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Copyright © 1990-2016 by Robert Dale Rogers. All rights reserved.

No portion of this book, except for a brief review, may be reproduced, or copied and transmitted, without permission of author. This book is for educational purposes only. The suggestions, recipes and historical information are not meant to replace a medical advisor. The author assumes no liability for unwise or unsafe usage by readers of this book.


PAPER BIRCH

(Betula papyrifera Marsh.)

 

WATER BIRCH

(B. occidentalis Hook.)

(B. fontinalis Sarg.)

 

BOG OR DWARF BIRCH

SCRUB BIRCH

(B. glandulosa Michx.)

(B. nana L.)

(B. nana var sibirica)

(B. nana L. ssp. exilis Sukatchev)

 

SWAMP BIRCH

(B. pumila L.)

(B. glandulifera [Regel] Butler)

(B. pumila var. glandulifera Regel)

 

SILVER BIRCH

EUROPEAN BIRCH

(B. pendula Roth)

 

 

PARTS USED - leaves, bark, twigs, resin, buds.


 
 
Meanwhile the old men went on
drinking mead and passed
the Birch Bark snuff box to and fro. 
PAN TADEUSZ
I was sitting on the lake and I took some bark off a birch tree.
If I light it, the beaver smells it. It is going to swim to me.
Even when we trap them, we put a piece of birch on the trap.
I nail it there and if the beaver smells that, it has to come to that trap.
So the best beaver food that I know of is birch.
VICTOR STEWART
 

Be joyous birch trees, be joyous green ones!

The maidens are coming to you, bringing you cakes, bread, and omelets.

OLD RUSSIAN SONG

Lay aside your cloak,

O Birch-Tree

Lay aside your white-skin wrapper.

LONGFELLOW


INTRODUCTION

Birch is most likely derived from Anglo-Saxon BIRK or BIRCHA meaning white or shining white. A more remote possibility is from the Sanskrit BHARG meaning shining or BHURGA meaning “a tree whose bark is used for writing upon”. The whiteness is due to tiny grains of betulin, mentioned below, found in the vacuole of bark cells. In the Himalayas, the birch is worshipped as a radiant white goddess whose vehicle is a white swan. Saraswati, the Indian goddess of healers, singers and scholars, corresponds with the Celtic Brigit.

Another remote possibility is from Latin BATUERE, “to strike”; referring to use of birch rods for punishment, or birching. This is based on driving out evil spirits and returning sanity to those who turn mad. Birch twigs were used to “beat the bounds” of a piece of land. In medieval times, birch rods were carried in front of the magistrate on way into court as a symbol of authority and means of correction.

Birch twigs were an ancient symbol of justice. Lectors in ancient Rome carried bundles tied with red cord to swear in new magistrates. A bunch of branches with an ax in the middle is known as FASCIS and considered a sign of the cleansing rule of law. Mussolini, Italy’s “Mr. Clean”, used this symbol for his fascist movement.

Betula is from the Celtic BETU, and may be related to the Anglo Saxon BEORGAN, meaning, “to protect or shelter”. BEITH is the first letter of the Druidic tree alphabet, and the sacred Beth of Cerridwen that represents beginnings and births. Beth, in Hebrew, denotes two in Kabbalah numerology. It stands for the power that “opens creation’s process of taking form”. Beth, beith and bith relay meanings such as world, existence and enduring. The association with birth is obvious.

The whiteness of bark suggested its connection with the White Goddess, who was both birth-giver and death-bringer in her Crone form as the carrion-eating white sow. The white bark denotes connection with the fairy realms. Brigid, the Irish goddess of returning light, is derived from the Sanskrit, BHEREG, meaning “wrapped in brilliance”.

The tree was dedicated to Thor, and in the Finnish epic, KALEVALA, the birch is designated a holy tree.

It means ‘pitch’, in reference to the bituminous content of the bark. The Romans glued their broken clay pots together with birch bark tar.

At a site in southern Sweden, an arrow was found with two microliths attached by birch resin. It softens when heated and hardens when cooled.

Why two front blades? The first, mounted on top, penetrated the hide, and the second, positioned on the side and just below, caused maximum internal hemorrhaging.

Papyrifera is Latin for paper bearing, from papyros (paper reed), and ferre (to bear).

Birch bark paper can be easily parted into ten or more layers or sheets.

This magnificent tree is sometimes given the title “Lady of the Woods”, and held in much honour by the Norse god Thor. It was sacred to the goddess of married love, Frigga, and goddess of love and fecundity, Freya. The Babylonians knew her as Ishtar, and the Egyptians, as Isis.

The 18th Nordic Rune, Beore is associated with birch. The German Rune, Berkana, or birch twig, was associated with fertility, motherhood, bosom and protection. The Rune shape is based on the Neolithic breasts of Mother Earth.

The Anglo Saxons associated birch with Eostre, the goddess of fertility and springtime, and the early derivative of Easter.

The ancient Celtic calendar has thirteen months- the first is associated with birch. This is fitting, as birch was the first tree to emerge after the last Ice Age some 13000 years ago. One site at Star Carr with birch bark rolls was occupied as far back as 7500 BC.

The outer rind of the bark, known in Gaelic as MEILLEAG, was used for making candles.

It is the cosmic tree of Celtic Shamanism, possibly due to its association with the hallucinogenic fungi, Amanita muscaria.

The Celts placed a conical birch hat on the dead for protection. In Scotland, a ballad sings of dead sons appearing to their mothers wearing birch hats. This meant they would not hang around as ghosts but move on to heaven or elsewhere.

In Wales, it is associated with the owl goddess Blodeuwedd, both loving and treacherous at the same time. This virgin goddess was created from nine types of flowers as a consort for Llew, the Welsh God of the Sky.

It was traditional for a Welsh girl accepting proposal of marriage, to send her suitor a wreath of birch leaves. If she declined, a wreath of hazel was sent instead.

Birch bark was used to decorate items in King Tut’s tomb in ancient Egypt.

It is the Flower Emblem of Estonia, and is used to decorate churches on Whit Sunday. Witches were said to prefer the bright white birch broomsticks, representing light. The birch broom sweeps out the spirit of the old year to make space for the new.

In ancient Greece, the birch called to Ariadne to impart the mysteries of birth and life to her worshippers.

Baby cradles were made of birch wood to protect them from fairies that would swap a baby for a changeling.

Slavic letters (Novgorod) written on birch bark were kept in the ground for a millennium. In Russia, just after Easter, farmers would choose a birch and dress it in female clothing, have a feast, after which it was cut down and carried home where it remained in the house for two days. On the third day it was removed and thrown in the river with its negative forces, thus ensuring a healthy crop.

The Cree of Alberta call it WASKWIYÎ, and used birch bark traditionally for baskets, canoes, bowls, and moose callers. Moose callers from rolled birch have been found in Mesolithic North American caves.

The fall wood is used for making snowshoes good for dry snow. When the snow is wet they absorb too much moisture and become too heavy.

Small diameter trees with bark left on, are ideal for files and other handles, as they do not split. Birch wood is used to make toboggans, drum frames, canoe paddles, and hide stretching racks.

