is the botanical name for a group of deciduous (leaf-losing) trees and shrubs, commonly known as the Birches. They
are natives of Europe, Asia and North America. Birches are very attractive, with
their white or beautifully colored bark, which peels off in thin, papery
fragments. Birch trees have simple (whole - not divided into separate pieces)
leaves arranged alternately on the branch, with toothed and sometimes lobed
The leaves usually grow in pairs on short spur-like growths on
the second-year branches. The flowers are produced in catkins in early spring
before the leaves; male flowers grow in thin, pendant catkins and the female
flowers are born in smaller and rather erect catkins on growth of the previous
season. Male and female flowers grow on the same tree and are noticeable, but
are nothing spectacular.
The fruits consist of a central axis to which many, little
scales are attached. The seeds are winged and are scattered by the breeze.
Birches grow naturally in cold climates and are very hardy; they withstand a
substantial amount of exposure.
B. lenta ,the Black or Cherry Birch, has reddish-brown bark that
has the smell and taste of wintergreen. The leaves grow from 2 to 4 inches
long and are ovate to oblong in shape, with pointed tips and rounded or
heart-shaped bases. They are dark green on top and a paler yellowish-green
underneath. They give off the scent of wintergreen when crushed. This tree
grows from 50 to 60 feet high.
B. populifolia, the Gray Birch,
is a small tree, only growing 20 to 30 feet high. The bark of this tree is
chalky-white with dark spots below the branches. The leaves are
triangular-ovate with long tapering, pointed tips and long leaf stalks. They
grow from 2 to 3 inches in length and are shiny, dark green above and paler
beneath. The edges are sharply and doubly toothed. This tree usually grows in
groups of trunks - not just one central trunk. There are a few small, bushy
types, such as B. nana and B. pumila, which may be planted in
the rock garden. Many Birches have excellent wood that is used in the
manufacture of furniture, plywood, cotton spools, brush backs, and many other
things. The Karlean Birch from Finland is especially popular for making
cabinets and small fancy objects.
In some northern countries, Birch
wood is used for fuel. Birch tar and oil used in the medical practice are
obtained by distillation of the wood of the common Birch.
Birch, B. lenta, is one source of oil of wintergreen, which is used for
medicinal purposes. This tree also yields sap, which is fermented to make
Birch beer. The bark can be used for roofing houses and sheds and some is used
for canoes. At one time, the bark was used by the North American Indians for
making fancy articles and pictures were painted on its surface. Bark has also
been used for writing paper.
Abedul Properties Useful to Aztec's
The Aztec's would use Birch as a Diuretic!
Aztec Method of Use
They would boil
about 10 grams of bark to 1 liter of water which would be administered to the
ill whenever they asked for water or as a daily drink for the non ill people.
This presentation is not a guide to the identification of plants or their use
as a substitute for standard medical treatments.
Many plants with medicinal properties are also toxic and frequently
if taken at incorrect dosages or if not prepared in a specific fashion.
We do not advocate the consumption of reputed medicinal plant products
without prior consultation with your physicianor other natural plant products professional.
Consult Your Physician Before Using a Herbal Remedy!