Birch grows in the mountains of northern Spain and Europe and also in Canada, where it forms extensive woods, it is also present in other cold and mountainous areas of the American continent, generally preferring temperate zones. Birch is a slender, deciduous tree from the Betulaceae family. In the woods it is recognized by the whiteness of its bark, which comes off in thin sheets. The young branches are pendulous (hence the name Betulla pendula) and with small nodules or warts (from which the other scientific name of Betulla verrucosa derives). The same plant bears male and female flowers. The parts used are the leaves, the sap and the bark.
Birch leaves and buds contain mainly flavonoids, which give them a remarkable diuretic effect, bitter principles, catechic tannins and essential oil.
Birch leaves and buds help eliminate fluids believed to be in the body, especially in cases of renal or cardiac failure. Unlike other chemical diuretics, infusions of birch leaves do not cause the loss of large amounts of mineral salts with urine and do not irritate the tissues of the kidneys, on the contrary they are able to regenerate them, reduce inflammation and eliminate albumin with urine in cases of nephrosis and kidney failure.
Taking an herbal tea during the days before menstruation, the amount of urine increases and the swelling of the tissues decreases, especially in the legs, belly and breast.
The infusions of birch leaves and buds favor the elimination of the gravel through urine, prevent the formation of kidney stones and it has also been shown that sometimes they have been able to dissolve them. The infusion taken regularly has a beneficial effect both in relieving renal colic attacks and in avoiding the formation of stones.
Birch leaves and buds purify the blood of transported toxic substances, such as uric acid. Herbal teas are therefore beneficial in case of gout or arthritis.
Due to their purifying effect, the internal use of leaves and buds is indicated to cleanse the skin of impurities in the case of chronic eczema and cellulite.
For external use (in the form of compresses) the leaves and buds, due to their tannin content, exert an antiseptic and healing action on sores and wounds.
Birch bark such as willow and china bark has febrifuge properties and is taken in the form of a decoction to lower fever.
At the beginning of spring, before the leaves snack, sawing a branch or piercing the trunk, the birch can supply several liters of delicious sap every day, which has the same properties as the leaves and is also an excellent drink. In northern Europe, many farmers use it as a cosmetic to get a clean and clear skin like the bark of the tree.
Birch: Preparation and use
For internal use, the infusion is prepared with 20-50 grams of leaves and / or buds in 1 liter of water and can be drunk up to a liter a day, sweetening it with honey or cane sugar, because it is a little bitter. Adding 1 gram of baking soda increases its effectiveness, since its active ingredients dissolve better in an alkaline medium.
For the decoction it is necessary to boil 50-80 grams of bark in a liter of water, until the liquid is reduced to half, if they take 2 or 3 cups a day sweetened with honey. The sap is drunk diluted in water (50%) as a refreshing drink, being careful not to let it ferment.
For external use, make compresses by soaking the gauze or tablet in the same infusion for internal use.
If you are allergic to aspirin, taking birch is not recommended as the presence of salicylates may have side effects. Furthermore, it is not recommended for use by those suffering from renal and cardiac insufficiency, and those who show hypersensitivity towards one or more of its components. In pregnancy or during lactation it is better to avoid the use of birch because salicylates passing into breast milk could cause allergic reactions in the child.
The birch extract in cosmetics is indicated for the production of creams and lotions for the treatment of oily skins with a tendency to acne, while used in the form of shampoos it counteracts the formation of dandruff, normalizing the function of the scalp. Birch, due to its soothing properties, is an excellent ingredient to alleviate dermatitis. Birch oil is a natural cosmetic to fight cellulite. Applied twice a day, in the first two weeks of treatment, it leaves the skin soft and smooth to the touch.