Some canoes could be made from a single piece of birch bark, by folding and sewing it onto a frame of willow. A few canoes made by Athapaskans were so well constructed they could be dismantled and folded for portage.

A beautiful art form I like to collect is birch bark biting, created by biting very thin, folded layers. These are truly Mandalas of the northern woods, but quickly becoming a lost art. Birch bark is used as emergency eye protection from snow glare in winter, the natural slits, or lenticels in the bark allowing enough visibility, but cutting out the most extreme brightness.

Birch bark can be tightly wrapped and tied with dogbane twine as a wilderness torch. It burns intensely and bright, but you must be careful of dropping ash.

The plant signature of birch lies in its skin like layers of bark, indicating its affinity for human skin conditions.

The white rotten wood was boiled by Cree with labrador tea. This extract was dried and powdered and used as a dusting powder on chapped skin. The dry, powdered rotten wood was used for baby powder.

For gonorrhea, the buds were used, while for lung trouble, bark infusions were combined with hemlock (spruce).

The Secwepemc of BC steeped birch leaves in water as a shampoo, combined with children’s urine and alkali clay from certain lakes to make soap for washing skin. Various shampoos for thinning hair use birch extracts, including Prograine.

The white papery bark makes a pleasant tea with a faint caramel flavour.

The Blackfoot call it SI KO KI NI, and used paper birch for making bowls (rogans), utensils, and moose/elk calling cones. The Stl’atl’imx of British Columbia used birch bark funnels on food cache poles, so that rodents could not pass.

The Chipewyan call birch trees K’I. They made ceremonial rattles by bending a strip of birch wood into a figure “9”, and covering it with caribou hide and pebbles. This was called DELDHERE.

The leaves can be chewed and plastered on wasp stings. The buds can be mixed with lard, or goose fat for skin sores and infections.

The Cree of northern Manitoba collected birch bark from the east side of the tree, and boiled it with another plant for women who cannot conceive.

The Thompson of BC interior used paper birch, on the other hand, to prevent pregnancy. David Fischer in Albion’s Seed says the waterproof, pliable bark was used to make contraceptive diaphragms. Maybe.

The bark can be applied warm as a poultice for aching bones, or the outer bark can be steamed and peeled for thin sheets of bandage.

The reddish inner bark is boiled and the steam inhaled for asthma, or gargled for tonsillitis, sore throats and colds.

A sleeve of the bark, the rotted middle removed, makes an excellent cast for broken arms or legs, swollen limbs, or sprained ankles.

Birch bark sheets are soaked in water, wrapped tightly around the limb, and when heated by a fire, shrink to fit.

These sleeves have some value today to the florist trade for flower arrangements. Dr. Bob Carlson at U of Minnesota, Duluth noted how bark was slow to break down. A decade later, NaturNorth Technologies supplies betulin and betulinic acid to the cosmetic and pharmaceutical industries. Betulin is found in a few commercial cosmetics. Industrial and agricultural applications are also possible.

In Siberia, fossilized birch has been found with the bark still intact. 

The sweet summertime bark gives relief to a teething baby.

The Gwich’in of the Yukon, use birch root tea to wash eyes of those suffering snow blindness.

Birch sap is collected in spring from mature trees, and can be prepared as a syrup. On it’s own, birch sap is a rejuvenating springtime tonic, rich in vitamins and minerals. The Cree call the sap WASKWAYISKAW using it to cleanse the body after a winter diet of meat and fat. To preserve the sap for later use it was put into containers often made of birch bark and the surface covered with oil.

Today, it is fermented into beer, wine and vinegars in parts of Europe and Russia. In one year, some 14 million litres of birch sap are tapped and bottled. Birch wine, BERËZA, is very popular in Russia.

In China, birch juice is widely enjoyed, with birch syrup, birch cola, and birch honey peach products produced in Inner Mongolia.

Products such as Birch Haw Drink and Senhua Champagne are exported to South Korea and Hong Kong.

Sauer, in his Compendius Herbal, says birch sap rubbed on the ankles and hooves of horses with strengthen them. Natives fed it to their horses as a spring tonic.

In Poland, the sap is known as OSKOLA, and valued for blood- cleansing and maintaining hair growth. It is fermented into healthy vinegar.

In 1998, Alaskans tapped 40,000 gallons for further processing.

Alberta could be producing up to one million litres a year with an estimated value of $32 milllion. American Forests Magazine winter 2000.

This author has tapped and made birch syrup in the past. A large diameter tree will yield 20 litres of sap in one warm April day.

Birch trees attract various medicinal fungi, including Chaga (Inonotus obliquus), and Birch Polypore (Piptoporus betulinus). They require boiling to liberate polysaccharides, so one approach to creating a healthy product is to add one kilo of powdered Chaga to 40 litres of birch sap and reduce down to syrup. This will preserve the medicinal value in a tasty form for daily maintenance of your immune system. See my book, The Fungal Pharmacy: The Complete Guide to Medicinal Mushrooms and Lichens of North America for more information.

The birch catkins are useful. They are dried, ground up and burned into ash used as a leavening agent for bannock, or corn bread.

The Tsilhqot’in and other Athapaskans used flexible stems of Water Birch (B. occidentalis) to make baby-carrying frames.

Water Birch roots were decocted by the Nez Perce as general tonic, a steam for fevers, and taken internally for sore throats, stomachache and such.

Swamp Birch branches were placed amongst spruce boughs by the Gwich’in of the Mackenzie delta, to keep the flooring in tents fresh for longer.

The Dena’ina and others used the leafy branches of swamp birch for padding on the back, when carrying meat, or as an underlay for cutting meat and fish.

Swamp birch female cones were dried and burned on coals by Pillager people. This incense helped relieve catarrh and pulmonary complaints. A tisane from the same cones was used as after-birth tonic, or pain relief during painful menses.

Bog or shrub birch produce cones in the fall that were combined with labrador tea by the Cree of Alberta for pneumonia. The tree is known as APSTEWASKWEI, according to Cree healer Russell Willier.

The twig tips can be decocted to stop both internal and external bleeding. The Chipewyan call this shrub INTANBANDHAZE, “little round leaf”, and the Slave DI BILI DI YOSETI meaning, “spruce grouse eat”.

The name, Bog Birch, is unfortunate, as the shrub is rarely found in bogs, and more often indicative of fen-like situations, black spruce swamps, and alpine slopes.

Bog Birch produces cones in the fall, that are used in combination with Labrador tea leaves, for pneumonia, by the Cree of Alberta.

The fresh twigs are chewed and put on deep cuts to stop bleeding.

Other Cree say that the stems and leaves of Bog Birch can be boiled to make a weight loss tea.

Cattle enjoy grazing on the leaves and branches. Taxonomically, B. glandulosa, and B. nana, are both known as Dwarf Birch, but the latter is very small and has no resinous glands.

Swamp birch (B. pumila) cones can be set on low coals and inhaled for severe and chronic sinus inflammations. It is sometimes difficult to distinguish between bog and swamp Birch.

Generally, swamp Birch is taller, up to 2-3 metres, while scrub Birch may reach 150 cm. They both contain resin glands, but swamp birch leaves have a very distinct reddish tinge on the underside.

