Natural HealingUncategorized

Birch leaf tea medicinal miracle

By Sari Huhtala

In a day and age when Health Canada is working hard to wipe out the natural health industry through new regulations, it’s good to know phytotherapy will always be a free option. Headache? Infection? Pain? Gout? Sip some birch leaf tea.

Need a nutritional boost? A blast of vitamin C? Sip some birch leaf tea.

Birch leaves, twigs and bark, used for centuries as folk medicine, are anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, astringent and anti-rheumatic. In ancient times, birch syrup was used to treat rheumatism.

Birch is a natural source of salicin and salicyclic acid, the compounds that give birch its anti-inflammatory properties for pain relief. Think Aspirin. Invented from a derivative of salicylic acid, Aspirin is the world’s most used drug. In the U.S, 30 million adults over the age of 40, without any history of cardiovascular disease, take Aspirin regularly to prevent disease, according to the journal Annals of Internal Medicine.

The National Institutes of Health warn regular use of aspirin increases the risk of gastrointestinal bleeding, and thousands die every year from its use.

Yet nature provides bioavailable salicin, which is gentler on the stomach, in the form of birch bark, twigs and leaves.

How to make a birch leaf tea? Simply collect a handful of birch leaves, toss in a teapot, pour hot water over them and steep for 10 minutes or more. Make a tea from birch twigs too.

Fresh birch leaves can be infused in apple cider vinegar to make a nutrient-dense tonic, or a vinegar to add to salad dressings. As a tonic, toss a tablespoon in water for headache relief or as an easy body booster.

Gather leaves in the morning hours before the heat of the sun affects the leaf’s natural oils. Either hang to dry and then store in a sealed jar for the winter ahead, or use fresh. For a fresh vinegar infusion, break up the leaves slightly to release oils and pack a sterilized mason jar with leaves. Pour the vinegar over the leaves to cover fully. Make sure no leaves are poking out of the vinegar. Cover with a plastic lid and place out of direct sunlight for about four weeks. Once it’s ready, strain the leaves through cheesecloth to remove all plant matter to avoid spoilage, then it’s ready to use.

For culinary use, finely chop young birch leaves and add to salads.

Anti-cancer agents betulin and betulinic acid are phytochemicals found in the bark of white birch trees. Studies have shown betulin “is biologically active also in human beings, particularly against development of different tumors,” according to a 2008 review, Betulinic Acid for Cancer Treatment and Prevention, published in the International Journal of Molecular Sciences.

Scientists found betulin inhibits the growth of human malignancies, including liver, lung, breast, ovarian, cervical, prostate, colorectal and gastric cancer, and has the “ability to induce apoptotic cell death in cancer cells.”

Adventurous types can harvest the inner bark of the birch tree, dry it and grind it into a birch bark flour to add to bread recipes. The Sami people of Finland and Sweden used birch bark flour for centuries.

For more information on how Health Canada’s new regulations will impact the natural health industry read Shawn Buckley’s discussion paper:


(This information is not intended to replace medical advice and treatment from a health care practitioner).

Sari Huhtala is the creator, publisher and editor of Alive and Fit Magazine. She has over 25 years experience in journalism and over 15 years experience as a certified personal trainer and fitness instructor. She is an organic farmer, wild-crafter and grandmother, who has spent over 20 years navigating a holistic, healthy path for her family.

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