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Herbs & Plants

Gaultheria procumbens

Botanical Name :Gaultheria procumbens
Family: Ericaceae
Genus: Gaultheria
Species: G. procumbens
Kingdom: Plantae
Order: Ericales

Common Names:Eastern teaberry, Checkerberry, BHoxberry, or American wintergreen, Teaberry, Mountain Tea, Spice Berry, Checker-berry, Partridge-berry.

Other Names:
American mountain tea, boxberry, Canada tea, canterberry, checkerberry, chickenberry, chinks, creeping wintergreen, deerberry, drunkards, gingerberry, ground berry, ground tea, grouseberry, hillberry, mountain tea, one-berry, partridge berry, procalm, red pollom, spice berry, squaw vine, star berry, teaberry, spiceberry, spicy wintergreen, spring wintergreen, teaberry, wax cluster, youngsters,

While this plant is also known as partridge berry, that name more often refers to the ground cover Mitchella repens.

Habitat : Gaultheria procumbens is native to northeastern North America from Newfoundland west to southeastern Manitoba, and south to Alabama. It is a member of the Ericaceae (heath family).It grows in Sterile woods (poor acid soils) and clearings. Especially found beneath evergreen trees

Description:
Gaultheria procumbens is a small low-growing shrub, typically reaching 10–15 centimeters (3.9–5.9 in) tall. The leaves are evergreen, elliptic to ovate, 2–5 cm long and 1–2 cm broad, with a distinct oil of wintergreen scent. The flowers are bell-shaped, 5 mm long, white, borne solitary or in short racemes. The berry-like fruit is actually a dry capsule surrounded by fleshy calyx, 6–9 mm diameter.
click to see the pictures…….>..(01)....(1).....(2).…...(3).…....(4).….….(5).
It is a calcifuge, favoring acidic soil, in pine or hardwood forests, although it generally produces fruit only in sunnier areas. It often grows as part of the heath complex in an oak-heath forest.

G. procumbens spreads by means of long rhizomes, which are within the top 20–30 mm of soil. Because of the shallow nature of the rhizomes, it does not survive most forest fires, but a brief or mild fire may leave rhizomes intact, from which the plant can regrow even if the above-ground shrub was consumed.

This plant has gained the Royal Horticultural Society‘s Award of Garden Merit

Edible Uses:Fruit are eaten raw or cooked. Pleasant but insipid. The fruit is not at all insipid, it has a very strong spicy taste of germolene, just like being in a hospital waiting room. Best after a frost, the fruit hangs onto the plant until spring if it is not eaten by birds etc. The fruits can also be used in pies, or made into jams etc. The fruit is up to 15mm in diameter. Young leaves – raw. A pleasant wayside nibble if used when very young. Dry and powdery according to our taste buds. A very agreeable tea is made from the fresh leaves. A stronger tea can be made by first fermenting the bright red leaves. ‘Oil of wintergreen’ can be distilled from this plant. It is used to flavour beer, sweets, chewing gum etc

For the leaves to yield significant amounts of their essential oil, they need to be fermented for at least 3 days.

Teaberry is also an ice cream flavor in regions where the plant grows. It also inspired the name of Clark’s Teaberry chewing gum.

Cultivation:
Prefers a moist but not boggy humus rich soil in shade or semi-shade. A peat and moisture loving species, it requires a lime-free soil. Succeeds in dry soils once it is well established and tolerates considerable drought. Grows well under the thin shade of deciduous shrubs or evergreens. A very cold-hardy plant, tolerating temperatures down to about -35°c. Plants can become invasive when growing in good conditions. Some named forms have been developed for their ornamental value, ‘Dart’s Red Giant’ has specially large berries. All parts of the plant are aromatic, the bruised leaves having the scent of wintergreen. Plants in this genus are notably resistant to honey fungus.

Propagation:
The seed requires a period of cold stratification. Pre-chill for 4 – 10 weeks and then surface sow in a lime-free compost in a shady part of the greenhouse and keep the compost moist. The seed usually germinates well, usually within 1 – 2 months at 20°c, but the seedlings are liable to damp off. It is important to water them with care and to ensure that they get plenty of ventilation. Watering them with a garlic infusion can also help to prevent damping of. Prick out the seedlings into individual pots when they are about 25mm tall and grow them on in light shade in the greenhouse for at least their first winter. Plant them out in late spring or early summer. The seedlings are susceptible to spring frosts so might need some protection for their first few years outdoors. The leaves remain very small for the first few years. Cuttings of half-ripe wood 3 – 6cm long, July/August in a frame in a shady position. They form roots in late summer or spring. A good percentage usually take. Division can be carried out at almost any time of the year, but works best in the spring just before new growth begins. Very easy, larger clumps can be replanted direct into their permanent positions, though it is best to pot up smaller clumps and grow them on in a cold frame until they are rooting well. Plant them out in the spring.

Constituents:
Constituents:  methyl salicylate, ketone, alcohol

Gaultheria procumbensis one of the richest sources of salicylic acid compared to other plants 1 including Salix spp. (willow), Betula spp. (birch), many poplars, and Viburnum prunifolium (black haw).

Medicinal Uses:
Analgesic; Antiinflammatory; Aromatic; Astringent; Carminative; Diuretic; Emmenagogue; Stimulant; Tonic.