Dwarf Birch (B. glandulosa) is known to the Inuit of West Greenland as AVAALAQIAT, related to the word AVAAQ meaning “back of the head”. It was used for cooking and bedding in Nunavik, and making fishing spears.

The cones of B. pumila were heated over coals by Ojibwa as smoke for catarrhal patients. They brewed cone infusions during menses, or used the tea to give strength during or after childbirth.

The Fox tribe steeped the tiny cones as a tea for new mothers, or for difficult menstrual periods. Both cone and leaf tea help ease slow recovery from childbirth and prolonged menses associated with weakened and winter-tired women, according to Michael Moore.

Culpepper suggested that birch sap “is available to break the stone in the kidneys and bladder, and is good also to wash sore mouths.” This is likely due to the high magnesium content of the sap.

In 1999, Warren Bard, a commercial producer of birch syrup, finished 1,020 litres. “Within four or five years, we could be producing a million litres of syrup”, he says. When you consider that there are 10 million birch trees of tapping size in Alberta, he may be right.

The cosmetic industry uses birch for its hair growth stimulating properties. Both the isolated betulin and bark extracts are used in hair conditioners and shampoos. Finland has conducted research into betulin as a precursor in the manufacture of colophonium lacquers, and first-rate protective coatings with high water, chemical and biological resistance.

Betulin, and its semi-synthetic ester derivatives, are excellent emulsifiers for oil/water systems. Betulin was first identified in 1788, and is only recently being used medicinally.

Ester of betulin and fatty acids are used for both cosmetics and as plasticizers for PVC.

The inner bark may be ground and added to soups as a thickener.

Moxa, traditionally prepared from mugwort, is burned to activate acupuncture points on the body. Fungus growths on birch are collected and prepared in a similar manner.

The Russians use birch oil for repelling insects and curing leather. Birch charcoal is valued for use in gunpowder, and medicinal purpose.

Several herbalists have noted using birch posts at perimeter of composts heaps seems to encourage the fermentation process.

Scandinavians use wet birch twigs to gently whip the body in saunas. Some native tribes place birch bark on hot rocks in sweats. The twigs make excellent chewing sticks for those attempting to quit smoking tobacco. A US patent has been granted for a cellulite cream containing 6mM of betulinic acid, in combination with ascorbic acid.

The Swedish archeologist Bengt Nordqvist in 1993, found 9000 year old wads of birch gum resin used as chewing gum. The gum, complete with teeth marks, contains terpenes that may have been used in a manner similar to how coca leaves are chewed in Peru. The gum contains xylitol, a birch sugar mentioned below. Birch resins possess anti-tumor, antiviral, analgesic, astringent, diuretic, anti- bacterial and anti-malarial activity.

White birch is the provincial tree of Saskatchewan, a great choice in my opinion. It is interesting to note that a normal sized birch tree, with its 200,000 leaves, will transpire 4500 gallons of water in a single summer. Paper birch is official tree of New Hampshire.

The European White or Silver Birch (B. pendula) has been introduced to the prairies, and is hardy to zone 2. There is a beautiful specimen over 9 metres tall in town of High Prairie, planted in 1965. I lived in the area in early to late 1970s.

Birch has been shown to help degrade PCBs and PAHs in solution.

When paper birch trees are chewed by rabbits the new shoots produce secondary compounds that deter feeding. When an extract from these shoots is sprayed on control trees, feeding is deterred.

Myco-bacterium living in root systems protect the tree from birch borers.

Caterpillars eat birch leaves, to protect them from birds by tasting awful. Of course, the birch responds and is aware of the nibbling and will secrete a terpene into the air that wafts to predaceous insects waiting on the underside of the birch leaves letting them know supper is served. Nature always seeks balance.

The twigs of young birch trees are covered with tiny resin glands that disappear as the tree matures. Interesting work by John Bryant at U of Alaska relates the snowshoe hare cycle to food supply and chemical defenses by birch and other forage.

The Alaska paper birch increases its content of papyriferic acid by up to 25 times in winter to deter browsing by rabbits, moose and rodents. Reichardt et al, Oecolgia 1984 65. Birch seeds remain viable after 20 years’ immersion in fresh water.

MEDICINAL

CONSTITUENTS – B. papyrifera leaf- polyphenols (9%), saponins, hyperosides,tannins, campesterol, beta-sitosterol, alpha and beta amyrin, salicylic acid, methyl esters, gallics acid, betulin (C30H5O2) luteolin, quercitin, a whole range of bi- and tri-flavonoid procyanidins, xylitol, betulinic acid (C30H48O3-0.3%), sakuranetin, dammarane triter-penoid esters, essential oils, vit C and minerals. Dry leaf contains up to 23% protein. bark- betulin (10-30%), betulinic acid, lupeol, allobetulin, betulinic aldehyde, oleanolic acid, erythrodiol, ursolic acid. twig bark- (+)-catechin-7-beta-D-xylopyranoside. Total flavonoids average about 3% in young leaves. The seeds contain about 12% protein and 19% fat.

The sap contains 49% fructose, 35% glucose, and 15% sucrose. It contains 0.5-2% glycosides, and trace minerals particularly potassium 124.8 ppm, manganese 21.7 ppm, zinc 2.05 ppm, and magnesium 12.5%, as well as small amounts of copper, and iron. Spring sap contains myo-inositol, a sweetener used by animals and microorganisms as a growth factor.

B. pumila- paperyferic acid, deacetoxy-paperyferic acid, dammar-24-ene-12b-0- acetyl-20(S)-ol-3-one bud exudate- acacetin

Birch sap strengthens the immune system, and encourages our body’s ability to heal. It is a safe, general tonic for the body, and applied as a wash to eczema, or to the scalp to remove dandruff.

Birch leaves and buds can be used as hot infusion in the treatment of headaches and rheumatic pain. This is, in part, due to the anti- inflammatory effect of the methyl salicylate common, as well, to poplar and willow.

A tincture of birch buds was found to provide good results in 108 patients with purulent wounds. Zakharov et al, Vestn Khir Im I I Grek 1980 124:1 82-85.

The birch juice, derived from fresh leaves, is an efficient blood cleanser, with stimulating effect on the kidneys. It offers relief in the treatment of rheumatic and other swollen, inflamed conditions.

Birch sap is used in cosmetics for astringent action on skin, and could be added to soaps, shampoos, and balms for sore lips by creative manufacturers.

Birch leaf juice reduces the protein content of urine and promotes elimination of uric acid, a contributing factor in gout and kidney stone formation. Work by Havlik et al, J Ethnopharm 2010 132:2 identified birch high in xanthine oxidase activity.

Early herbalists attributed diuretic effect to betulin, a terpenic alcohol. Dr. Weiss noted although it is not a true diuretic, it seems to have the ability to remove purines from the body. This would certainly explain its excellent results in gout, water retention and other rheumatic conditions.

Hyperoside, a flavonoid, is today recognized as an important active principle. A high level of total flavonoids, however, is found in young leaves.

Studies conducted by Keinanen & Julkunen-Tiitto, J Ag Food Chem 1996 44 2724-27, indicate flavonoid glycosides of birch are highest in the fresh leaves, indicating a need for fresh plant juices or tinctures.

