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When it comes to birch (Betula), most people immediately think of the striking white bark of the tree. Because of them, the deciduous trees have an exceptional ornamental value and are planted in tree avenues, parks and gardens in many places. Most people are no longer aware that the birch also serves as a medicinal plant. Birch leaf tea was an integral part of folk medicine in the Middle Ages. Especially in kidney and bladder diseases, the components of the tree are said to perform well due to their diuretic and cleansing effects. Therefore, learn more about the healing powers of birch below.
Profile of the birch
- Scientific name: Betula
- Plant family: Birch Family (Betulaceae)
- Popular names: Bark, broom tree, bork, spring tree, witch broom
- origin: Asia, Europe, North America
- application areas: Blood disorders, urinary tract disorders, skin disorders, rheumatic disorders, metabolic disorders
- Parts of plants used: Leaves, buds, bark, tree sap
The birch: traditional and spring tree
The birches, which are up to 25 m high, belong to the family of the birch family (Betulaceae), to which they unmistakably gave their name. As a traditional European tree, the birch is considered a real northern tree and had a firm place in the local customs, especially in the Celtic, Germanic and Scandinavian cultural areas.
In Germany it is regarded as a spring tree, which heralds the beginning of spring with its flowering period from March to April. The flower buds of the tree have a very peculiar shape and hang from the birch branches in elongated kittens. They grow apart sex (monoecious), whereby the male flowers arise somewhat earlier than the female flower buds.
The latter develop together with the birch leaves only towards the end of April to the beginning of May and are responsible for the fact that the leaf shoots of the tree, accompanied by flowers, are part of a number of spring customs. For example, the traditional maypole is made of birch, which will be set up on May 1st not only in Germany, but also in Eastern and Northern Europe, decorated with colorful ribbons and other spring ornaments.
Birch trees are also known in Franconia. Here, men of marriageable age place a young birch in front of the house of their loved one and thus make a declaration of love or even a symbolic marriage proposal. In general, birch trees are often associated with virgins, love and fertility rites in the folk tradition, which is probably not only due to the slim and elegant growth of the birch trunk and its delicate white bark, but also because the female inflorescences cause the annual leaf sprouts and thus the Rebirth of the tree after the barren winter.
The birch sap, which is obtained from the trunk of the tree and the branches in spring, is said to help with hair loss, which is why many young women used it to care for their hair. Men, however, should use the birch sap as a sexual enhancer. For this purpose, the sugar-containing birch sap is still processed in parts of Russia to birch wine and used for potency problems, but also for simple noise.
However, the birch leaves are of medically greater importance, which stand out for their jagged, elliptical shape on the edge and for their intense yellow autumn color. They are used for medicinal purposes as tea herbs for a wide range of complaints, whereby the leaf herbs of the black birch (Betula pubescens) and the silver birch (Betula pendula) are particularly relevant.
In the foreground of medicinal plant use is the diuretic effect of the birch leaves, which is used for urinary tract diseases such as cystitis or kidney stones. But birch leaf tea is always recommended for other health problems, such as skin diseases or rheumatism.
The following areas of application are known:
- Urinary disorders such as Cystitis, kidney weakness or kidney stones,
- Skin problems such as Circles under the eyes, eczema, rash or psoriasis,
- Metabolic diseases such as Diabetes, gout or rheumatism
- and other health complaints such as Allergies, diarrhea, hair loss, infections, neuralgia or spring tiredness.
useful information: The birch was already used extensively by the Neanderthals. In addition to the use of wood for the manufacture of tool and weapon handles, the relative of humans was also familiar with the use of birch pitch as an adhesive and binder, as well as the medicinal use of birch leaves.
Birch leaves - ingredients and effects
You may not immediately see the birch leaves, but they are full of unexpected ingredients, which in addition to medicinal ingredients even contain some vitamins and minerals. The health value of the leaves of the birch thus results from a special combination of active ingredients and nutrients, consisting of:
- Bitter substances,
- and vitamin C.
Bitter substances do not have their name for nothing, because they give certain plants their special bitter taste. In addition to their aromatic component, bitter substances also have a special healing power, including one
- immune boosting,
- and digestive
Effect heard. The digestive properties in particular are the reason why bitter herbs are used to make bitter bitches. This is known to help well against indigestion such as constipation or diarrhea. The digestive effects of the bitter substances come from their ability to stimulate blood circulation and secretion production in the gastrointestinal tract.
