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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Paper Birch

Scientific Names

Paper Birch

  • Betula alba L.
  • Betulaceae
  • Birch family

Common Names

  • Canoe birch
  • Cherry birch
  • Hua-mu
  • Mountain mahogany
  • Paper birch
  • Spice birch
  • Sweet birch
  • White birch

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Parts Usually Used

Young leaves, inner bark, leaf buds
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Paper Birch

Description of Plant(s) and Culture

White birch is a tree grows to a height of 65 feet; it has chalky white bark which can be peeled off in horizontal strips. Its leaves are cordate, bright green above and lighter beneath, serrate, and glabrous or minutely hairy. The flowers are borne in yellowish male and gray-green female catkins. When the male catkins turn yellow with pollen, the green female catkins enlarge to produce numerous two-winged seeds, developing into seed cones. Flowers seen in April-May.
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Where Found

Found growing in the northern United States, Canada, and the northern part of Europe. Upland woods, often in pure stands, from Labrador to Alaska, near the northern limit for trees, south to North Carolina and Colorado, in mountains in the south of its range.
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Medicinal Properties

Astringent, diuretic, diaphoretic
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Biochemical Information

Saponins, traces of essential oil, tannin, bitter principle, glycosides
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Legends, Myths and Stories

The inner bark contains an oil which is identical in flavor with that of the wintergreen plant (Gaultheria procumbens). A wholesome wintergreen-flavored tea may be made by pouring boiling water or boiling birch sap over diced pieces of the inner birch bark or birch twigs and letting it steep for a few minutes.

According to legend, Christ was beaten with birch rods. The fasces, a bound bundle of birch sticks enclosing an axe with the blade projecting, were carried by Roman soldiers in advance of emperors or important officials. These fasces symbolized the state’s power to punish by flogging (the birch sticks) or by putting to death (the axe).

Birch wood has been used for furniture, wooden spoons, tool handles, and broomsticks. Witches on Walpurgis Night were said to have ridden on broomsticks made of birch. Native Americans used the water-resistant birch bark for their canoes and wigwams.

To the people of northern Europe, the birch was a sacred tree. In the Kalevala, a Finnish epic, the birch is designated as a holy tree of great use to mankind. The Germanic peoples dedicated it to their god of thunder, Thor.
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Uses

The leaf tea is reported to eliminate gravel and dissolve kidney stones when taken daily for a time, 1 to 1 1/2 cups a day. A decoction of the leaves is sometimes recommended for baldness; or try the fresh expressed juice. Mild sedative. Use a wash or bath additive for chronic or severe skin problems. The inner bark contains an oil which is sometimes substituted for wintergreen in liniment. Relieves headaches, menstrual cramps, abdominal cramps, gout, dropsy, acne, eczema, pruritis, rheumatism pains, diarrhea, colic, colitis, and dysentery. The liquid from boiling bark can be used to wash sores and wounds, boils, expels worms. Sap can be taken as a spring tonic or used as a hair tonic.

Beer is often made from the sap of sweet birch. A type of oil of wintergreen is distilled from the inner bark and twigs.
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Formulas or Dosages

The leaves must be used fresh.

Infusion: use 1 tbsp. leaves with 1/2 cup water.

Decoction: use 1 tbsp. leaves with 1/2 cup water. Boil briefly, let stand for 2 hours, then add 1/2 tsp. bicarbonate of soda. Take up to 1 cup a day.

Expressed juice: take 1 tsp. at a time, as required.
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Bibliography

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

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 Nature Doctor: A Manual of Traditional and Complementary Medicine, by Dr. H.C.A. Vogel; Keats Publishing, Inc., 27 Pine Street (Box 876) New Canaan, CT. 06840-0876. Copyright Verlag A. Vogel, Teufen (AR) Switzerland 1952, 1991

Buy It! Chinese Medicinal Herbs, compiled by Shih-Chen Li, Georgetown Press, San Francisco, California, 1973.

Herbal Gardening, compiled by The Robison York State Herb Garden, Cornell Plantations, Matthaei Botanical Gardens of the University of Michigan, University of California Botanical Garden, Berkeley., Pantheon Books, Knopf Publishing Group, New York, 1994, first edition

Buy It!The Magic of Herbs, by David Conway, published by Jonathan Cape, Thirty Bedford Square, London, England. (Out of print)

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

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

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! 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! An Instant Guide to Medicinal Plants, by Pamela Forey and Ruth Lindsay, Crescent Books (January 27, 1992).

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

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

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