Quercitin glycosides from Betula help reduce inflammation caused by the production of hydro-peroxy fatty acids and leukotrienes from mast cells.

The young shoots and leaves are tonic and laxative.

Birch’s pain-relieving and anti-inflammatory effects are useful in joint pain, infections of the bladder and intestine, and mild biliary stasis. Combine birch leaf with uva ursi or pipsissewa for urinary problems, and willow bark for rheumatic conditions.

Birch leaf, bark, and bud, combined with nettle leaf provide a most synergistic combination for dissolving urinary stones and kidney pain.

Chronic, long-standing urinary stone deposits are softened and eliminated.

Flavonoids from birch leaves, especially quercitin, inhibit neutral metallo-endopeptidase (NEP), an enzyme responsible for the metabolism of the atrial natriuretic peptide, controlling the sodium excretion in the urine. Work by Melzig MF et al, Planta Medica 1998 64 65-7, showed inhibition of NEP and angiotensin converting enzymes (ACE) contribute to accelerated urine formation.

Goldenrod shows similar pathways, as a diuretic and make a nice combination.

Birch leaves contain a potassium/sodium ratio of 170:1 in decoction, suggesting another diuretic pathway.

Michael Moore writes. “A cup of tea a day will help wheezy and irritated bronchial mucosa during the winter, the kind of chronically impaired breathing you get from too much wood smoke, too much dry forced air…and general lung grunge.”

The wet, internal side of fresh birch bark gives quick external relief to rheumatic pain.

When decocted, fresh birch bark turns a beautiful rose colour. The water is strained and used as fomentation for skin rash, dermatitis, cradle cap, and elderly with paper-thin skin. Internally, when cooled, the inner bark decoction will help resolve boils. Taken cold, before bedtime, it will relieve night sweats.

Paper birch leaf shows activity against Staphylococcus aureus in work by Borchardt et al, J Med Plants Res 2008 2:5.

Birch bark shows activity against MRSA (methicillin resistant Staphylococcus aureus), Bacillus subtilis, Mycobacterium phlei, and Enterococcus faecalis. Omar et al, J Ethnopharm 2000 73 161-70.

Birch bark and yarrow combine well to treat neuralgia, and rheumatic pains.

When bark and leaves are combined, the tea is a mild sedative and diuretic, very good for the anxiety related to PMS, and calming sciatic pain.

Birch inflorescence possess thromboplastic activity; and provoke protection of the anti-coagulation systems. Kudriashov et al, Nauchnye Doki Vyss Shkoly Biol Nauki, 1986 4 58-61.

Birch buds combine with poplar buds to produce an oil or salve for numerous skin conditions. Excretions from birch buds contain acacetin, which inhibits lens aldose reductase, iodothyronine deiodinase, and histamine release. Acacetin-7-glucoronide is found in canada thistle, and acacetin-7-rutinoside in toadflax flowers. A flavonol, kaempferide, also found in birch and willow buds, inhibits inflammatory conditions.

Japanese white birch (B. platyphylla) root bark is used for cancer. It was first recommended in writing for mammary carcinoma about 937 AD.

European Birch (B. pendula) bark extracts provide gastro-protective activity against ulcer damage in Russian laboratory studies. Os’kina et al, Eksp Klin Farmakol 1999 62:4 37-9 found birch bark extracts stimulate mucus secretion, reduce stomach acidity by increasing the level of an alkaline component, and decrease levels of free hydrochloric acid.

Water extracts of leaf show diminishing proliferation of inflammatory lymphocytes, suggestive of benefit in rheumatoid arthritis and other auto-immune responses. Gründemann et al, J Ethnopharmacology 136:3.

Birch contains xylitol, which has been used as a sweetener since 1975, after Finnish research showed it reduced dental cavities.

Xylitol occurs naturally in various fruits and fibrous vegetables, and hardwoods like birch. It is produced by the human body during normal metabolism. At one time, in Russia, xylitol was used as a raw material for production of vitamin C.

Unlike six carbon sugars, xylitol is a five-carbon sugar that is not converted to acid by oral bacteria. It has 40% fewer calories and does not affect blood sugar fluctuations.

Xylitol is used commercially as a moisture-retaining agent in cosmetics, toothpastes, alkyd resins, surfactants and plasticizers.

Studies by Matti Uhari at University of Oulu, Finland have shown regular doses of xylitol in chewing gum, cut chronic ear infections in children by up to 50%.

Xylitol inhibits plaque and dental caries by 80%, relieves dry mouth, protects salivary protein, retards demineralization of tooth enamel, and reduces nasopharnyx and mouth infections. Vaccine 2000 19 144-7.

Xylitol helps reduce the acid damage to teeth of individuals suffering bulimia. A spray containing xylitol for sneezing allergies is on the market.

It appears to reverse bone loss, due to its ability to help calcium absorption. Sellman et al, Total Health, Sept-Oct 2002.

Four Japanese patents exist for xylobitol and related sugars from paper birch. Several others involve hair-loss preparations. Virtually unknown in Japan a few decades ago, over $400 million US per year is spent on products containing xylitol.

The bark contains betulinic acid, an active ingredient showing promise in treating melanoma in vitro and in vivo, with no toxic effect.

Betulinic acid is active against malignant brain tumours, and possesses anti-HIV, anti-inflammatory, anti-tumour, anti-viral and anti-carcinoma activity.

Betulin, the C28 alcohol precursor, may in the future, be incorporated into sunscreen, tanning lotions, shampoos and hair conditioners; or the treatment of skin cancers and precursors such as actinic keratoses.

Betulin derivatives are possible HIV antagonists. Sun et al, Journal of Medical Chemistry November 1998.

Betulinic acid is believed to down-regulate the mutant p53 suppressor gene responsible for allowing proliferation of oncogenes. Pisha et al, Natural Medicine 1995 1:10.

In other word, betulinic acid causes some tumour cells to self- destruct or commit self-programmed death, known as apoptosis. Fulda et al, Cancer Research 1997 57.

Cancer cells treated with betulinic acid showed enhanced mitochondrial membrane damage leading to apoptosis. Fulda et al, Int J Cancer 1999 82:3.

Recent work by the same author suggests use of betulinic acid against a variety of human cancer cell lines. Fulda et al, Mol Nutri Food Res 2009 53:1.

Rzeski et al, Nanyn Schm Arch Pharm 2006 374:1 found betulinic acid induced apoptosis in all the cancer cell lines tested.

Birch bark standardized extracts, 160 milligrams daily, were given to 42 patients with chronic hepatitis C for 12 weeks. Fatigue and abdominal pain were reduced six-fold and asparate aminotransferase decreased by 54%. Shikov et al, Phytomed 2011 18:10.

Birch bark has been found, in vivo, to possess anti-tumor activity against B16, sarcoma 180 and Lewis lung cancer cell lines. Han et al, Zhong Yao Cai 2000 23.

A patent has been given for topical treatment of metastatic melanoma of the skin, for a product of betulinic acid modified at its C-3 position. This appears to make the derived compound more water-soluble and bioactive for topical delivery. The inventors used the stem bark of Jujube (Ziziphus mauritiana), to convert betulin into betulinic acid.