This can also help urine drainage, because increased production of digestive secretions such as gastric or biliary juice can improve dewatering of the food pulp. As a result, more fluid can be made available to the kidneys for urine production and the urinary tract can be flushed out carefully.
The plant substance group of the flavonoids got its name from the Latin word flavus for "yellow". It was created after a closer look at the coloring ingredients of certain plants, the yellow-colored flavones, a subset of the flavonoids, being identified first. Flavones are still used as natural colorants in the textile and food industry as ingredients of plants such as the dyer's oak or the mulberry tree. And the birch also has some of these yellow flavonoids, which make up about three percent of birch leaves.
In addition to their coloring properties, most flavonoids (and therefore flavones) have interesting healing effects. Its diuretic properties make it a widely used active ingredient in herbal diuretics. Flavonoids always help reliably with indigestion. Regular consumption of flavonoids for the liver, nerves, heart and vessels is also very healthy. Do all in all
- anti allergic,
- Cardiovascular strengthening,
- liver protecting
- and gastrointestinal regulating
Properties Flavonoids to an unexpectedly versatile natural source of health, which also helps to shape the medicinal potential of birch leaves to a high degree. The main flavones of the birch are hyperoside and avicularin, which have a higher or lower concentration depending on the birch species. The birch has the highest content of flavones.
Other ingredients in the birch leaves, which have been used for thousands of years, are tannins. As the name suggests, they are essential for tanning animal hides in leather processing, as they are one
- and antiviral
Have an effect. The tannins from plants like birch are called tannins. They are also of great importance in medicine as natural disinfectants, where they are frequently used in the field of wound disinfection and for the treatment of inflammatory skin diseases.
The basic property of tannins, like all other tannins, is that they have a contracting (astringent) effect on the skin tissue. This closes skin pores and prevents infectious agents from migrating into the tissue. In addition, astringency narrows blood vessels, so that in the event of an injury, local wound bleeding can be more easily stopped.
With regard to inflammation, tannins ensure that the escape of inflammatory secretions from the bloodstream is restricted by the compression of tissues and vessels. Excessive inflammatory reactions are thus avoided, which helps not only with inflammatory skin diseases, but also with inflammation of the mucous membranes in the mouth and throat and in the digestive tract.
A mouthwash with or drinking birch leaf tea can therefore also help with diseases such as gastrointestinal or throat infections. Even a tamping effect, which occurs with tanning agents due to their astringent properties due to an additional drainage effect, is present and has a positive effect on diarrhea and urine drainage.
The most important minerals in birch leaves include potassium and calcium. In this regard, both belong to the so-called essential minerals, which are essential for maintaining the body's functions. Potassium is especially necessary for the nerve conduction. This applies in particular to the formation of stimuli in the heart, which determines the heart rhythm and thus also the blood pressure. The mineral also plays a role in cell growth, metabolism and hormone balance.
Hormones such as insulin are particularly dependent on a controlled potassium intake, which explains the use of birch leaves in diabetes. Potassium also influences the acid-base balance, which can be a valuable aid in the context of gout.
There are some properties that potassium shares with the name-like calcium. That applies, for example, to the
- heart strengthening,
- muscle and nerve stimulating,
- metabolic regulating
- as well as cell protecting
Property of both minerals. In addition, calcium is particularly important for bone and joint health and thus improves the healing properties of birch leaves in rheumatic diseases of the musculoskeletal system. The stability of other calcium-containing body structures such as skin, hair, teeth and fingernails can also benefit from an application thanks to the calcium in birch leaf tea. In addition, the mineral contributes to blood clotting.
A special group of lipids are defined as sterols in biology, which occur exclusively in the cell membrane of animals, plants and fungi. Herbal sterols are also referred to as phytosterols in this regard. They therefore occur in the cell membrane of the plants, where on the one hand they help to structure the structure.
On the other hand, they regulate the exchange of energy and signals between the plant cells, which can also be transferred to the human cell mechanism by taking herbs containing phytosterol. For example, skin cells react positively to the presence of phytosterols, which is used in medicine to treat skin irritation and itching, for example in the presence of skin diseases such as psoriasis or skin allergies with the corresponding symptoms.
The similarity of phytosterols to human cholesterol is also of particular medical importance. Because of the similar mode of action, phytosterols can significantly reduce the body's cholesterol production. However, moderate use is important here, as too much of the cholesterol-like plant lipids can provoke the opposite effect and can also increase the cholesterol concentration in the long term. The result is an increased risk of atherosclerosis.
