Diseases and effects: cholecystitis, angiocholecystitis, burn, eczema, psoriasis, scabies, dandruff, edema of cardiovascular origin.

Active substances: phenols, birch tar.

Collection time:  April – May

Birch family – Betulaceae\r

Traditionally, warty birch and downy birch, common in the western regions of the country, are considered as medicinal plants. More than 10 species of birches grow in the Far East, among which there are trees and shrubs. A detailed study of the medicinal value of all Far Eastern birches has not been carried out. Of the number of examined plants, flat-leaved birch (B. Platyphylla Sukacz.) and Manchurian birch (B. Mandshurica (Rgl.) Nakai) are included in the number of medicinal plants. The remaining species are used to a greater or lesser extent only in traditional medicine.\r

In medical practice, birch buds and, less often, leaves are used. In addition, birch tar is widely used. Diuretic and choleretic agents are prepared from birch buds, and, in addition, baths are used to treat certain skin diseases. Birch leaves are also used. According to E.Yu. Shassa (1952), back in the 19th century, it was proved that birch leaves have a diuretic effect in edema of cardiovascular origin. In some cases, under the influence of the product of birch buds, the daily urine output increased by more than 6 times (from 0.4 to 2.5 l). At the same time, there were no signs of kidney irritation: the protein content in the urine of the sick even decreased. These data, as well as the results of studies conducted at the Khabarovsk Medical Institute (Drake, 1960), testify to the significant value of birch as a source of mild diuretics. Apparently, birch products may be helpful for gout. The review by Gregorio (1964) contains, in particular, materials on such an effect of a decoction of birch leaves.\r

When testing a 20% alcohol tincture of birch buds, it was possible to confirm the data of traditional medicine on its therapeutic activity as a local remedy for burns, incipient bedsores, diaper rash, skin irritation with wound purulent discharge, etc. (Russian, 1944). An extract from birch buds proved to be useful as a means of preventing complications of occupational microtraumatism (Tachkova et al., 1967). Apparently, this effect is largely related to the antimicrobial activity of the product.\r

N.L. Mattison et al (1965) treated 75 patients with cholecystitis or angiocholecystitis by giving them 200 ml of birch leaf water every day. In 54 of these patients, Giardia was found in the bile. After 15-45 days of treatment, all patients noted a weakening or complete cessation of pain, the disappearance of belching, nausea and vomiting, normalization of bowel function, increased appetite, and the disappearance of lamblia from bile. Not all patients have sustained recovery. In this regard, birch bud products do not have any particular advantages over other drugs prescribed for cholecystitis. Their preference is determined by easy availability and extremely low toxicity.\r

Birch tar, containing a large number of phenols, is a strong antiseptic (antimicrobial) agent and is used for skin diseases: eczema, psoriasis, scabies, and all kinds of rashes and ulcers. It is part of Vishnevsky’s ointment, widely used in surgical practice, and Wilkinson’s ointment, used to treat scabies and some other skin diseases. Such treatment cannot be considered completely safe. With prolonged use of birch tar and ointments containing it, skin irritation may occur, and with eczema, the process sometimes aggravates.\r

A peculiar and rather effective way to combat dandruff is known, which consists in regularly washing your hair with birch infusion (for this, a birch broom is brewed in a basin of hot water, and then, after cooling the water to an acceptable temperature, they wash their hair with it).\r

Birch leaves are sometimes pointed to as an antiscorbutic because they contain a relatively high amount of vitamin C. Such materials should not be taken without a very serious reservation. The fact is that the need for wild-growing vitamin-bearing plants as sources of ascorbic acid (vitamin C) traditionally arises at a time when, in practice, only needles and young shoots of some coniferous trees can be used. Neither in summer nor in autumn, when wild-growing vitamin-bearing plants can be found literally at every step, scurvy (avitaminosis C) does not occur for obvious reasons.\r

Infusion of birch buds can be prepared in two ways. At the first of them, two tablespoons of kidneys are taken in a glass of water. After filtering, the resulting amount of infusion is drunk in two days: every day three times in equal portions. According to another method, 5 g of birch buds are boiled for 15 minutes in a glass of water, then insisted for an hour and, after straining, take half a glass four times every day after meals. Therefore, when using this prescription option, it is necessary to prepare two glasses of medicine per day.\r

With edema of cardiovascular origin, folk medicine sometimes uses an infusion of birch leaves. It is prepared like this: 20 g of leaves are brewed in a glass of boiling water and then infused in the same liquid for 4-5 hours. After straining, a little baking soda, sodium bicarbonate, is added to the infusion. Take it in half a glass twice every day.\r

Birch buds are harvested in spring: for flat-leaved birch – from mid-April to mid-May, for Manchurian birch – throughout May. Usually, branches are cut either from young low-growing trees, or from birches felled in cutting areas. The branches are kept under a canopy or in a barn for 4-5 weeks, after which they are peeled off by hand or knocked down dried buds. The buds, peeled from the branches, are dried at a moderate temperature in a well-ventilated area. When drying at elevated temperatures, a number of active substances volatilize. Therefore, you should not use any dryers and do not place the kidneys close to the iron roof heated by the sun.\r

Birch leaves are harvested by hand during flowering and dried in cool, well-ventilated areas.

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