The latter is an anti-tyrosinase agent and may affect melanin production associated with skin color. Nattapong et al, Nat Prod Res 2008 22:9.

Work by Takada et al, Journal Immunol 2003 171:6, found betulinic acid suppresses carcinogen-induced NF-kappa B activation through inhibition of 1 kappa B alpha kinase and p65 phosphorylation; as well as aborgation of cyclooxygenase-2 and matrix metallo-protease- 9.

Chung et al, Planta Medica 72:3 found betulinic acid inhibits DGAT, or diacyl-glycerol acyltransferase.

Betulinic acid shows activity against both herpes simplex and ECHO 6 virus. Pavlova et al, Fitoterapia 74:5.

Daniel Gaudet and Andre Pichette, from Chicoutami Quebec, filed a patent (US 6,280,778) in 1999 to prepare derivatives of betulin or lupeol from birch bark. Paper birch is preferred in their extraction due to the high content of betulin, up to 25% of dry bark weight.

This is not new, however, as the Russian academic Lovitts, obtained crystals of betulin from birch bark in 1788. Alder and Hazelnut bark contain betulin, albeit in much smaller amounts.

Work by Deryabin et al, Pharmaceuticals Mar 2004, looked at betulinol, a 72% betulin product, and its positive effect on hepatitis C cell culture; and mice infected with virus at therapeutic and prophylactic levels.

Laszczyk et al, Planta Med 2006 72 discovered a new triterpene extract containing betulin via a new extraction method that helps form an oleogel for topical application.

Betulin is poorly water soluble with somewhat weak pharmacokinetics. Allobetulin possesses moderate anti-cancer activity, but a re-arrangement of betulinic acid called 3-beta-0-alpha- D-mannopyrano-side is a potent cytotoxic substance against lung carcinoma and colorectal adeno-carcinoma cell lines. Thibeault et al, Bioorg Med Chem 2008 15:18.

Betulin and betulinic acid show promise in drug resistant cell lines such as pancreatic and gastric carcinomas. Drag et al, Molecules 2009 14:4.

Work by Soica et al, Nat Prod Res 2012 26:10 968-74 developed an extraction process that results in 50% betulin and 3% betulinic acid. Cytotoxicity against skin carcinoma A431, breast cancer MCF-7, and cervix adenocarcinoma HeLa cancer cell lines was observed.

Betulinic acid shows activity against various leukemia cancer cells lines including U937, HL60 and K562. Kumar et al, Phytomed 2009 August 13.

Lavoie et al, Phytochem Analys 18:4 reported on a low temperature extraction of betulinic acid and squalene from paper Birch.

The inner bark of paper birch contains 4 diarylheptanoid glycosides, flavonoids, chavicol glycosides and lignans. One compound, platyphylloside, possesses anti-cancer activity with an IC50 of 10.3 mM. Mshvildadze et al, Phytochem 68:20.

A paper in Journal Natural Products 2008 Dec 30 found bidesmosidic betulin saponin a potent cytotoxin with an IC50 of 1.8- 1.9 micrograms.

Work by Karlina et al, reported at 2010 symposium in St. Petersburg, found betulin in oil suspension peaks in the blood stream after two hours, and is down to 9% after 16 hours.

Betulin has been found to activate GABA(A) receptor sites, suggesting use in anxiety or depressive mental states. Muceniece et al, Pharm Biochem Behav 2008 June 3.

Work by Lee et al, Planta Med 2004 70 found betulin stimulates mucin release by directly acting on airway mucin secreting cells, suggesting use in chronic respiratory disease.

Betulin lowers cholesterol by blocking a pathway, and may help fight obesity and related metabolic disease. Betulin targets the sterol regulatory element binding proteins, a transcription factor important in expression of genes involved in cholesterol, fatty acids and triglycerides. Betulin made mice more sensitive to insulin. Tang et al, Cell Metabolism 2011 13:1 44-56.

Cyclodextrin-solubilized triterpenoid extracts from birch bark show activity against 42 human tumor cell lines at low dose. Anke Hertrampf et al, Planta Medica 78:9 881-9.

Let us recap. Betulin possesses anti-tumour, anti-viral, anti- depressant, hepato-protective, expectorant, anti-inflammatory, cholagogue and anti-malarial properties, while betulinic acid is anti- tumour, anti-bacterial, anti-protozoal, anti-viral and anti- inflammatory.

Birch inner bark has been applied traditionally to treat teenage acne, reducing the sebum production of skin pores.

Birch bark standardized extract ointments are effective in the treatment of actinic keratoses, in a study of 28 patients in a prospective, non-randomized pilot study. Half were treated with birch ointment and other half a combination of cryotherapy and ointment. Clearing of more than 75% of lesions was found in 79% of patients treated with birch bark ointment, and the combined therapy response was 93%. Huyke et al, J Dtsch Dermatol Ges 2006 4:2.

This follows anthroposophic medicine corresponding the dry, hard mineralized bark to human skin, as well as sclerosis. In Germany, doctors give subcutaneous injections of birch to stimulate the skin, but a hot tea will induce diaphoresis.

Betulinic acid possesses anti-tyrosinase, skin-whitening ability. Nattapong et al, Nat Prod Res 22:18.

Birch bark is rich in lupeol and related compounds.

Lupeol and its linoleate ester, has been found to reduce inflammatory conditions associated with arthritis.

One of its main uses, however, is for reducing calcium oxalate and phosphate stone formation that leads to kidney stones. Work by Vidya et al, Fitoterapia 71:5 found lupeol of great benefit in preventing crystal deposition and damage to kidney nephrons.

Lupeol is anti-oxidant, and in work by Saleem et al, Oncogene 2004 23:30 inhibits skin cancer in mice.

Lupeol reduces skin cancer cell proliferation, and inhibits hepatic carcinoma through apoptosis. Nigam et al, Biochem Biophys Res Comm 2009 Feb 14; Zhang et al, Cancer Invest2009 27:2.

Lupeol is a novel anti-proliferative and apoptosis agent with potential against prostate cancer. Prasad et al, Mol Carcinogen 2008 April 10; Nutr Cancer 2008 60:1.

Lupeol is similar to acetylsalicylic acid at dose of 100 mg/kg in rats and mice. Geetha et al, Fitoterapia1998 69.

Lupeol is found in small amounts in white cabbage and strawberries. Its great advantage is immense anti-inflammatory potential with no toxicity to normal cells. Saleem et al, Cancer Lett 2009 285:2.

Another product produced from birch is MSM, or methyl-sulfonyl- methane. Most of the MSM on the market today is synthetic, and used in arthritic and joint pain formulas. One company, Carolwood Corp. of Greenwood, Pennsylvania produces a natural form for those seeking plant-derived medicines.

The ash from birch is used in Finland to treat cancer. It originated in the Kalajoki River Valley in the late 1940s. It has failed to inhibit the growth of transplanted tumours in animal experiments, but is manufactured for sale and produced in homes.

Birch ash is sold in Finland under the name Betusan. Work by Skopinska-Rozewska et al, Pol J Vet Sci 2003 6:3 found arctic birch ash significantly diminished skin angiogenesis induced by tumor cells and growth.

