Friday, May 30, 2014

Birch: The Miracle Tree


Nearly everyone has their favorite flower. Some of us have also our favorite trees. For me, that tree has always, without a question, been the birch. 

Not only are birches beautiful and I deeply admire them for their toughness and enthusiasm which they express, while striving even in the harshest conditions of the north and on poor soil, and the perseverance they manifest.

Birch is not only a valuable source of firewood used in the northern parts of our planet, its bark can help light a fire when other resources fail, and many beautiful and useful things, from canoes to furniture, baskets and dishes can be handcrafted from it.

But there is one more reason I love this tree and its special spirit and energy: It has an incredible account of medicinal uses due to its plentiful healing properties. 


The so called birch water is basically the tree´s sap and similarly to maple syrup, it can be extracted from the trees when spring arrives and awakens the flow of birch´s healing water.

The birch water is rich in minerals and vitamins and helps detoxify and cleanse the body after the winter. It also provides energy.

As I had changed my dietary habits a few years ago due to metabolism disorder that nearly led me to diabetes (yes, caused mainly by wrong nutrition) and mainly the carbohydrate and sugar sources in my nutrition, in search for low glycemic index (GI) foods and natural sweeteners, I found birch sugar.
It is derived from cooking the birch water, tastes sweet, has no side effects at all, contains very low calories and poses an extremely low GI.

Those are all amazing health benefits of this beautiful tree, don´t you agree?

But that is far from all of birch´s miracle offerings.

Birch (Betula pendula), or to be exact, its young, spring leaves contain up to 5% of essential oils, a large amount of saponins, flavone glycosides, tannins, resins, mineral substances and phyto-cidic substances with an antibiotic effect.

What does that mean for us? 

All of these substances are giving the tree these HEALING PROPERTIES:

  • help against rheumatism by helping to release salts from the body (both teas and baths)

  • diuretic effects without being harsh on the kidneys, ideal for treating urinary tract infections

  • disinfecting properties

  • strongly support metabolism (ideal for spring detoxification cures)

  • help bile secretion

  • strengthen blood circulation (tonify blood)

  • improve health of skin and hair

WHEN TO PICK THE LEAVES

The young leaves should be picked within two months since they start growing. That is the time, when the waking tree pumps all the healing properties into them. The older the leaves get, the lower amounts of the healing substances they contain, lowering the medicinal effects.

You can pick the spring leaves and dry them for later use as well.

HOW TO MAKE BIRCH TEA

Put 1 table spoon of fresh or dried spring birch leaves into a cup
Pour over a cup (or about 250ml) of boiling water
For better effect cover the tea to not lose the essential oils
Let rinse for 10 minutes, then remove leaves

Humans: 
Drink 1 cup up to 3 times a day

Animals:
Dogs and Cats under 10kg (20lb): 1/4 cup 2 times a day
Dogs above 10kg: 1/2 cup 2 times a day
Dogs and animals above 50kg: up to 1 cup 3 times a day

Tip for a practical and quick use and for those with multiple pet households and kennels:

- You can use adequate amount of leaves for the number of animals you have, then pour hot water over it and add the tea, including the leaves into their mutual food. 

- It helps to chop leaves into smaller pieces, making it easier for your dog or cat to eat them.

- If you are using nutritional supplements or more herbs together, you can just add the birch leaves into the mixture and pour the boiling water over all of the herbs at once, then add the tea into the food.

- If you are feeding commercial dry food (kibble), make the tea, split your pet´s feeding into two parts and pour the tea over their food in the morning and in the evening.

! Remember that when working with herbs, wild flowers and spices, it is always more effective to make the tea fresh, each time right before adding it into your animal´s food. 
Do not heat it up or make large quantities in advance. The teas then loose a lot of their potential due to the loss of the essential oils containing major healing properties.

And one more thing: When you decide to go out and pick some of the birch leaves, please be kind to the tree, take only what you need, pick the leaves gently and not all at the same spot. Respect the Nature and what it provides so that we all, humans and animals, can benefit from these gracious gifts.

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