Introduction of Birch:Cherry birch or White birch.
✵The article gives records of the herb Birch, its English name, Latin name, common names, property and flavor, its botanical source two plant species, ①.Betula lenta L., ②.Betula pendula Roth., with a detailed introduction to the botanical features of these two plant species, the growth characteristics, and ecological environment of these two plant species, the features of the herb Birch, its pharmacological actions, medicinal efficacy, and administration guide.
- Birch(Cherry birch, White birch).
English Name: Birch.
Latin Name: Betula lenta L. and Betula pendula Roth, etc.
Common Names: Black birth, cherry birch, sweet birch, European white birch, silver birch, etc.
Property and flavor: neutral nature, tastes bitter.
Brief introduction: There are some forty species of birch around the world. The trees and shrubs of this genus all have a smooth outer grain and distinctive, close-grained wood. The leaves and bark have been used in various cultures over the years as a traditional remedy.
Botanical source: Common herbal classics defined the herb Birch as the leaves and bark of the species (1). Betula lenta L.,(2).Betula pendula Roth. They are plant species of the Betula genus, the Betulaceae family (birch family). The leaves and bark are used medicinally. These two commonly used species are introduced:
(1).Betula lenta L.
Botanical description: Betula lenta is also known as sweet birch, cherry birch, or black birch, it is a broadleaf deciduous tree with a narrow, open crown, grows up to 20 meters tall in its habitat, but probably only 15 meters in cultivation, the bole is straight and cylindrical, with a spread of about 13 meters, pyramidal and dense when young, turns rounded and irregular when mature. The bark is light reddish-brown to almost black, strong wintergreen odor or flavor, when older, brown-black in large, irregular, scaly plates. Leaves are simple, alternate, ovate to ovate-oblong, 5~15 cm long and 4~9 cm wide, the tip is acuminate, the base is mostly heart-shaped, the margin is serrate, often doubly, its upper surface is glossy dark green, paler green at back surface and pubescent on veins, 10~13 pairs of veins; petiole is 1.3~2.5 cm long. Male catkins in winter are 5~7.5 cm long, then pendulous and expanded in summer to 7.5~10 cm long, female flowers in upright catkins are 1.7~2.5 cm long.
Ecological environment: Betula lenta is a widespread, commonly encountered tree found in the eastern USA (the United States of America) and Canada. It is a dominant tree in the northern hardwood forests of the northern Appalachians in the USA, where it is a valuable commercial source of timber. The tree is harvested from the wild for a wide range of traditional uses as food, medicine, and a source of materials. The plant is classified as 'Least Concern' in the IUCN Red List (the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List of Threatened Species 2013).
Growth characteristics: Betula lenta grows well in moist well-drained soil, but tolerates drier soils.
(2).Betula pendula Roth.
Botanical description: Betula pendula is also known as European White Birch or European Silver Birch, it is a deciduous broadleaf tree, that grows up to 12~15 meters high, pyramidal becoming rounded, with graceful pendulous branching habit. Young twigs are thin and usually pendulous. Whitish trunk bark, with age, the trunk becomes mostly black. Leaves are simple, alternate, broadly ovate, and sometimes rhomboidal to diamond-shaped, wedge-shaped, or truncate at base, 2.5~7.5 cm long, coarsely doubly serrate, slenderly tapered at apex; dotted with glands on both surfaces. Leaf turns yellow in fall. Male flowers in catkins are cylindrical, slender, and 3~6 cm long; female flowers in catkins develop into fruit cylindrical catkins about 2~4 cm long.
Ecological environment: Betula pendula is indigenous to Europe from the northern Mediterranean regions to Siberia and to temperate regions of Asia. It occurs naturally throughout most of Europe, where it is known as Silver Birch, an important source of hardwood in northern countries. It is the National Tree of Finland. It is also present in central-northern Asia, from the Caucasus through Siberia, up into China and Japan. Betula pendula are well adapted to cold climates and are more abundant in the boreal zone, where they can be the dominant forest species.
