young trees have white barks, rare leaves, older ones have drooping branches. The roughly triangular leaves have long petioles with doubly serrate margins and are arranged alternately. Male flowers form umbels of three and bloom in April-May, before the leaves appear. Female catkins are shorter and they can be found at the end of the young twigs. The fruits are winged small samaras with one seed.
It is a species widespread throughout the entire Europe. The area of distribution extends to 70 degrees northern latitude but also to Asia and North Africa. In our country, the plant prefers the acid soils in hill- and mountain areas.
Nordic people (the Sámi, the Vikings) frequently used birch due to of its healing properties. Native Americans used the tree sap to purify their blood, leaves to treat joint and kidney problems and bark for skin diseases. Hildegard of Bingen was the first to mention the wound-healing properties of the catkins. An Italian script dating back to 1565 states that birch helps to dissolve kidney stones.
The drug is found in the healthy, fresh leaves (Betulae folium), picked directly from the tree, which do not lose their colour during drying. Fallen leaves should never be collected. The sap of the tree (birch sap) shall be collected before the leaves appear.
Birch leaves contain flavonoids (hyperoside, myricetin), essential oils, saponins, tannins and resins.
Birch leaf tea can treat the bacterial infections of the urinary tract, regulates kidney function, has diuretic effects and prevents the formation of kidney stones and sand. It is also used in tea blends which clean the bladder and kidneys. It can also be used in spring detoxification cures due to its purifying effects. It reduce uric acid and blood cholesterol levels. It is also known for its beneficial effects against rheumatism, gout and joint diseases. The sap of young stems removes kidney stones. The concentrate obtained by dry distillation of birch wood is used after purification as a component of dermatological products treating eczema or psoriasis. The alcoholic extract is an ingredient of hair care products.
Tea: pour 2 dl of boiling water over 1 teaspoon of dried chopped birch leaves, allow to infuse for 10-15 minutes then strain it. 3-4 cups of tea are recommended daily. It has diuretic, anti-inflammatory effects and purifies the blood. It is not recommended for those suffering from heart or kidney failure! After washing, rinsing the hair with birch tea may prevent or stop hair loss.
Bath: 1 litre of water is mixed with 4-5 fistful birch leaves, the mixture is left for fifteen minutes and then strained, after which it can be added to the bath water. It can treat acne.
Birch sap or birch water is used for detoxification, against arthritis, hair loss and dandruff. For tapping, choose young, well-developed trees. The tree is suitable for tapping, if, after breaking a branch, sap is flowing out of it. On can drink up to 100-200 grams of freshly-tapped sap until it becomes increasingly dilute and watery.