The birch is a tree native to northerly climates. The name is a very antiquated one, plausibly derived from the Sanscrit bhurga, ‘a tree whose bark is utilized for lettering upon.’ Some speak of it as the ‘Lady of the Woods.’ It’s striking for its lightness, allure, and beauty, and after rain, it has an aromatic odor. The sap, stored with cloves and cinnamon, was once applied to treat skin ailments like acne as well as rheumatism and gout.

The juice of the leaves, or the distilled water of them, or the water that comes from the tree being perforated with an auger, and distilled afterward; any of these being consumed for continues days, has shown to be efficient in breaking down kidney and bladder stones.

Birch is a natural pain reliever comprehending salicylate, the composite found in aspirin. Salicylate reduces the inflammation and pain linked with osteoarthritis, arthritis, gout, and muscle pain. Salicylate discourages the body’s production of several prostaglandins that are related to inflammation, and pain, among other things. Another reason birch calms arthritis and gout is it’s purging diuretic action that reduces toxins and excess water. Sweet birch can show excellent results against cellulite.

The antibacterial and anti-inflammatory effects of birch bark support it’s traditional applications in skin disorders such as eczema. Traditional healers have long deemed the leaves of the white and silver birch beneficial for skin rashes and hair damage. Birch essential oil is astringent and is mainly used for its therapeutic effects in skin ailments, particularly eczema.

The American species Betula lenta oil is almost indistinguishable with Wintergreen oil but is not as noxious. Nevertheless, the methyl salicylate it carries can have adverse effects if used imprudently, and it’s not for customary use in aromatherapy and never to be taken orally. Birch bark and leaf in full herb form have much lower toxicity.
Birch bark and leaf are also utilized as an antibacterial diuretic in the treatment of urinary tract infections. To enhance the effect (and lessen burning), add 1/2 a teaspoon of sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) to the infusion.

Betulin and betulinic acid, both available in birch bark exhibit some anticancer and anti-tumor properties, though neither is promoted as a stand-alone cure for cancer these components add another reason to use birch in healing treatments and help to verify its history of use from ancient times until now.

Preparation Methods: Birch leaves and birch bark can be taken in teas and infused in oil for pain alleviation. Birch bark helps alleviate muscle pain if applied externally, with the inner side of the bark placed on the skin. The essential oil should only be used in minute amounts.

Birch Side Effects: Birch essential oil should be used with caution and in dilution. Using entire herb applications of Birch leaf and root is favored. This herb should also not be used by anyone on blood-thinning medications, the elderly, or frail.

** Information on the traditional uses and properties of herbs are provided on this site is for educational use only, and is not intended as medical advice. **

  • Balch, Phyllis A., CNC. “Prescription for Herbal Healing” (2002)
  • Grieve, Maud Mrs. “A Modern Herbal” (1931)
  • Hoffmann, David (2010-12-15). Medical Herbalism: The Science and Practice of Herbal Medicine (p. 534). Healing Arts Press.
  • Dr. Duke’s Phytochemical and Ethnobotanical Databases
  • Mountain Rose Herbs