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Birch Sweet

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  • Botanical: Betula lenta
  • Family: Betulaceae
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Birch Sweet

Botanical

Betula lenta

Family

Betulaceae

Known as

Betula alba, Black Birch, Cherry Birch, Mahogany Birch, Spice Birch, Maibaum, Frühlingsbaum, Besenbaum, Besenbirke, Bork, Bark, Hexenbesen, Hängebirke, Moorbirke, Rauhbirke, Sandbirke, Warzenbirke, Weissbirke

Old Use

culinary and medicinal use

Collection Times

Leaf buds: March, Juice: March - May, Leaves: May - June

Parts Used

leaves, sprout

Aroma

sweet

Medicinal

abdominal pain, antiseptic, bronchitis, bronchitis, colic, coughs, fever, gastrointestinal, infections, infections intestinal, neuralgia, urinary infections, tapeworms

Heart & Circulation

blood cleansing

Infection & Inflammation

fever, infections, infections intestinal, pyelonephritis, throat infections

Muscle & Joints

gout, joint inflammation, rheumatism

Respiratory System

cough, throat infections

Stomach & Intestinal

diabetes, diarrhea, kidney stones, tapeworms

Skin & Hair

allergies, eczema, hair loss, lichens

Properties

analgesic, antispasmodic, anti inflammatory, astringent, diaphoretic, diuretic, rubefacient, stimulant

Description

It is a  A medium sized tree with a single straight trunk reaching up to 60 feet tall.

Leaf: Alternate, simple, pinnately-veined, ovate, with an acute tip and cordate base, singly or irregularly doubly, sharply serrate margins, 2 to 4 inches long, petiole is stout and pubescent, dark shiny green above, paler below.

Flower: Species is monoecious; preformed, green male catkins near the end of the twig, 3/4 to 1 inch long; females are upright, 1/2 to 3/4 inch long, green tinged in red, appear or elongate (males) in mid-spring.
Fruit: Cone-like aggregate, brown, 1 to 1 1/2 inches long, scales hairless or nearly so, containing very small 2-winged nutlets, ripen and break apart in late summer and fall.
Twig: Twigs are slender, reddish brown and lenticellate with a wintergreen smell when cut. On older trees, spur shoots are apparent. Terminal buds are absent, lateral buds two toned, green and brown.
Bark: Reddish brown to black on young trees, later gray to nearly black; eventually breaking up into large, thin, irregular, scaly plates.

Properties & Uses

Other then medicinal use:

An essential oil is obtained from the bark and twigs, it is distilled in quantity and is an item of commerce. It can be used medicinally, as a food flavouring, as an ingredient in cosmetic shampoos and also to make a wholesome tea. The oil, when decolourized, is similar to 'Oil of Wintergreen' (obtained from Gaultheria procumbens) and is considered to be of superior quality. The tree is coppiced every 5 years and all parts are distilled for the oil. The tree grows up to 3 metres tall in this 5 year period. The greatest yield of oil is obtained if the tree is harvested in the summer. The oil distilled from the wood is insect repellent.l The bark contains up to 16% tannin. The thin outer bark is waterproof and has been used as the outer cladding on dwellings, canoes etc. It has also been used to make baskets, dishes, buckets etc. Wood - very strong, close grained, hard, heavy. The wood is richly marked, it weighs 40lb per cubic foot and is exploited commercially for making floors, furniture, tools etc. It makes an excellent fuel

Traditional Use

The bark is anthelmintic, astringent, diaphoretic, diuretic and stimulant. A tea made from the bark is used in the treatment of fevers, stomach aches and lung ailments, it is said to be an excellent tonic in cases of dysentery and to be useful in the treatment of gravel and female obstructions. An essential oil distilled from the bark is anti-inflammatory, analgesic and rubefacient. It is used in the treatment of rheumatism, bladder infections, neuralgia etc. The oil, called 'oil of wintergreen', used to be produced commercially, but it is now manufactured synthetically. A tea made from the twigs is used in the treatment of fevers. The leaves can be chewed or used in an infusion in the treatment of dysentery. The German Commission E Monographs, a therapeutic guide to herbal medicine, approve Betula species for infections of the urinary tract, kidney and bladder stones, rheumatism

Cautions

The essential oil obtained from the bark contains 97 - 99% methyl salicylate. This is very toxic when taken orally, and it can also be absorbed through the skin, resulting in human fatalities. As little as 4, 700 mg can be fatal in children. The aromatic and aliphatic hydrocarbons in birch tar are irritating to the skin. Do not use in patients with oedema or with poor kidney or heart functions

Distribution

Eastern North America - Quebec to Georgia, west to Alberta and Ohio.

Constituents

Essential oils, tannins, bitter compounds, vitamin C, resin, saponins, flavones