Botanical: Betula alba (also known as Betula pendula)
Family: Betulaceae (birch)
Other common names: White Birch Bark, Silver Birch, Sweet Birch, Canoe Birch, Lady of the Woods
The graceful, ornamental Birch Tree, with its distinctive bark, provides beauty, important medicinal benefits...and delicious Birch Beer! Try Birch Bark to reduce fever, banish headache, eliminate excess water, thin the blood and combat urinary tract infections. It is considered an herbal anti-inflammatory also thought to be wonderful for alleviating the pains of rheumatism, arthritis and gout. The U.S.F.D.A. has approved the salicylates in White Birch Bark for the treatment of warts.
The information presented herein by Herbal Extracts Plus is intended for educational purposes only. These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA and are not intended to diagnose, cure, treat or prevent disease. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplements, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider.
The Birch is a slender, deciduous tree with a beautiful and distinctive bark that may reach a height of one hundred feet. Its leaves are dark green on the upper side and pale green underneath, and this hardy ornamental will grow in well-drained soil in sun or shade. Birch Trees are highly regarded as medicinal plants in Russia and Siberia, especially for treating arthritis, and there are a number of different varieties of Birch that are used for the same medicinal applications, many for pain, wounds and skin complaints. They are also of great commercial value in the perfume industry, dental products, paper making, cotton reels, toys, broom making and fish smoking. The strong tannins in the bark are used in the tanning industry, imparting a delicate fragrance to leather. An old use for the Birch was as a rod or "switch" that was used to flog offenders. Of great value is a glycoside in White Birch that decomposes to produce methyl salicylate - the forerunner of good old aspirin. Its history of pain relief goes back for centuries, as American Indians used White Birch Bark to relieve headaches and the pain of rheumatism; and poultices of White Birch Bark were used to heal burns, wounds and bruises. White Birch Bark was also vital in the making of Native American canoes. White Birch Bark produces Birch oil, which is an effective remedy for certain skin conditions. White Birch also occupies an important culinary place and has been included in salads, condiments and the ever-popular Birch Beer. Some constituents in Birch Bark include carotene, vitamin C, triterpene, essential oil, sesquiterpene, saponins, tannin, resin, catechin, bitter essence, betulin, betulinic acid, betuloventic acid, flavonoids (hyperoside, luteolin and quercetin), glycoside and glycosides (methyl salicylate).
Birch Bark is a wonderful herbal pain reliever and anti-inflammatory. A glycoside in the Birch Bark decomposes to produce methyl salicylate, which is the natural forerunner of synthetic aspirin, and has been invaluable for relieving headaches and general, overall pain. It also helps to reduce the inflammation of rheumatism, arthritis and gout and ease the pain of swollen and painful joints.
Used in its aspirin form, Birch Bark is a blood thinner and is included in many heart-ailment regimens.
The American Cancer Society has published information indicating that researchers believe betulinic acid, which can be extracted from Birch Bark, causes some types of tumor cells to start a process of self-destruction called apoptosis. They also believe that betulinic acid slows the growth of melanoma (a form of skin cancer) and other types of tumor cells. In 1995, a researcher at the University of Illinois reported that betulinic acid killed melanoma cells in mice, and three German studies concluded that betulinic acid showed anti-tumor activity against cells from certain types of nervous system cancers in children.
Birch Bark is considered an effective natural diuretic that promotes urine flow and has been used to rid the body of excess water and ease bloating. It is said to be helpful in combating urinary tract infections, cystitis, prostatitis and kidney stones. As a diaphoretic, it produces perspiration (cleansing toxins from the body through the skin) and, as such, helps to cool the body and reduce fever, making it helpful for easing the discomforts of colds and flu symptoms.
Two compounds in Birch Bark, betulinic acid and betulin, have shown significant antiviral activity. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved the salicylates in Birch Bark as a treatment for warts.
As an antiviral, researchers have claimed that betulinic acid extracted from Birch Bark slows the growth of the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).
Birch Bark's tannin content is astringent in nature, and Birch Bark has been used by Native Americans as a folk remedy for centuries in a tea and other beverages to treat stomach and intestinal problems such as diarrhea and dysentery.
When used topically in salves, poultices, and liniments, Birch Bark has provided great relief for bruises, burns, eczema, wounds, skin eruptions (boils and sores), rheumatism and psoriasis.
Birch Bark has been used as a mild sedative and that has helped to relieve temporary sleeplessness.
People who are hypersensitive to aspirin should not use Birch Bark Herbal Supplement, and anyone taking prescription blood-thinning medications should always consult a physician before using it.