Scientific Name/Common Name: Betula pendula / Birch
Part(s) Used: Leaf and bark
Constituents/Active Ingredients: At least 3% flavonoids including hyperoside, quercitin, myricetin galactoside, kaempferol, myricetin and quercetin glycosides; in the buds, lipophilic flavone methyl esters; up to 1% essential oil. The bark of white birch contains several terpenoids and triterpenes including betulin, betulinic acid, and ursolic acid. The bark also contains salicylate and methyl salicylate.
Overview: The leaves of birch trees can be used to make a pleasant tasting tea that is listed in the German Pharmacopoeia as a diuretic used in ‘irrigation therapy’ for the treatment of bacterial and inflammatory conditions of the lower urinary tract. The German Commission E monograph also recommends the tea for preventing urinary tract gravel and for treating bone and joint complaints. Birch bark tea also has strong medicinal properties and was traditionally used by American Indians for pain relief (due to the salicylate content). The mixture of volatile oils and resins found in birch are similar to those found in wintergreen, whose oil has been widely used as an anti-inflammatory in topical applications for arthritic and neuralgic conditions. Its diuretic and antiseptic actions are a result of a synergistic effect between the volatile oils, saponins, and flavonoids contained in the birch juice. In addition, the bitter glycosides in birch act to stimulate digestion.
Traditional Use/Benefits/Body Systems: As a diuretic and antiseptic for the urinary system, as a blood cleanser, and to treat arthritic joints or gout.
Clinical Studies/Scientific Research/References:
Mills, S and Bone, K. Principles and Practice of Phytotherapy: Modern Herbal Medicine. © 2000 Simon Mills and Kerry Bone. Churchill Livingstone. Pg. 25.
Blumenthal et al. The Complete German Commission E Monographs: Therapeutic Guide to Herbal Medicines. © 1998 American Botanical Council. Pg 89.
Hoffmann D. 2003. Medical Herbalism: The Science and Practice of Herbal Medicine. Rochester (VT): Healing Arts Press.
Disclaimer: This information in our Herbal Encyclopedia is intended only as a general reference for educational purposes. It is not a replacement for medical advice. This content does not provide dosage information, cautions/contraindications, or possible interactions with prescription drugs. Please consult any relevant product labels for detailed information on use and with a medical practitioner for individual health advice.