Pokhilo et al, Chem Nat Prod 2008 44 287-91 showed birch bark and branches exhibit measurable anti-radical and anti-oxidant activity. Both water and ethanol extracts of B. papyrifera are activity against gram-positive bacteria.

The branches of paper birch show moderate anti-fungal and anti- bacterial activity. McCutcheon et al, J Ethnopharm 1994 44 and 1992 37.

Senechal et al, J Allergy Clin Immunol 1999 104 395-401, found 70% of patients allergic to birch pollen, also hypersensitive to fruits, especially apples. Some 16% of Swedes are allergic to birch pollen, posing a significant health risk.

Recent work by Sancho et al, J Ag Food Chem 2006 54 found allergies to fruit including apple, pear, cherry, and plum; vegetables such as celeriac, potato and carrot, and nuts such as hazelnut and walnut associated with birch pollen allergy.

 Charcoal, from birch and other hardwood trees, has great use in neutralizing ingested poisons, but does not work well with alcohol, caustic substances, iron or lithium overdose.

Charcoal has been shown in one study to lower total cholesterol, and harmful LDL levels, while raising beneficial HDL, when ingested as 7 grams three times daily for four weeks.

HOMEOPATHY

Birch is used in various homeopathic forms for gastritis and various issues involving catarrh. It is also indicated in scanty urine, where a reliable diuretic effect is indicated.

DOSE – The lower potencies are used, the mother tincture made from birch sap.

Carbo Veg (birch charcoal) is the remedy for incomplete digestion, and imperfect oxygen utilization in the body. Gas, bloating, chilliness, bluish skin, sluggishness, difficulty getting enough air, and lingering fevers all point to Carbo Veg as the remedy. Dairy foods like butter, fat and milk make the patient worse.

For cancer of the stomach where there is flatulence and the stomach feels full and tense with gas that causes more pain when lying down. Some improvement from elevating the feet; but symptoms are worse from sitting and eating. The patient has an adipose, flaccid body.

They are frequently lazy, tending to chronic disease, and overindulge in fatty foods, and alcohol. Buzzing bees in head, chirping locusts in ears. Vertigo, weighed down with anguish every afternoon from 4-6 pm. Anxiety of conscience with trembling and copious weeping, even before strangers on street.

Excessive irritation as if she were too much hurried or too much to do.

There is a fear of thunderstorms, and animals like birds, cats, dogs, lizards and reptiles.

DOSE – First to third potency in stomach disorders. The 30th potency and higher is used in more chronic conditions. The mother tincture is made from birch charcoal, according to specificity of Hahnemann. His proving on four males with 3c trituration was followed by proving on four female and 13 male provers with 1c, 2c and 3c triturations in 1876.

 

MATERIA POETICA

 

I was feeling quite exhausted And could not lift my hand A sluggishness befell me

I so longed to be fanned It felt like all the air Would thin and disappear I was truly apathetic

And nasty, so I hear And just before I fainted Chilled without a care

I burped from indigestion My tummy full of air

And when I slid onto the floor My pulse a losing beat

A sweat upon my forehead A chill upon my feet

I think that’s when you slipped me A dose of Carbo Veg

Thank goodness this was just acute A chronic case I’d dread.

- SYLVIA CHATROUX MD -

 

 

GEMMOTHERAPY

Birch bud (B. alba) macerate is a general tonic that increase the body’s own defense mechanism. It is also helpful for overcoming physical and psychological weakness and lack of strength.

Birch seed (B. verrucosa) is most useful for mental and emotional exhaustion. It is for those who intellectually overwork, and are in need of a nervous tonic.

Betula succus (B. verrucosa) is an anti-arthritic remedy. It is used to prevent and alleviate arthritis and gout. The removal of uric acid is notable, decreasing up to 50% in the blood in two or three months.

Birch Tree Bud (B. pubescens) reduces urea, cholesterol and uric acid from the body. It is complementary in various osteoarthritis and arteriosclerosis treatment, primarily by detoxifying the liver. Use when the real cause of condition cannot be determined for two weeks, so that other symptoms reveal themselves.

Birch sap (Seve de Bouleau) glycerite is used for helping maintain normal connective tissue

DOSE - Twenty drops of the 1D glycerin macerate three times daily.

 

ESSENTIAL OILS

 

BIRCH TAR

CONSTITUENTS - Cresol, Carbolic Acid, Dimethyl Phenols, Xylenol, Guaiacol, Pyrocatechol And Pyrobetulin.

Crude birch tar is extracted by slow dry distillation from the bark, and later steam distilled to produce brownish-yellow, clear oil with smoke and tar characteristics. Under the smoke and tar is a sweet oily note.

The crude oil was used in the manufacturing of leather; hence the name Russian leather scent. To perfumers, the sweet, oily leather notes are the non-phenolic components.

The steam distilled birch tar is sometimes alkali-washed free of phenols, and vacuum distilled, yielding a pale, straw- colored oil with maximum diffusive power.

It is used in ointments and lotions like cade oil (see Juniper), or to provide the leather-like tones in aftershaves, perfumes for a masculine scent. In skin problems, it is often used in zinc paste or ointments to treat eczema and other troublesome skin problems.

 

 

BIRCH BUD OIL

(B. papyrifera)

CONSTITUENTS – beta- carophyllene, alpha-betulenolacetate, betulol, alpha betulenol, betulene and 50 other sesquiterpene derivatives.

Birch bud oil is steam distilled from leaf buds. The yellow essential oil yield is highest in September and lowest in April. It is used mainly in hair tonics and shampoos and some cosmetics. Birch bud oil can be extracted from the paper birch of western North America, yielding from 3.5-4.0%. Collection of the leaf buds makes this a costly product.

The oil is used for its skin healing properties due in part to 29% beta caryophyllene.

Note the absence of methyl salicylate, which is present in the bark, and a dermal irritant.

Birch leaf oil has been found to possess strong anti-fungal activity against Fusarium, Cephalosporium and others.

An absolute can be made from the oil, by extraction of the essential oil with 80% alcohol, and then chilling the solution, filtering and then evaporating the extract under gentle vacuum. This “rectified product” is often used in hair tonics and shampoos.

 

 

BIRCH BARK OIL

(B. papyrifera)

CONSTITUENTS – methyl salicylate (> 90%), ethyl salicylate (5.5%), linalyl acetate (1%), linalool (1%), and cis-linalool oxide.

Birch bark oil is used in aromatherapy for its analgesic and anti- inflammatory properties. It is steam-distilled from the bark and twigs. Both are high in methyl salicylate that is dangerous, and toxic in large doses. Dr. Penoel suggests birch oil is an excellent anti- spasmodic used externally for sore muscles, painful joints, bursitis and other chronic inflammatory conditions.

It finds its way into shampoos and creams for oily skin and hair. It combines well with other oils for cellulite, edema and other stagnant lymphatic conditions.

The oil is produced by steam distillation after macerating the wood in warm water for twelve hours. Methyl salicylate is not present in the bark, but forms by enzymatic hydrolysis from the glycoside gaultherin.

Best yields are in summer, with the bark containing no oil, and nearly all the oil present in the inner layer of wood.

Almost all “birch oil” on the market today, is “touched up” methyl salicylate straight from the chemical factory.

