The Medicinal Herb Info site was created to help educate visitors about the often forgotten wisdom of the old ways of treating illnesses. Many of today's drugs and medicines were originally derived from natural ingredients, combinations of plants and other items found in nature.

We are not suggesting that you ignore the help of trained medical professionals, simply that you have additional options available for treating illnesses. Often the most effective treatment involves a responsible blend of both modern and traditional treatments.

We wish you peace and health!

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Birch

Scientific Names

Birch

Red Birch

  • Betula lenta L.

Black Birch

  • Betula nigra L.
  • Betulaceae
  • Birch family

Common Names

  • Black birch
  • Cherry birch
  • Mahogany birch
  • Mountain mahogany
  • Red Birch
  • Spice birch
  • Sweet birch

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Parts Usually Used

Inner bark, small twigs, and leaves
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Birch

Description of Plant(s) and Culture

Black birch is a tree (this is the common birch tree) that grows 60-80 feet high; the bark is brown when the tree is young, dark gray later, and is horizontally striped. Bark is non-peeling, sweet, aromatic. On old trees the bark is more irregularly broken. The ovate, pointed leaves, 6 inches long, occur alternately in pairs and are finely serrate. The flowers grow in inconspicuous male catkins about 3 inches long and female catkins about 1 inch long, the male appearing in the fall and the female the following spring. The fruits are oblong, upright, 3/4 inch long. The bark and small twigs have a flavor similar to wintergreen.

Other varieties: marsh birch (B. pubescens); silver birch (B. pendula); and B. verrucossa.
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Where Found

Found in rich woods; southern Quebec; southwestern Maine to northern Georgia, Alabama, north to eastern Ohio.
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Medicinal Properties

Anthelmintic, astringent, diuretic, stimulant, diaphoretic, aromatic
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Biochemical Information

Traces of essential oil (methyl salicylate), saponins, tannin, bitter principle, glycosides
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Legends, Myths and Stories

The inner bark of both these trees contains an oil which is identical in flavor with the wintergreen plant (Gaultheria procumbens).

In Slavic and Germanic tradition the birch tree was special. It was believed that by being whipped with a birch rod before sunrise on Easter Sunday, a person could barter for health, transferring diseases to the birch branches; witches were said to ride birch brooms at their gathering on the Brocken in the Walpurgis night.

At Pentecost and on Corpus Christi Day, house entrances are decorated with birch branches.

The birch rod is the rod of the saying, “spare the rod and spoil the child”.
Birch rods were used by the schoolmasters of old to correct children. It was used in old Roman days as the bundle of twigs and with axes born in like manner as an ensign, they declared the punishment for lesser, and greater offenses, to the people.
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Uses

Leaf tea is used for urinary problems and to expel intestinal worms. Inner bark tea used as mouthwash and taken internally for diarrhea, dysentery, cholera infantum, kidney stones, blood purifier, bowel problems, neuralgia, anti-inflammatory, muscle soreness and pain, gout, scrofula, rheumatism, and externally for sores, boils, canker sores in the mouth. An oil similar to oil of wintergreen can be distilled from the inner bark and twigs. Black birch sap (in springtime) is used for beer makings and flavorings. Used to make root beer. The tea is a pleasant drink in place of water for a time.
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Formulas or Dosages

Decoction: use 1 tsp. inner bark or leaves with 1 cup boiling water. Take 1-2 cups a day.

Tincture: A dose is 1/4 to 1/2 tsp., 3 times a day.
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How Sold

A type of oil of wintergreen
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Warning

Essential oil is toxic. Easily absorbed through the skin. Fatalities reported.

Birch leaves should not be used to treat edema (collections of fluids) resulting from reduced cardiac or renal (kidney) activity.
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Bibliography

Buy It! American Folk Medicine, by Clarence Meyer, Meyerbooks, publisher, PO Box 427, Glenwood, Illinois 60425, 1973

Buy It! Back to Eden, by Jethro Kloss; Back to Eden Publishing Co., Loma Linda, CA 92354, Original copyright 1939, revised edition 1994

Buy It! The Complete Medicinal Herbal, by Penelope Ody, Dorling Kindersley, Inc, 232 Madison Avenue, New York, NY 10016, First American Edition, copyright 1993

Buy It! Culpeper’s Complete Herbal & English Physician: Updated With 117 Modern Herbs, by Nicholas Culpeper, Meyerbooks, publisher, PO Box 427, Glenwood, Illinois 60425, 1990, (reprint of 1814)

Buy It! Eastern/Central Medicinal Plants, by Steven Foster and James A. Duke., Houghton Mifflin Company, 215 Park Avenue South, New York, NY 10000

Buy It! The Healing Plants, by Mannfried Pahlow, Barron’s Educational Series, Inc. 250 Wireless Blvd., Hauppauge, NY 11788, 1992

Herbal Recipes, by David C. Meyer, Meyerbooks, publisher, PO Box 427, Glenwood, Illinois 60425, copyright 1978, seventh printing, August 1996

Buy It! The Herbalist Almanac, by Clarence Meyer, Meyerbooks, publisher, PO Box 427, Glenwood, Illinois 60425, copyright 1988, fifth printing, 1994

Buy It! The Herb Book, by John Lust, Bantam Books, 666 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY. copyright 1974.

Buy It! How Indians Use Wild Plants for Food, Medicine & Crafts, by Frances Densmore, Dover Publications, Inc., 180 Varick Street, New York, NY 10014, first printed by the United States Government Printing Office, Washington, in 1928, this Dover edition 1974

Buy It! Indian Herbalogy of North America, by Alma R. Hutchens, Shambala Publications, Inc., Horticultural Hall, 300 Massachusetts Avenue, Boston, Massachusetts 02115, 1973

Buy It! Indian Uses of Native Plants, by Edith Van Allen Murphey, Meyerbooks, publisher, PO Box 427, Glenwood, Illinois 60425, copyright 1958, print 1990

Buy It! Planetary Herbology, by Michael Tierra, C.A., N.D., O.M.D., Lotus Press, PO Box 325, Twin Lakes. WI 53181., Copyright 1988, published 1992

Buy It! The Yoga of Herbs: An Ayurvedic Guide to Herbal Medicine, by Dr. David Frawley & Dr. Vasant Lad, Lotus Press, Twin Lakes, Wisconsin, Second edition, 1988.

Buy It! Webster’s New World Dictionary, Third College Edition, Victoria Neufeldt, Editor in Chief, New World Dictionaries: A Division of Simon & Schuster, Inc., 15 Columbus Circle, New York, NY 10023

Buy It! The Rodale Herb Book: How to Use, Grow, and Buy Nature’s Miracle Plants (An Organic gardening and farming book), edited by William H. Hylton, Rodale Press, Inc. Emmaus, PA, 18049., 1974

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