What is Birch Leaf?
Birch Tree Overview
The esteemed birch tree has a long and distinguished history of both commercial and medicinal use. The tree is a member of the Betulaceae family of trees and is related closely to the beech and oak family. Birch trees are found in temperate climes the world over and are especially widespread throughout the Northern hemisphere.
Birch trees are also known by several other common names including Paper Birch, Silver birch, Yellow birch and Cherry birch. The wood is widely used in the manufacture of furniture and paper while the leaves, sap, and bark of the trees are used to make medicine.
Birch trees are considered to be among the oldest species of tree still living. They are very fast growing and are remarkably hardy. They are even known to grow in areas with polluted soil in which other plants fail to grow. In fact, they have been known to cleanse contaminated soil making it habitable for other plants once again.
These cleansing abilities of the tree offer a clue as to some of the medicinal uses of the tree. Over the years, the bark and the leaves of the tree have been used to make a therapeutic tea with diuretic and anti-inflammatory properties.
These properties are known to help cleanse the body, promote healthy skin and combat inflammation. Birch leaf tea is exceptionally well known for its ability to support a person’s immune health.
Therapeutic Properties and Nutrition
Birch leaves are rich in vitamin C, saponins, flavonoids, tannins and sesquiterpenes. A tea can be made from the leaves alone or combined with the bark. The bark contains a number of medicinal compounds including betulinic acid which is the compound most responsible for its anti-inflammatory capacity and is often used to combat conditions like gout and rheumatoid arthritis.
Several studies have indicated that birch extract may be a great help in treating rheumatoid arthritis.
As well as the leaves and the bark, the tree’s sap can also be tapped and used for medicinal reasons. The sap contains many important minerals and sugars like fructose and glucose. It is a rich source of potassium, magnesium, calcium, zinc, iron, and phosphorus as well as vitamin C and thiamine.
Birch Leaves Health Benefits
1) For Immunity
Birch leaves can be consumed in the form of a tea to help boost the body’s immune system. The leaves contain antiviral and antibacterial properties that help protect the body against infection and also speed up recovery from any infection that you may have.
Birch leaf tea also contains several natural antioxidants in the form of flavonoids and vitamin C which can further improve general health and help to reverse the damage done to the body by free radicals.
2) For Inflammation
The leaves and the bark can be used to help make an anti-inflammatory tea to help treat various forms of inflammation. The bark, in particular, is high in betulinic acid which has potent anti-inflammatory activity. Because of this, birch tea can be used to help treat common joint conditions like arthritis and rheumatism. It can also be used to help alleviate internal inflammation affecting the digestive and respiratory systems.
3) For Digestion
Drinking a few cups of birch tree made with the leaves and the bark can help to stimulate your digestive system and improved overall digestion. Because of its anti-inflammatory nature, it is highly effective in relieving digestive upset. The tea can be used to relieve common digestive complaints like a cramp, abdominal pain, bloating and diarrhea.
The leaves also possess mild laxative properties meaning that they can be consumed to help relieve constipation and support more regular bowel movement. It has also been used throughout the centuries as a general digestive tonic.
Experts often recommend that you soak the birch leaves thoroughly in a good quality apple cider vinegar for a few weeks. This process might help release the micronutrients and the minerals meaning that you get more medicinal value from the leaves and also much of the value from the vinegar.
4) For The Skin and the Hair
Birch leaves and the bark of the tree contain astringent properties making them an effective treatment for various skin conditions. Conditions that birch may help treat include eczema and dermatitis.
To treat your skin with the leaves, you should soak your birch leaves in a jug of water for at least a few hours and then strain the solution. Use the leaf water to wash your skin paying particular attention to the affected areas. Bathing in water infused with birch leaves is another effective way of treating the skin, prevent dandruff and to help strengthen your hair roots.
Birch leaves can also be added to a compress to treat the skin of irritation or to relieve joint pain while you may also be interested in making your own oil. We will take a look at a birch leaf oil recipe later in the article.
5) For Urinary Tract Conditions
Birch leaves can be used to make a tea or juiced to help treat inflammation or infection in the urinary tract. Birch leaf tea may also help treat edema and flush the kidneys. Birch leaves have diuretic properties meaning that a tea made from them can help promote both the volume and the frequency of a person’s urination. This, in turn, helps to flush the system of uric acid, toxins and excess fluids throughout the body.
It can also help maintain good liver and kidney health and may even help eliminate unsightly cellulite.
6) For Insomnia
Like many herbal teas, birch leaf tea may help promote a good night of sleep if you drink a cup or two before bedtime. The effects are probably mild and unlikely to help you overcome more serious sleep issues, but if you are simply feeling a little on edge, it is worth giving it a go.
7) To Detoxify the Body
As well as helping improve kidney health, the detoxifying abilities of birch leaves can help cleanse the blood. Regularly drinking birch tea may help eliminate toxins and impurities from the blood supply.
How to Use Birch Leaves
The most common way to use birch leaves is in tea form, but you may also like to make your own topical oil.
Birch Leaf Tea
If you have easy access to some birch trees, the best thing to do is collect your leaves while they are fresh and bright green in the early part of the summer. You can either use them fresh or dry them to use later.
- To make your birch leaf tea, use around 5 leaves for each large cup of water.
- Pour the boiling water over the leaves an let them steep for at least ten minutes.
- Drink three or four cups a day for urinary infections, arthritis, gout or fluid retention.
Homemade Birch Leaf Oil
- Add enough fresh leaves to loosely fill a jar and then pour some sweet almond or virgin olive oil over the top filling the jar.
- Cover the jar with a cloth and hold it in place with a band.
- Put your jar in a light, sunny area of the home. Leave it there for at least a month but stir the mixture fairly regularly keeping the leaves beneath the oil.
- After a month, strain the oil into a suitable container and allow the oil to settle before pouring it into suitable storage bottles.
- Store the bottles in a cool area of the house.
- You can use your oil topically to treat muscle pain or rheumatism and to help eradicate cellulite or eczema.