Bog Birch (B. nana) leaves contain essential oils with unusual compounds, including 21% n-tricosane, and 16% n-pentacosane.

 

HYDROSOL

Some persons are accustomed to distilling birch sap. This birch water has received high praise as a remedy for cases of dropsy when mixed with elderberry water and administered frequently.

Used externally, birch water also removes rashes and spots caused by measles, clears the complexion, and heals scurvy of the mouth when applied as a mouthwash.          SAUER

Birch water is good for wounds and open sores.          BRUNSCHWIG

 

WAX

A nonionic surfactant is made from birch bark by grinding it with 14-16% sodium hydroxide, diluting with isopropanol, and recovery of first ingredient by centrifuge. The distillation of the alcohol precipitates betulin, yielding 250 kilograms from one ton of bark. Acidification precipitates a suberin complex with surfactant possibilities. Bark wax contains up to 43% suberin.

The outer bark of birch contains a wax with 12-14% steroids, the principle one being betulin, and amyrins. About 10% of pure betulin can be precipitated out, with a melting point of 251 degrees Celsius.

 

LEAF OIL

Take one part freshly wilted birch leaves and cover with five parts olive or canola oil. Place in sunny spot for two weeks, shaking daily, strain and repeat once more over fresh leaves. Strain, bottle and use as a rheumatic massage oil. If weather is cold use a low setting on crock pot for several hours.

 

SEED OIL

The seeds of contain oil with an iodine value of 83.6, and saponification value of 211.

 

 

FLOWER ESSENCES

Birch (male and female) flower essences are taken separately to ease relations between the sexes. They help development of caring in all relationships by encouraging dialogue. For male to male take the male essence only. The same for women. If taken by heterosexual partners, the male takes the female essence and vice versa.         PEGASUS

Paper birch (B. papyifera) flower essence is about removing old patterns of our past, so that we can once again see who we truly are.         ALASKA

Silver Birch (B. pendula) flower essence is the catalyst for balanced female energy. Physically this remedy will be used for healing the organs of reproduction. Emotionally and spiritually it will help with conception if there are mental or emotional blocks standing in the way. Metaphysically, it will assist with the conception of new ideas, and bring them forth into manifestation.

Silver Birch can also be used to eliminate power struggles in relationship.          PACIFIC

Chaga essence is for the emotionally constricted; where belief systems have sapped the energy and vitality of an individual. This may come from rigid religious worship, or the lasting impressions from childhood indoctrination. The essence is useful for promoting a more flexible approach to personal and spiritual rewards, and helps ease the suffering that often accompanies perceived betrayal or guilt associated with moving away from old patterns.          PRAIRIE DEVA

Essence of Birch is useful for those who find difficulty to express themselves. Associated with beauty and calmness, its vibration heightens tolerance of oneself and others.          GIFFORD

 

Birch flower essence tempers an overly-aggressive personality. It gives an overly masculine temperament an appreciation of its female aspects. Good for adolescents struggling with identity issues.        DARCY WILLIAMSON

 

SPIRITUAL PROPERTIES

The birch tree helps people to better appreciate beauty. By understanding and experiencing it, people are less inclined to judge. A herb tea of birch will help those who have difficulty with the judging of beauty. Often they feel they do not measure up to the external beauty they observe; and often have Virgo prominent in their chart.

The tree imparts calmness, helping those struggling with patterns of speech, or overcoming stuttering. The tree has the ability to shed its bark, as if showing us ways to release old patterns.         GURUDAS

The Paper Birch Deva increases the empathy for others, and the willingness to see another’s point of view. It aids in finding the common ground that brings you together.

Pride is often what keeps you from seeing another’s point of view, with difficulty accepting what is right for another person. The Paper Birch Deva helps one discover that focusing on winning and losing, you can sabotage the work that has been done in building trust.

Change often does not take place instantaneously, and so it is necessary to release your own expectations of what you hope will happen. Paper Birch will help this happen.          CHASE & PAWLIK

Gynecological problems in women may result from the emotional wounds that underlie past experiences, such as abortion, miscarriage, painful periods, etc. The birch helps us to acknowledge such problems and face them with a new attitude.                                                                                                                                                                        BOUCHARDON

But the BIYEEGA HOOLANH, or spiritual power, of the paper birch tree is more than a crude spiritual measure of economic value. Its diffuse, built-in, moral imperative prescribes the limits of human exploitation of a species. Because of their respect for the paper birch and its shared links with the Distant Time, the Koyukon observe sanctions that prohibit the inappropriate harvesting of birch bark in winter because this leaves the tree naked to the cold and will bring on frigid weather.          KNUDTSON & SUZUKI

PERSONALITY TRAITS

The white birch grows in northern climates in airy, light-filled groves. Birch pushes out the minerals taken up from the soil. They appear as “ash” in the characteristic white bark. The de-mineralized circulating liquid then rises to the leaves, giving them their youthful, light green appearance. Birch makes a wonderful spring tonic- it tends to dissolve and flush out residue.          MURPHY

Rudolf Steiner discerned a somewhat similar duality of process in the life of the birch. On the one hand, there is the concentration of vegetable proteins in the young leaves of the birch, the enfoldment of which in the spring he saw as a “vegetable reflection” of the processes at work in young human beings; on the other, there is a demineralization process- analogous to that which takes place at the level of the skin in man and woman- which results in the bark of the tree containing comparatively high concentrations of potassium salts.

The functional polarity between bark and young leaf, said Steiner, manifests itself in all trees, but is most marked in the birch.

As a consequence of this it is held remedies derived from birch bark which so efficiently carries out a vegetable de-mineralizing process, are often effective against the sclerotic, hardening, processes which, at the level of the skin, manifest as dry dermatoses such as psoriasis.

Conversely remedies derived from the young leaves of the tree may be prescribed…for the treatment of wet skin complaints such as weeping eczema.

Therefore birch bark extracts are not invariably administered to sufferers from sclerotic, dry skin dermatoses, or leaf extracts to those patients who have wet skin disorders.          KING

The birch tree symbolizes a fresh start and can bring courage and determination to those of us who are treading the path of spiritual growth and development for the first time…It teaches the lesson of unselfishness and of caring for the needs of others in ways that help them to flourish of their own accord.          GIFFORD

Birch is a cleansing name, full of light and purity. It is a name for one who deals well with children, the sick or the elderly. It is a name for a nurse, a teacher, a parent, a social worker, or one who seeks social or political change by gentle means.                                                                                                                                       MCFARLAND

There are woods that are antiviral in the Betulaceae or birch family. Aerosols from these trees would benefit prostate cancer, kidney dialysis, and organ transplant patients.  BERESFORD-KROEGER

Betulaceae’s special aptitude is to perceive the potential of prosperity and vitality in what appears to all others to be perpetually desolate, barren and discarded. Betulaceae are undeterred by harsh, depleted and adverse conditions. In fact, they even excel when having to work hard with few resources. These new endeavours seeking individuals explore new realms and embrace new beginnings as the world’s pioneers, trailblazers and groundbreakers…What distinguishes this family most is that they take the depleted and replenish it…Tough conditions toughen their resolve and resourcefulness. Their groundbreaking labour appears to be generous, caring and benevolent because it helps the less hearty or entrepreneurial to follow their successes with relative ease.

