The birch tree, belonging to the Betulaceae family, is a tree or a shrub of small size, with white bark, marked with fine, horizontal lines. The leaves contain saponin, a bitter substance, mucilage, procatechinic tannin, essential oil, betulin, saccharose, resins.
Useful part of the Birch: leaves, leaf buds, sap and inner bark.
Medicinal actions: Antibacterial, Febrifuge, Astringent, Diaphoretic, Bitter Tonic, Antirheumatic, Diuretic, Analgesic, Anthelmintic, Stimulant.
Medicinal uses: Birch bark is high in betulin and betulinic acid, phytochemicals which have potential as pharmaceuticals, and other chemicals which show promise as industrial lubricants. Birch bark can be soaked until moist in water, and then formed into a cast for a broken arm. The inner bark of birch can be ingested safely. In northern latitudes birch is considered to be the most important allergenic tree pollen, with an estimated 15-20% of hay fever sufferers sensitive to birch pollen grains.
Medicinal Effects and uses: Various parts of the tree have been applied to medicinal uses. The young shoots and leaves secrete a resinous substance having acid properties, which, combined with alkalies, is said to be a tonic laxative. The leaves have a peculiar, aromatic, agreeable odour and a bitter taste, and have been employed in the form of infusion (Birch Tea) in gout, rheumatism and dropsy, and recommended as a reliable solvent of stone in the kidneys. With the bark they resolve and resist putrefaction. A decoction of them is good for bathing skin eruptions, and is serviceable in dropsy.
The inner bark is bitter and astringent, and has been used in intermittent fevers. The oil is astringent, and is mainly employed for its curative effects in skin affections, especially eczema, but is also used for some Internal maladies. Moxa is made from the yellow, fungous excrescences of the wood, which sometimes swell out from the fissures. The vernal sap is diuretic.