Birch – Betulaceae.
Parts Used: Leaves, bark, juice.
Pharmacy name: birch leaves – Betulae folium (formerly: Folia Betulae), birch tar – Betulae pix (formerly: Fix Betulina), birch sap – Betulae liquor (formerly: Liquor Betulae).
Botanical description. I will save on the description of birches (their homeland is Europe), giving here only the differences between them. The drooping birch, or warty birch, is larger than the downy birch and, as a rule, prefers dry places. Its branches hang down and, when young, are covered with warty glands that form resin. The leaves are also larger. In the downy birch, on the contrary, the young branches are pubescent, and it grows in humid forests and swamps. Both types are used in medicine.
Collection and preparation. Young leaves are harvested in May-June and dried outdoors. Birch sap is extracted when it rises, in early spring, by cutting the bark and collecting the resulting sap in a tin collector. Another method is to drill holes in the trunk 1 to 5 cm deep, into which tubes are immediately inserted or grooves are made, and the juice flows down them into suspended collectors. Juice flows from each hole for about 10 days, while from 1 to 5 liters flows in one day, depending on the weather and temperature. Tar is extracted by the so-called dry distillation of tree bark. Birch bark is the most important raw material for tar; it is removed from the trunks and old branches, and then dried.
active ingredients. Flavonoids appear as active substances in the leaves, they are supplemented by numerous other substances (essential oil, bitterness, tannins, saponins, vitamin C, etc.). Birch sap contains invert sugar, organic acids, proteins and growth substances. Birch bark is rich in betulin (birch camphor), contains phytosterol, tannins, bitterness, essential oil, resins and other organic substances. Phenols (guaiacol, cresol, etc.) were found in the tar.
Healing action and application.Birch leaf tea is the best way to remove water from the body. It does not irritate the kidneys, but increases the formation of urine. Therefore, it is used for flushing the urinary tract, for bacterial inflammatory diseases associated with spastic phenomena, and is generally prescribed for kidney disease by both specialist urologists and general practitioners. The German National Health Service recommends using birch leaves to increase urine output in urolithiasis and other diseases that are characterized by water retention in the body (edema). This usually happens with heart disease and kidney failure. Whether a large amount of tea from birch leaves contributes to the release of salts (especially uric acid salt) – researchers have all sorts of opinions on this matter. However, the prevailing opinion
- Tea from birch leaves: 2 teaspoons topped with birch leaves pour 1/4 liter of boiling water and infuse for 10 minutes. Tea should be drunk warm. The correct dose is three cups a day. After the disappearance of edema, tea can be stopped.
In addition, birch leaves are used for numerous metabolic disorders, in preventive spring-autumn courses against rheumatism and gout. Ointments and rubbing are prepared from birch tar, which, however, are used mainly in veterinary medicine. They help with lichen and other skin diseases. Very rarely tar is used for rheumatism. Birch sap is known as a hair lotion. It is believed to prevent hair loss and dandruff formation. (In Russian scientific and folk medicine, birch buds are most widely used. Diaphoretic, diuretic and gastric drugs are prepared from them. – Note ed.)
Application in folk medicine. In Slavic and German folk beliefs, birch has a special role. Birch twigs for Trinity Day remind of this today. It is quite understandable that traditional medicine not only widely used birch, but also exaggerated its importance. Therefore, we should treat her recommendations with some caution: for example, birch sap is used for gastric colic, tar for abscesses, cracking and keratinization of the skin (ointment), and tea from leaves and bark is recommended for sugar disease. I advise you to take into account the spring salad of young birch leaves. Together with dandelion, watercress and other plants, it brings a healthy variety to the menu.
Side effects. With an overdose of tea from the leaves, no side effects were found. However, ingestion of undiluted birch sap is not recommended, and skin irritation is likely when using tar.