Growth characteristics: Betula pendula prefer sun or light shade, best with summer moisture in well-drained soil, it tolerates wet or dry soils.
Characters of herbs: The medicinal parts are the bark, leaves, and buds. Birch leaf consists of the fresh or dried leaf of Betula pendula, Betula pubescens, or of both species. The leaves are collected in the wild during the spring and dried at room temperature in the shade. Birch tar is a clear, dark brown oil obtained from Betula pendula or Betula pubescens through a distillation process.
Pharmacological actions: ①.antiparasitic effect; ②.irritating to the skin; ③.diuretic; ④.anti-inflammatory; etc.
Studies have found white birch tea is a viable diuretic, the increased diuretic property was identified related to flavonoids, volatile oil and other substance in the dried leaves, the herb tea is advised for disorders such as inflammation and infections of the kidney and urinary tracts and prevent the formation of kidney stones. The birch oil and its component methyl salicylate is identified and advised for counterirritant for inflamed or irritated joints, methyl salicylate help reduce pain and inflammation, similar to aspirin. A substance betulin found in some birch species has similarities to betulinic acid, to inhibit skin cancers called melanomas. European studies found the aliphatic and aromatic hydrocarbons in birch tar are irritating to the skin and have an antiparasitic effect.
Medicinal efficacy: The herb Birch was used by Native Americans as a tea of the leaves and bark of sweet birch to treat fevers, stomach upset, and rheumatism, the poultices of the bark were used for minor wounds. Sweet birch bark oil was traditionally used for bladder infections, rheumatism, gout, and nerve pain. The birch oil in ointment and other prepared topical preparations is used as a counterirritant, painkiller, and antiseptic. Traditionally, the leaves of the white and silver birch were used in boosting urine output, as a remedy for skin rashes, hair loss, rheumatic complaints, and conditions that need blood purification, birch tar oil of white birch is used to treat chronic eczema, psoriasis, and other skin diseases.
In Europe, birch leaves are used in folk medicine in flushing-out therapy for bacterial and inflammatory diseases of the urinary tract and kidney gravel, as an adjunct therapy for rheumatic ailments, to increase the amount of urine, as a blood purifier, for gout and rheumatism, externally used for hair loss and dandruff. Birch tar ointment is used in folk medicine for parasitic infestation of the skin with subsequent hair loss, rheumatism, and gout, birch tar liquid preparations are used for dry eczema and dermatoses, birch tar is also indicated for psoriasis and other chronic skin diseases, parasitic infestation, and scabies.
Administration of Birch(Cherry birch, White birch):
Reference: Administration Guide of Birch(Cherry birch, White birch) Herbal classic books: In North America, the herb is recommended as: an infusion tea is prepared using 1 to 2 tablespoons of chopped leaves per cup of water and is drunk several times per day. In Europe, the average daily dose of birch leaf is recommended 2~3 grams several times a day, with caution to ensure ample intake of a fluid minimum of 2 liters per day. A fresh cup of tea is taken between meals 3 to 4 times a day. Leaf tea is advised to prepare by pouring 150 ml hot water over 1 to 2 dessertspoons of herb and then straining the leaves out after 15 minutes.
Contraindications, Precautions and Adverse Reactions: Infusions prepared of European or silver birch leaves are relatively safe to use, anyone taking a diuretic should be sure to drink plenty of fluids. Individuals with swelling due to impaired heart or kidney function should not use this preparation. Prolonged or extensive use of birch tar oil should be in attention to the presence of proteins and sediment in the urine and the risk of kidney irritation. The oil from birch sold as methyl salicylate should be used very cautiously as a counterirritant, never swallow methyl salicylate, as it is much more toxic than most salicylates, such as acetylsalicylic acid found in aspirin, and fatal poisonings in children have been reported.
The birch leaf should not be used for edema when there are reduced cardiac or kidney functions.
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