Sporting the scars of overcoming a harsh life, one experiences an inner transformation. The regeneration, cleansing and healing casts a lightness, serenity and grace equally renew as a springtime breeze.            VERMEULEN

There is the idea of rejuvenating power, of cleansing, blessing, comforting and healing. The idea of a child bringing joy into the life of the old and of a young person who brings life-force and a refreshing light into the life of the sick.

Betula seems to represent a young, female energy…In society, we find the image of the nurse who lightens the burdens of the sick and the old…Just like a nurse who will not bother the disabled person with her own complaints. She will hide herself behind her white apron and put on her professional smile. On a physical level we may expect Betula to be indicated in cases of loss of too much fluid, like polyuria or menorrhagia, with symptoms of weariness and depletion.     H. VAN DER ZEE

Roman warriors used equal length white birch rods tied together with leather straps to form bundles called fasces. Since the end of the Roman Empire, numerous governments and other authorities have used the image of the fasces as a symbol of power. The most notable example was the Italian fascist movement, which derives its name from the fasces.

Despite its recent unsavory associations, there are a surprising number of place having fasces symbols today. It can be seen in the President of the United States’ Oval Office above the door leading to the exterior walkway and above the corresponding door on the opposite wall which leads to the President’s private office. The fasces depicted have no axes. One of the most powerful embodiments of freedom, Abraham Lincoln sits in a chair comprised of fasces in his monument in Washington DC. The official seal of the United States Senate has a pair of crossed fasces.

This emblem remains on the front cover of French passports and as part of the French coat of arms. Both the Norwegian and Swedish Police have double fasces in their logos. The coat of arms of Ecuador and Cameroon, the flag of Columbia as well as the crests of several fraternities and political parties all contain fasces as symbols.

 

 

EMOTIONAL STATES

Birch people find it difficult to recover from the failure of a first love affair and have renounced sexuality for the intellect. Birch will help endow them with a great understanding of feelings and the heart, without being pedantic.          BORREL

MYTHS AND LEGENDS

The Penobscot Natives tell a story of a young maiden who was to marry one man, while loving another. In the weeks before the wedding she grew more and more despairing, and people sat and prayed with her to no avail.

Finally, the conjure man was sent, but she had already decided that death would be better. When she died it broke the spirit of the man she loved, and he too grew sick and died,

The conjure man felt sorry and made a gift to the couple, turning them both into birch trees, standing side by side. This is why, when you walk the woods, you’ll find birch trees growing together as a pair, and smaller ones clustered around, the children of lovers from long ago.          FERGUSON

A shepherdess sat at the edge of a grove of birch trees spinning flax into linen thread. Suddenly a strange women dressed in white appeared before her. “Do you like to dance?” she asked.

“I’d like to dance the whole day”, said the shepherdess, “but my mother has given me all this flax to spin”.

“Tomorrow is another day”, said the woman and away they whirled and danced.

This was repeated for several days, with the women waving her hands and spinning the flax into fine linen thread.

The days passed and one day after dancing the woman placed some golden birch leaves in the young girl’s apron, and then disappeared.

The girl returned home, gave her mom the thread and told her of the woman. “It was the wild woman of the birch wood”, exclaimed the mother. “She said my dancing pleased her and she gave me these birch leaves”, said the girl with a laugh. But when she emptied her pockets she found the leaves had turned to solid gold.          CZECH TALE

On a high hill grows a giant birch. The roots spread underground to surround the earth and the branches surround the heavens. At the base of the birch is a spring, roofed over with white sheets of birch bark. On the edge is a birch wood container. In this is a ladle of silvery birch bark. On the bottom of the ladle is a decoration of the sun and the moon. As the sun moves through the heavens, the ladle turns with it. They say that if you fill the container from the spring, and dip into it the ladle and drink deeply, you will live forever, as this is the water of life.          SIBERIAN LEGEND

RECIPES

BIRCH SAP - To collect sap it is necessary to drill a one centimeter hole, five centimeters deep on the south side of the tree. Drill into large trees only, at a slight upward angle. In Alberta, the sap flow can begin in early April to mid May.

Metal taps can be purchased, or you can use elder stems. Tap into place and attach five gallon buckets. In the height of harvest you may collect up to forty litres daily ( and up to 170 litres per season). This sap may be drunk fresh, or frozen or preserved for medicinal usage. For the latter, combine sap with 96% alcohol at 8:2 ratio.

Standard dose for diuretic and other benefit is 200-300 ml daily. 10th French Pharmacopoeia.

BIRCH SYRUP - Filter the sap through cheesecloth. Place in large pot on stove and bring to a boil. It creates a lot of humidity indoors and probably should be made outside. As soon as it thickens move to low heat. Be careful not to burn at final stage. At desired consistency bottle and store in refrigerator. Freeze any extra. It is tedious, taking up to 80 gallons of sap to produce one gallon of syrup.

BIRCH BEER - Take four gallons of sap and boil for ten minutes. Remove from heat and add one gallon honey. Put four quarts of birch budding twigs into this and allow to cool to 70 F. Strain into fermenting vessel and add yeast. Allow to work until fermentation is complete. Then bottle, by priming with 1/2 tsp sugar, and cap. Ready in 10-14 days.          BUHNER

A simpler recipe involves throwing a handful of corn into a jug of sap and allowing fermentation.

BIRCH SAP WINE - Take 12 parts birch sap and one part honey. Combine in a double boiler and heat to 40 C. Then add a muslin bag containing brewer’s yeast. Allow to ferment for two weeks at room temperature. Rack off and age for up to two years.

An excellent hair lotion for redheads and blondes is made by combining birch leaf and twig infusion, with one-tenth birch sap wine.

BIRCH TEA - Take a small handful of the fresh, young buds and leaves into 500 ml of boiling water and steep for twenty minutes. Drink 1-3 cups daily. Add one half tsp. of sodium bicarbonate to infusions for better effect.

BIRCH BARK DECOCTION - (for melanoma)- Bring litre of water to boil and add one heaping cup of birch shavings. Simmer four minutes, remove from heat and steep forty more. Drink 3 cups daily on empty stomach. Birch bark is most easily gathered in early spring when the sap is flowing, and close to a full moon.

TINCTURE - BEST FROM BUDS - One tsp three times daily. Make 1:5 tincture at 70% alcohol.

TINCTURE OF BUDS, LEAVES AND BARK -One tsp. three times daily. Make a fresh tincture of 3 parts leaf, two parts bud and one part birch bark by weight, combined with 20 parts of a 40% alcohol. Let sit for two weeks, strain.

An apple cider vinegar extraction of the fresh leaves is good for bone and immune health. Use same ratio as above.

BIRCH BARK POWDER CAPSULES - The bark is ground to a fine powder and capsuled in “00” size. Take two capsules up to 3 times daily.

BIRCH JUICE - may be made fresh or bought commercially. One tbsp three times daily.

BETULIN EXTRACTION - A 23% yield of betulin can be achieved with ultrasonic extraction of birch bark. Use 98% alcohol at a ratio of one part bark to 42 parts solvent at 50 degrees Celsius for three hours at 5kHz vibration.

 

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