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Common Birch General Information
The name is a very ancient one, probably derived from the Sanskrit, “bhurga”, meaning “a tree whose bark is used for writing upon.” It has also been used in boat building and roofing. Coleridge (English romantic poet 1772-1834) speaks of it as the 'Lady of the Woods.' It is remarkable for its lightness, grace, and elegance, and after rain it has a fragrant odor. The young branches are of a rich red brown or orange brown, and the trunk is usually white. The white, outside of the bark, is separable into thin layers, which may be employed as a substitute for oiled paper. The wood is soft and not very durable and the tree is able to thrive in any situation and soil. This tree grows all over Europe and is used for many humble purposes, such as bobbins for thread mills, herring-barrel staves, broom handles, and various fancy articles. In country districts the Birch has very many uses, the lighter twigs are used for thatching and for the making of fences, walls and roofs (wattles). The twigs are also used in broom making and in the manufacture of cloth. This tree is also cultivated all over North America and Asia south to the Himalayas. There are about 40 species of Birch that are known.

The bark of Birch trees contains oil, which is identical in flavor to the wintergreen plant. The odor of Russian leather is due to the Birch Oil/Tar. It likewise imparts durability to leather, and its presence on books bound in Russian leather makes these books resistant to mold. The production of Birch Tar oil is a Russian industry of considerable importance. It is also distilled in Holland and Germany, but these oils are appreciably different from the Russian oil. It has the property of keeping away insects and preventing gnat bites when smeared on the hands.

Common Birch Uses & Scientific Evidence For
There is several species of Birch trees and many of them have medicinal uses. For hundreds of years, Native Americans made a tea from the leaves and bark of Sweet Birch, which they used to treat fevers, stomach upset, and rheumatism. The bark was boiled and used as a poultice for wounds. The oil extracted from the bark was used for bladder infections, gout, and nerve pain. For centuries, the Europeans have used the leaves of the Betula pendula and Betula verrucosa varieties as a remedy for skin rashes, hair loss, rheumatic complaints, and as a blood purifier. Birch tar oil was used in treating chronic skin diseases. Young Birch shoots and leaves have tonic, diuretic, and laxative properties. Birch bark has antiseptic tonic, anti-inflammatory properties, and the oil is astringent.

Today, tea made from the inner bark of Birch is used as a remedy for gout, scrofula, rheumatism, and dropsy. It is effective in eliminating kidney stones and is used as a blood purifier. The bark can also be used as a mouthwash, or as a remedy for diarrhea, dysentery, cholera infantum, bowel problems, and neuralgia. Applying Birch bark to sore muscles eases muscle pain, and helps heal sores, boils, and canker sores in the mouth. A decoction made from the bark is used in treating skin eruptions and dropsy. The oil is used on skin rashes such as eczema. Due to its diuretic quality, Birch leaf is used in treating cystitis and other urinary problems, rheumatism, gout, mild arthritic pain, and in expelling intestinal worms.

The German Commission E has stated that the Birch leaf can be used for, irrigation therapy for bacterial and inflammatory diseases of the urinary tract and for kidney gravel; supportive therapy for rheumatic ailments.

In 2006 the online edition of
Bioorganic & Medicinal Chemistry had this to say: The bark of the White Birch tree contains a compound that might help fight prostate cancer. This compound is called betulinol. Preliminary tests show that betulonic acid, made from betulinol, may discourage human prostate cancer cells from dividing and spur those cells to die. Brij Saxena, PhD, who works in reproductive endocrinology at Cornell University’s Weill Medical College and her colleagues are the ones who conducted these tests. In a lab the researchers exposed isolated human prostate cancer cells to betulonic acid for up to three days. For comparison, they also grew prostate cancer cells not exposed to the compound. After these three days, all the prostate cancers had grown. But those with the betulonic acid grew 88% less. The research also showed that betulonic acid did not affect normal cells

Common Birch Dosage Information
Birch comes in various forms and is an ingredient in many products. For a decoction, use 1 teaspoon of bark or leaves with 1 cup of water. Drink 1 to 2 cups a day until symptoms are gone. To use a tincture, the standard dose is ¼ to ½ teaspoon, 3 times a day. For other formulations read and follow product label directions.

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