With regard to cholesterol levels, the saponins in birch leaves also have a function similar to phytosterols, as they successfully bind cholesterol to itself and thus lower its concentration in the blood. In addition, saponins become one
- hormone stimulating,
- and digestive
Effect awarded. The intestinal protective properties result from a special inhibition of the cell division of intestinal cells, which is relevant for the prevention of colon cancer. The ability of the saponins to improve the absorption of food components important for the body in the intestine has a positive effect on the digestion. In this way, not only can the nutrient uptake in the metabolism be optimized, but also more liquid can be absorbed into the food porridge, which is very desirable for diarrhea and also supports urine production.
By the way: The hormone-stimulating effect of saponins could also be responsible for the fertility-promoting effect of birch leaves and birch sap. In addition, hair growth is decisively influenced by the release of hormones, such as the female sex hormone estrogen, which would explain the centuries-old use of birch leaves against hair loss.
Most saponins in birch leaves belong to the terpenes. More specifically, it is triterpenes, which are a special group of plant substances, which are known in particular as the main constituents of essential vegetable oils. Here they act decisively as aroma substances and as
- and cell protecting
Ingredients. In this regard, betulin is one of the most important triterpenes in the birch. It owes its name unmistakably to the fact that, with the exception of some types of ash, it occurs exclusively in birch trees.
The medical properties of betulin are still being researched eagerly. However, various studies are already suggesting that triterpene is interesting as a natural antibiotic and virustatic. Betulin is surprisingly efficient even against serious infectious diseases such as malaria and HIV infections.
On top of that, the cell-protecting abilities of the triterpene also seem to be very intensive. In a meta-study, scientists from the Medical University of Lublin (Poland) and the University of Turku (Finland) were able to show that betulin has an impressive effect against tumor cells.
Similar effects can also be found with betulinic acid and the Lupeol of the birch leaves. Within the group of triterpenes they belong to the so-called lupans, which is a special form of resin acids. These are used, among other things, for the production of incense resin. The group of oleanans in turn includes birch's own oleanolic acid and erythrodiol. Oleanolic acid is a so-called sapogenin, i.e. an extract of saponins, and is currently being investigated as a medicinal active ingredient against kidney failure.
The last important active ingredient in birch leaves is ascorbic acid, also known as vitamin C. The vitamin is one of the most versatile when it comes to physical health and combines numerous effects of individual ingredients of birch leaf tea. For example, ascorbic acid combines the antioxidant and thus vascular protective effect of triterpenes, the digestive properties of bitter substances and the muscle and nerve stimulating function of the minerals potassium and calcium. There is also a cholesterol-regulating effect that is similar to that of phytosterols.
Another special ability of vitamin C is to strengthen the collagen structures of the connective tissue. Taut and wrinkle-free skin can therefore only be guaranteed in the long term by a regular supply of ascorbic acid.
In the area of the immune system, vitamin C also helps to prevent infections, since it, as a component of immune cells, also ensures their functionality. Even the hormone balance, and here in particular sex hormones relevant for fertility as well as stress and thyroid hormones, cannot do without ascorbic acid. The vitamin therefore supports the holistic health effects of the birch leaves many times and makes birch extract a real vital substance.
Application and dosage of birch leaves
Of all birch preparations, birch leaf tea has been shown to work best, which is why the use of leaves as tea herbs is also the most common form of application. It is not imperative to buy the herbs. You can easily collect them yourself from silver birch or swamp birch and then dry them before you prepare them as tea. The collection time for birch leaves extends from May to June. Leaf buds are removed in March, birch sap from March to May.
Preparation of birch leaf tea
The diuretic effect of birch tea is so good that occasionally even kidney stones and kidney semolina can be dissolved or rinsed out. For this purpose, parts of the birch bark are sometimes boiled out.
As a dosage note for pure birch leaf tea:
- Put two tablespoons of crushed birch leaves in a cup.
- Pour 250 milliliters of boiling water over them.
- Let the infusion brew for about ten minutes.
- Now you can strain the herbs and drink the tea in small sips.
Important: No more than one cup of birch leaf tea should be drunk daily, as the diuretic effect when overdosed could cause excessive drainage of the body.
