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Birch health benefits… leaves, sap, bark, buds, it’s all helpful!

Health benefits of birch

What are the health benefits of birch? How does it impact our body? Which uses maximize its effects?

Its botanical name comes from ancient Celtic: “Betula” and the most famous species is “paper birch”, which is called “Papyfera”.

Its environmental role needn’t be presented: it gives shade to nearby trees and plants, and controls erosion by locking up soil against foul weather.

Birch has long been considered a medicinal tree, and what makes it a bit surprising is that all portions of the tree can be used to some degree: leaves, bark, sap, and buds.

Birch: a short story

Quite a famous tree, birch has had a long and fruitful history of interactions with mankind.

It contributed to the development of tribal culture in North America.

Since immemorial times, American Indians have used birch to protect their food, wrapping it in bark, and it also has other very useful properties.

Indeed, since it resists rot and is easily flammable, it is perfect to start a fire after a heavy rain, and slabs of wood underneath your foot in your shoe made for insulation against the cold.

In Europe, the tree was sacred and symbolized spring and young maidens. The branches, wrought together in the form of wedding torches, were burned on the wedding day: it was said it brought happiness to the couple who got married.

In addition, its diuretic properties and purifying activity were much appreciated in the Middle-Ages. In case of water retention and joint pain, birch was prescribed to alleviate suffering in patients: it helped them get rid of excess fluids.

Birch health benefits

The bark, leaves, sap and buds of birch all have medicinal benefits. Learn to know them, respect doses when using them, and you’ll benefits from the help they share.

Let’s take a look at what each portion of the tree can do for us…


Leaves of a birch tree laid out to dryUsed for centuries in medicine, birch leaves contain high levels of flavonoids which are effective in treating urinary failure.

Whether it be to treat hydropsy or other types of urinary infection, a leaf infusion is an excellent remedy.

Thanks to these properties, birch leaves help eliminate uric acid and help drain out edema and gout.

They also help alleviate pain during bouts of arthritis and rheumatism.

One more therapeutic benefit is the prevention of urinary stones. Obese persons and those who wish to reduce cellulitis can also follow a course.

In cosmetics, birch leaves are added when rinsing hair: it is said to reduce hair loss and prevent dandruff. The very thin birch leaves can be used directly as an antiseptic dressing for a wound.

Birch sap:

Harvested in spring by chiseling away a slice of bark, birch sap is a powerful detoxifier and diuretic.

Sap drips into a container from a birch treeSince supply is limited (1 to 3 liters or 2 to 6 quarts a day), you won’t be able to drink too much of it. It detoxifies the body, purging it from deep within.

North American natives drank it as a tonic in spring, and on other continents fresh birch sap is a time-proven remedy against the common cold.

Applied topically, it helps fend off skin rashes and various other skin diseases. When taken together with leaves, bark and buds, sap becomes an excellent antiseptic.

It’s often recommended in case of arthritis, joint pain, and as a lotion for chronic skin diseases (eczema, …).


Bark peeling off a birch tree, ready to powder and useThis part of the birch tree has been proven to help control surges of fever.

In powdered form, bark also serves to produce a very effective ointment against minor wounds.


In the medical field, swelling of lymph nodes has been successfully treated with birch buds.

Using birch for its health benefits

1/ Leaves:

  • Prepare a leaf decoction with 1½ ounces (40 g) of leaves for 2 quarts or 1 liter of water.

Steep for 10 minutes, and then add 0.03 ounces (1 gram) of baking soda. Filter and drink 3 cups a day.

  • For external use, fresh leaves are used as such, layered onto skin.

During bouts of rheumatism, prepare a bedding of fresh leaves heated up in an oven and then spread over your bed. Cover with a cotton bedsheet and lay down on top of it: it’s one of the best relaxants ever!

2/ Sap:

  • Drinking birch sap is a healthy courseDrink a small glass of birch sap before every meal. This will help alleviate pain due to arthritis, rheumatism, gout and edemas. You’ll be amazed at the results of this detoxifying course.

Birch sap decoction can also be ingested on an empty stomach for 2 or 3 weeks.

>> 1 glass in the morning is enough.

  • Apply sap as a lotion on eczema, on the scalp, to reduce itchiness and treat skin diseases.

3/ Buds:

Birch buds, picked and then crushed or maceratedTo prepare a decoction of birch buds:

  • Toss 5 ounces (150g) of birch buds in 2 quarts water (1 liter).
  • Bring to boiling point and keep it bubbling until about half the water has evaporated.
  • Filter out any plant material and let it cool down.
  • At the end, add 0.03 ounces (1 gram) of baking soda.
  • Drink 2 to 3 cups a day.
  • In addition, drink at least 2-4 quarts of water (1-2 liters) over the rest of the day.

4/ Bark:

  • Birch bark, once dried, is easy to powderFor ingestion, prepare your bark beforehand by turning it into powder. Count out 1 teaspoon of powder for every glass of water, and boil it all together for about 10 minutes.

For external use, mix about 1½ ounces of bark (40 to 50 g) in 2 quarts of water (1 liter). Boil.

For more information, ask your consulting physician for advice.

Image credits (edits Gaspard Lorthiois):
CC BY 2.0: Jelle
CC BY-SA 2.0: Alan Huett
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