Birch leaves are mainly used in irrigation therapy against various inflammatory disorders of the urinary tract, including urethritis and cystitis. The increased urine flow fights the formation of kidney and bladder stones. The leaves are also traditionally used as a diuretic in cases of joint pain, gout and oedema (dropsy). Birch tar oil is applied topically against itching, in cases of eczema, psoriasis and other skin disorders.
Birch Betula pendula Roth.
Other Names: Silver birch; common birch; bouleau blanc (French); Hängebirke (German); betulla bianca (Italian); abedul (Spanish).
Description: Birch is an erect tree (up to 30 m in height), with a characteristic white papery bark. Flowers appear in the form of slender, inconspicuous catkins. Betula pubescens (downy birch or white birch) and B. pendula commonly hybridise. Downy birch has coarsely toothed leaves with short, soft hairs on both surfaces, while silver birch has doubly dentate, hairless leaves. Both species and their hybrids can be used to support health.
Parts Used: Leaves (Betulae folium) , bark (Betulae cortex), leaf buds (Betulae gemmae), tar oil from bark (Betulae pix).
Origin: Both species occur naturally in the northern parts of Europe and Asia and have become popular garden trees in many countries.
Ingredients: The activity of birch leaves is ascribed mainly to flavonoid glycosides (2-3 % of dry weight). Hyperoside and quercitrin are the main compounds. Also present are flavone methyl esters, phenylpropanoids, steroidal saponins, methylsalicylate and resins. Tar is rich in phenolics (6%). such as guajacol, kresol, and pyrogallol.
Health Effects: The diuretic effect of birch leaves is ascribed to the flavonoids and has been confirmed in animal experiments. Possible saluretic effects (increased secretion of salts) have been disputed.
Notes: The leaves, bark, sap, essential oil and tar of Betula species have numerous practical uses (e.g. in cosmetics) in Europe, Asia and North America. Stripped bark has many traditional uses (e.g. as paper, roof tiles).
Status: Pharm.; Comm. E+; ESCOP 1.
Preparation and Dosage: Infusions and liquid extracts made from 2 - 3 g of dry leaves (or equivalent doses) are taken orally several times per day.
Take 1 capsule, 3 times daily, with meals.
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