Tea blends with birch leaves
In addition to the preparation of pure birch tea, tea blends are also common. The composition of the tea depends on the respective area of application. Here are some examples:
Birch tea to drive away spring tiredness
- some birch leaves,
- part of honorary award sheets,
- some coltsfoot flowers,
- some cowslip flowers,
- part of deadnettle flowers
- and a part of violet leaves.
preparation: Take a tablespoon (tablespoon) of this herb mixture or add a pinch of each herb to a cup of hot water. Let the tea steep for about ten to 15 minutes and then filter off the herbs. Three cups of this spring tea can be drunk per day.
Birch leaf tea for diabetics
- a teaspoon (teaspoon) of horsetail,
- a teaspoon of birch leaves,
- a teaspoon of nettle leaves,
- a teaspoon of bloodroot,
- a tsp goat's rhombus
- a teaspoon of blueberry,
- a teaspoon of yarrow
- as well as a teaspoon of wormwood.
preparation: This tea blend is recommended for normalizing blood sugar levels. Take a teaspoon from the herb mixture shown and let the herbs boil together with a cup of water. After a steeping period of ten minutes, strain the herbs as usual and drink the tea in small sips once a day. The tea should of course be unsweetened or at best prepared with sugar-free alternatives such as honey herb (stevia)!
Birch tea for heart problems
- a teaspoon (teaspoon) of horsetail,
- a teaspoon of birch leaves,
- a teaspoon of nettle leaves,
- a teaspoon of St. John's wort,
- a teaspoon of yarrow,
- a teaspoon of senna leaves
- and a tsp of plantain.
preparation: Boil a teaspoon of this herbal mixture with a cup of water. Then put the whole thing in a teacup and leave the decoction covered for ten to 15 minutes. Before eating, the tea is then to be sipped unsweetened without added sugar.
Caution: It goes without saying that in the case of chronic heart problems, a doctor must also be urgently consulted in order to initiate long-term drug treatment!
Tea blend against nerve inflammation
- a teaspoon (tsp) of birch leaves,
- a TL honorary award,
- a teaspoon pansy,
- and a teaspoon of juniper.
preparation: After mixing the herbs, a teaspoon is removed and poured over with 250 milliliters of water. After filtering, three cups of this tea can be enjoyed a day.
Ablutions with birch leaves
In addition to the internal application, an infusion of birch leaves can also be used for washes or spas. External use is recommended for cleaning wounds or for treating skin diseases and skin allergies.
In terms of dosage, the following applies here: 250 to 500 grams of leaves per two liters of water. The birch water is then added to the full bath or filtered for washing. Alternatively, birch bark can be used as a bath additive. Here 250 grams of birch bark come to a liter of water.
Further applications with birch
Birch tar or birch tar ointment is also often used to treat psoriasis or eczema. Against hair loss and dandruff, shampoo made from birch tar and sulfur is a special tip. Corresponding products are available in well-stocked health food stores or in the pharmacy.
Birch leaves: side effects and contraindications
Birch leaves should not be used if you are allergic to birch pollen. In this context, skin irritation and itching that occurs after ingestion can indicate an existing allergy. Occasionally, after using birch leaf tea, there are mild gastrointestinal complaints such as diarrhea, nausea and vomiting.
It is also strongly advised not to use targeted diuretic therapy for heart failure or renal insufficiency. In addition, pregnant women, nursing mothers and children under the age of 12 should refrain from taking the birch leaf tea. The possible side effects for said risk groups have not yet been sufficiently investigated, which is why the therapy should not be started on your own as a precaution. (ma)
Author and source information
This text corresponds to the specifications of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.
- Hiller, Karl; Melzig, Matthias F .: Lexicon of medicinal plants and drugs. Volume 1: A to K; Spectrum Academic Publishing House Heidelberg, 2000
- Bavarian State Office for Forestry and Forestry: Contributions to sand birch, LWF knowledge 28 (accessed: November 20, 2019), LWF Bavaria
- Merk, Daniel; Schubert-Zsilavecz, Manfred: Triterpenoid as a beacon of hope, in: Pharmaceutical newspaper, edition 01/2012, PZ
- Król, Sylwia Katarzyna; Kiełbus, Michał; Rivero-Muller, Adolfo; Stepulak, Andrzej: Comprehensive Review on Betulin as a Potent Anticancer Agent, in: BioMed Research International, 2015: 584189., PMC
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- Rödig, Mirko: Treatment of actinic keratoses with birch oleogel - a clinical phase 2a study with histological examinations, inaugural dissertation to achieve the medical doctoral degree of the medical faculty of the Albert-Ludwigs-University Freiburg im Breisgau, 2008, University of Freiburg