Birch Sap in a clear glass on a wood table with twigs around the glass
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The Medicinal, Mythical, and Practical Uses of Birch Trees

Disclaimer: I wrote this late at night on very little sleep. But as always, I am not a doctor or medical practitioner. The information contained herein is not intended as medical advice but as entertainment only.
Enjoy. 

Have a cool glass of Birch Water

Not sure what I’m talking about? Well sit back and prepare to be amazed by this healing tree that might just be in your backyard.

Location

Native to the northern hemisphere, Birch is the name applied to about 40 species of trees in the genus Betula (family Betulaceae). They vary from ornamental shrubs to timber trees which are used in a variety of carpentry goods. 

Because the species are located in such a wide geographical region as the ‘northern hemisphere’ I highly recommend you google which ones grow natively in your neck of the woods. 

In Utah, where I live, Betula Occidentalis is most common but other cultivars can be found in parks and personal gardens. 

Historical Uses of Birch

Historically Birch has been used in a variety of ways. Due to its natural high content of vitamin C, birch water or teas, were reportedly consumed by sailors to ward off scurvy. 

In places like Russia, Scandinavia, and the Baltics a drink derived from the sap of Birch trees has been consumed for centuries due to its medicinal benefits as well as a nutritional supplement. 

Native Americans and early settlers used the water repelling wood for canoes, roofing materials, and shoes. There is a vast number of Native American mythologies concerning the birch trees. 

Like the Native Americans, pagan or those practicing the mystical arts, consider the birch trees to be sacred. They are symbols of illumination, renewal and purification, protection, and new beginnings. 

It was (and still is) also used as a great firestarter as birch bark will burn even when wet. 

Survival skill 101, find kindling that burns. Check!

And find something to eat or drink. Check! 

Medicinal Uses Today

Thanks to medical studies we know that birch trees contain a lot of beneficial properties such as magnesium, manganese, vitamin c, anti-inflammatory agents, detoxifying agents, amino acids, zinc,  etc. 

I think you get the picture. Zinc and vitamin C alone make me want some birch tea next time I have a cold. 

More and more science is backing up age old recipes and homeopathic healers such as birch trees. Go science. 

In recent years studies have been done on the betulinic acid found in birch sap. Victor Babes University of Medicine and Phamacy in Romania confirmed an earlier study that revealed the betulinic acid had the ability to stop cervical cancer tumors and skin cancer tumors from growing. 

It also was able to aid the body’s ability to kill cancer cells by turning on the “kill-switch” in the cancer cell. This “kill-switch” is generally blocked by the cancer cell, thus the natural immune system is unable to kill cancer cells. 

I don’t care who you are, but that information alone is worth gold.  

Makes me think of the old adage “let food be thy medicine.” Yes, indeed. 

Birch Water down the hatch. 

Birch water, derived from the sap which can be harvested like maple trees, has many of these inherent properties. However, commercially produced birch water may contain added sugars and flavors. 

Which is silly cause it is naturally sweet, not super sweet, just refreshingly so. And it has a slight wintergreen flavor. Yum. 

Some of the benefits of birch water are as follows. 

  • Contains zinc, calcium, magnesium, and manganese
  • Antioxidant properties due to polyphenol antioxidants
  • May boost skin health due to its hydrating and antioxidant properties. Birch has also become popular in lotions for these reasons. 
  • May strengthen hair due to it’s aiding in collagen and iron absorption
  • A delicious way to stay hydrated due to its electrolytes.

Homeopathic Cautions

If you are allergic to birch trees you may want to avoid consuming birch water, using birch oil, etc. As with any medicine, natural or otherwise, it’s benefits must outweigh the risk, and having an allergy to a substance increases the risk. 

As always before using anything medicinally, whether brewing your own tea, or making birch water, consult with your doctor or certified homeopathic healer. 

Take Away

Once again we see that age old wisdom is more than just old wives tales. That sometimes the best medicine is the tried and true and often found, not in your medicine cabinet, but perhaps in your pantry. 

Stories from cultures around the world have placed great emphasis on the birch tree but my favorite was mentioned earlier. It is a symbol of new beginnings. 

I like that idea. That no matter where you are on your journey through life you can always start fresh. You and I are always on the verge of new beginnings. Perhaps your new beginnings are in your career, your love life, your family status, or perhaps in taking time to cleanse and purify your mind and soul. 

Wherever you are in your “new beginnings” I hope the birch tree will be with you in some small way. 

Stay healthy, stay safe, and peace be to all.  

References
Britannica Birch
Healthline Birch Sap
Birch Bark Cancer Research
Healing Trees
Sacred Tree Profile
Native American Legends Birch
 

About Author

Jenn Gaskin

After more than a decade in education I decided to turn my copious skills to writing. I have been freelance writing for Dancing Tree Gifts (formerly Sonora Kay Creations) since 2019. I wear many hats with DTG primarily copy editor, author, and web design.