We tried. We got stuck in mud down by the river searching for what felt like an hour for this tree. The river was high and everything was soaked in the rain. We usually see them everywhere it seems, but no not in the past few days, apparently. A parent at the daycare even told me where there was one! I'm sure I would've seen that one were we not on a mission to move so I could get a start on the vendor fair products. You can bet I'll be walking down to spot it one of these days on my lunch break.
So to those who've offered to take pictures of the next birch they see for me, as well as those who've straight up told me where one was, I give my thanks. You guys are so awesome for offering me help. I'll still be looking and as soon as I find one I'll take tons of pictures; and maybe, just maybe (depending on where it is) I'll wildcraft some of it to use and tell you about my experience.
For some reason, though, this tree has shown up on my piano:
And let's mention the fact that I even found little stumps of birch in a cart, "woo-hoo"'d (what we call a sale) at Kroger!
So, please, for the love of herbs...why is it hiding from me in the wild?
We may never know. But here I am, 12:00 at night with a batch of Lip Creams on the stove and a pint of organic coffee ice cream beside me, wondering what sick prank this is. Time to move on, though, and get down to birch business.
Many know birch was used by the Native Americans and early settlers to be made into canoes, bowls, spoons, and even small furniture. At one point, it was believed that making a cradle out of birch would protect the child that would sleep in it. Whether that is true or not, it still is used in making many projects these days, both industrial and small business alike.
It was also used to be made into syrup and flour, as it still is these days. The syrup, which is gathered around April, can be processed like maple syrup. The bark, when dried, can be processed into flour. So, in a way, it can be used as emergency, or "prepper" food as it can be easily spotted (unless you're me, obviously) with it's papery bark and unique appearance.
Birch is mostly a northern tree but can be found as far south as southern Ohio and northern/eastern Kentucky. It is found in mostly heavily wooded areas and most often near water. There is a wide range of different birches, such as: the river birch Betula nigra, the sweet birch Betula lenta, the yellow birch Betula allenghaniensis, the black birch Betula dahurica, and the silver birch Betula pendula - "Betula" meaning "pitch". The pitch derives from the bark, not the sap, by processing it through a high heating process that produces this tar-like substance. It was used as "glue" in the old days on projects such as the building of the canoes. For more on birch pitch, click this link: www.primitiveways.com/birch_bark_tar.html
Both the leaves and the bark of the birch can be used, as well as the sap of course. But like most other deciduous trees during the winter, the birch loses its leaves. Then why add it to my winter series? (My husband felt it necessary to ask me this.) I chose it because the bark and twigs can still be used, and in the winter it is one of the few herbs still usable and easier to spot.
The leaves can be used to make a tea, and the bark a decoction or as I said earlier a flour. Surprisingly, the sap can also be used to make a beer! I bet Ryan and his best friend Ryan S. will be trying that out in the future, given the chance.
Birch is filled with various constituents such as tannic acid, which is an agent used in tanning hides. This also makes it a bitter, which helps stimulate the digestive system.
Birch can be used to aid in weight loss, decreasing of cellulite, and to lessen fluid retention. Make a decoction of the bark and take four tablespoons a day. Also, because it aids in loss of fluid and weight (aka it's also a diuretic), it should help lower blood pressure.
In the early days, people also used birch bark for wounds. As it is an antiseptic and anti-inflammatory, we can see the effectiveness. The teas and waters can be used to treat mouth ulcers. When rubbed onto joints or drank, it can help relieve various forms of rheumatism and arthritis.
There is no signs of possible toxicity from birch, but it isn't recommended to be taken while pregnant or breast feeding. And as always, consult your physician prior to starting a new herbal regimen. Have fun wildcrafting or foraging, but please do so responsibly. Take only what you need, leave no traces behind. If you remove bark, it is best to do so with as much care as possible. I'll be making another post in the future on how to properly remove bark from a tree with leaving it in as little danger as possible of getting disease or infections. (Trees are like us, you damage the outside and the inside becomes at risk.)
So I suppose this conclude this post and the winter series. Thank you for requesting me finish it, it has been so interesting to share on these herbs. I'll now clean up this messy kitchen, pack away my freshly made inventory, and squeeze in a few hours of sleep until 5:00am rolls around.
Don't forget: I'll be set up as a vendor this Friday at the Relay for Life in the Kyova mall. Show up and say hi, Ryan and I would absolutely love to meet you and talk! We'll answer any questions you may have (at least we'll try).
Still need a Mother's Day gift? Well, come fill a cute little burlap sack with Lip Creams, salves, and rubs that will help your mother feel like a pampered gal. Treat her right, go organic and local.
So goodnight guys, I hope to see you all Friday. Don't forget to subscribe!
Author: Tina Potter
Master Herbalist, I've graduated as an American Healthcare College Alumnus, I've become a member of American Herbalist Guild and author of survivalist series Survival Ember co-authored by professional survivalist Kenny Dietrich of Ashland, KY. I've been beyond blessed with the constant desire to learn and teach.
COMMON SENSE NOTICE: I do not claim to diagnose, treat, or cure disease. What you do with the information I post is up to you, but it is advised to consult with a doctor before acting on alternative methods of medicine. I wish you all the best!