Birch: the sacred tree par excellence of the Siberian populations. Let’s find out the use of birch in herbal medicine to get to know it better.


The Birch represent an important part of the northern forests. With the retreat of the Pleistocene glaciers, birch and ash were the first trees to repopulate the Eurasian continent.

The two major European species, betula verrucosa (or betula pendula, or betula alba, silver birch) and the betula pubescens (pubescens birch, downy birch) find medicinal use. In particular, Silver birch has silvery white bark, young branches covered with wart-like resin glands and grows in drier, well-drained soils, can reach 30 meters in height and lives on average about 120 years (but can also reach 300 years!), is resistant to drought and undemanding as regards soil fertility.

Herbal medicine: parts used and properties

In herbal medicine, dried, whole or fragmented leaves of silver birch and / or downy birch are generally used: the leaves contain no less than 1.5% of flavonoids, calculated as hyperoside with reference to the dry drug. Fresh material can also be used, provided that, once dried, it conforms to the monograph of the European Pharmacopoeia. Fresh leaves contain up to 0.5% ascorbic acid.

It is known that the birch leaf has diaphoretic and diuretic properties (saponins and above all flavone glycosides, but also potassium). The resulting diuresis is characterized by an increased excretion of water and, it seems, not of salts. Fresh leaves are more active. The birch leaf is used in rheumatism, gout, kidney lithiasis (the increase in diuresis prevents the formation of gravel) and as a “wash” in urinary tract diseases.

According to the ESCOP the therapeutic indications of birch leaves are: irrigation of the urinary tract, especially in the case of inflammation and gravel; as an adjunct in the treatment of bacterial infections of the urinary tract. Of Birch, however, not only the leaves are used, but also: the sap, the bark of young fresh branches, fresh bud, peel of young fresh roots, fresh catkins. A curiosity: in traditional Saami medicine, in Lapland, the bark and leaves are used to treat wounds, burns, skin rashes with the moxicombustion technique and in the preparation of spring toners.

Mother tincture

Usually the most used mother tincture is that of silver birch fresh leaves and it is a hydroalcoholic extract with a drug / extract ratio 1/10 (birch, alcohol, water) with 65% alcohol by volume. Both for downy birch and silver the mother tincture can also be made with the bark of young fresh branches.

The mother tincture of birch promotes the drainage of body fluids and the functionality of the urinary tract: it therefore boasts a diuretic and purifying action. Usually birch mother tincture is recommended to be taken in this way: orally 30-50 drops of birch mother tincture in half a glass of water 2-3 times a day.

Does birch mother tincture have any contraindications? There are no known contraindications or side effects; as there are no data available in case of pregnancy and lactation, in accordance with medical practice, the product should not be used in case of pregnancy and lactation without first hearing the opinion of your doctor. Its use is not recommended, as a precaution, in case of: edema due to impaired cardiac and renal function; concomitant intake of diuretic, antiplatelet and anticoagulant drugs.

Gemmotherapy: parts used and properties

As far as gemmotherapy is concerned, the buds of silver b. (betula pendula gems) have as organotropism the osteoarticular apparatus and the endothelial reticulum system with main indications related to bone growth, caries in children, processes of inflammation or infections; from silver birch, however, it is also possible to obtain the bud extract birch seeds (useful in case of intellectual fatigue and depression) and the birch sap, very useful in cases of cellulite-overweight, water retention, hyperuricemia, arthrosis.

Bud extracts obtained from downy can be obtained instead from the buds (and would have the same properties as the pendula, with the addition of acting on the metabolism in general), from the catkins (for sexual asthenia, overweight), rootlets and internal root peel (hyperuricemia, water retention, hypercholesterolemia).

Birch bud extract: betula pubescens buds

The bud extract of downy birch buds has an important draining actiontonic properties, stimulating metabolism and stimulating the immune defenses with an increase in resistance to infections and an increase in the number of leukocytes. .

The anti-inflammatory action and immune stimulant make this buds useful in febrile states and in recurrent infections of the airways. Downy birch is also indicated in the treatment of osteoarthritis degenerative processes in general, since, by stimulating the immune defenses, the destruction of cartilage is slowed and the activity of osteoblasts is stimulated.

The downy birch buds also have a remineralizing action: they act at the level of phosphocalcic metabolism and, for this reason, play an undoubted action in the processes of demineralization (osteoporosis) and in growth disorders for which, together with the fir bud extract, they are a precious remedy both in young and old. Birch buds also act on the arterial and venous circulation (improved trophism of the vascular wall), preventing the risk of thrombosis.

Birch bud extract: betula verrucosa buds

Silver birch buds show an action very similar to that performed by the buds of downy b. but silver b. is more indicated in children and adolescents. Its main properties are: stimulation of the reticulo-endothelial system activity, toning action in the young subject. The main indications of this bud extract are: inflammatory or infectious processes, growth disorders.

A bud extract for teeth and bones: Pol Henry reports that the buds of this plant act in the growth or regeneration phases of an organ, in particular at the bone level, so their prescription plays an important role in growth disorders and delays , also in consideration of a simultaneous toning action that occurs in particular in the child, of which it alleviates the pains of growth, and in the adolescent.

It is used together with the fir bud extract, as well as in growth disorders and delays, in the treatment of dental caries in children and, for the marked osteoblastic action, in the treatment of juvenile osteochondritis, but also in the case of pyorrhea: the buds of warty birch are able to stimulate the activity of the reticulo-endothelial system resulting, therefore, valid in processes of an inflammatory or infectious nature.

Birch sap: silver birch sap

The Silver birch sap is harvested at the beginning of March: they are practiced in the adult birches, which grow in wooded areas, and preferably on the part of the trunk facing south, some holes, about 1 meter from the ground, deep from 2 to 5 centimeters, slightly oblique upwards, into which a small tube is introduced through which the lymph flows into the containers placed on the ground.

The holes made in the trunks are then closed hermetically with wooden plugs which ensure a watertight seal thus allowing optimal healing. This vegetable liquid, as soon as it arrives in the laboratory, is transported in a refrigerated truck to avoid any risk of fermentation, is placed in alcohol at 30% v / v (proportion 1/3 of sap to 2/3 of alcohol) and after stirring it is titrated at 20% v / v, then it is diluted to the first decimal (1DH) in alcohol at 30% 1. The result is 1DH Birch Sap.

Birch sap, rich in potassium, has as its main properties the activation of diuresis and the elimination of metabolic waste, cholesterol and uric acid in particular. Birch sap, famous for its diuretic and general draining properties for the body, is mainly indicated for: cellulite (perhaps associated with horse chestnut bud extract), overweight, water retention, hyperuricemia.

Dr. Laura Comollo

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