Checkerberry leaves were widely used by the native North American Indians in the treatment of aches and pains and to help breathing whilst hunting or carrying heavy loads. An essential oil (known as ‘oil of wintergreen’) obtained from the leaves contains methyl salicylate, which is closely related to aspirin and is an effective anti-inflammatory. This species was at one time a major source of methyl salicylate, though this is now mainly synthesized. The leaves, and the oil, are analgesic, anti-inflammatory, aromatic, astringent, carminative, diuretic, emmenagogue, stimulant and tonic. An infusion of the leaves is used to relieve flatulence and colic. The plant, especially in the form of the essential oil, is most useful when applied externally in the treatment of acute cases of rheumatism, sciatica, myalgia, sprains, neuralgia and catarrh. The oil is sometimes used in the treatment of cellulitis, a bacterial infection that causes the skin to become inflamed. Some caution is advised, especially if the oil is used internally, since essential oil is toxic in excess, causing liver and kidney damage. It should not be prescribed for patients who are hypersensitive to salicylates (aspirin). The leaves can be gathered at any time from spring to early autumn, they are dried for use in infusions or distilled to produce the oil

The plant has been used by various tribes of Native Americans for medicinal purposes.

Other Uses:
Essential; Ground cover.

An essential oil is obtained from the leaves by steam distillation. In order to obtain the oil, the leaves need to be steeped for 12 – 24 hours in water. The essential oil is used as a food flavouring, medicinally (the original source of Wintergreen oil used as a liniment for aching muscles) and in perfumery and toothpastes. In large doses it can be toxic. A good ground-cover plant for shady positions though it requires weeding for the first year or so. Forming a dense tuft-like carpet, it roots as it spreads and should be spaced about 45cm apart each way.

Scented Plants:     Plant: CrushedAll parts of the plant are aromatic, the bruised leaves having the scent of wintergreen.

Known Hazards : The pure distilled essential oil is toxic in large doses

Disclaimer:
The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplements, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider.

Resources:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gaultheria_procumbens
http://digedibles.com/database/plants.php?Gaultheria+procumbens
http://www.anniesremedy.com/herb_detail148.php

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Herbs & Plants

Betula lenta

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Botanical Name ; Betula lenta
Kingdom: Plantae
Order: Fagales
Family: Betulaceae
Genus: Betula
Subgenus: Betulenta
Species: B. lenta

Synonyms:  Betula carpinifolia.

Common Names :Sweet Birch , Black Birch, Cherry Birch, Mahogany Birch, or Spice Birch.

Habitat :  Betula lenta is  native to eastern North America, from southern Maine west to southernmost Ontario, and south in the Appalachian Mountains to northern Georgia.
It grows in the rich woodlands, preferring north-facing slopes and moist soils. It is also found on rocky soils.

Description:
It is a medium-sized deciduous tree reaching 20 m tall with a trunk up to 60 cm diameter. In younger trees the bark is characteristic of most Birches with smooth bark and horizontal fissures. It can sometimes be mistakenly identified as a Cherry tree. In some older tree specimens the bark can (unlike most birches)develop vertical cracks into irregular scaly plates revealing rough darkish brown bark patterns. This however, does not occur in all specimens. The twigs, when scraped, have a strong scent of oil of wintergreen. The leaves are alternate, ovate, 5-10 cm long and 4-8 cm broad, with a finely serrated margin. The flowers are wind-pollinated catkins 3-6 cm long, the male catkins pendulous, the female catkins erect. The fruit, maturing in fall, is composed of numerous tiny winged seeds packed between the catkin bracts

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It is in flower in April, and the seeds ripen in October. The flowers are monoecious (individual flowers are either male or female, but both sexes can be found on the same plant) and are pollinated by Wind.Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils, prefers well-drained soil and can grow in heavy clay soil. Suitable pH: acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils and can grow in very acid soils.
It can grow in semi-shade (light woodland) or no shade. It prefers moist soil.

Cultivation:
An easily grown plant, it succeeds in a well-drained loamy soil in a sheltered position. Grows well in heavy clay soils. Dislikes wet soils. Shade tolerant. Cherry birch is said to tolerate an annual precipitation of ca 60 to 150cm, an average annual temperature range of 5 to 12°C, and a pH of 4.5 to 7.5. Hybridizes freely with other members of this genus. The bruised foliage has a strong smell of wintergreen. A good plant to grow near the compost heap, aiding the fermentation process. Trees can be coppiced on a cycle of 5 years or more. Trees are notably susceptible to honey fungus. Special Features: Attracts birds, North American native, Inconspicuous flowers or blooms.

Propagation:
Seed – best sown as soon as it is ripe in a light position in a cold frame. Only just cover the seed and place the pot in a sunny position. Spring sown seed should be surface sown in a sunny position in a cold frame. If the germination is poor, raising the temperature by covering the seed with glass can help. When they are large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and grow them on in a cold frame for at least their first winter. Plant them out into their permanent positions in late spring or early summer, after the last expected frosts. If you have sufficient seed, it can be sown in an outdoor seedbed, either as soon as it is ripe or in the early spring – do not cover the spring sown seed. Grow the plants on in the seedbed for 2 years before planting them out into their permanent positions in the winter.

Edible Uses:
Inner bark – cooked or dried and ground into a powde. Sweet and spicy. The dried inner bark can be used as a thickener in soups etc or can be added to flour when making bread etc. Inner bark is generally only seen as a famine food, used when other forms of starch are not available or are in short supply[K]. Sap – raw or cooked. A sweet flavour. It is harvested in early spring, before the leaves unfurl, by tapping the trunk. The flow is best on sunny days following a heavy frost. A delicious drink, it can also be concentrated into a syrup or sugar. The sap can be fermented to make birch beer or vinegar. An old English recipe for the beer is as follows:- “To every Gallon of Birch-water put a quart of Honey, well stirr’d together; then boil it almost an hour with a few Cloves, and a little Limon-peel, keeping it well scumm’d. When it is sufficiently boil’d, and become cold, add to it three or four Spoonfuls of good Ale to make it work…and when the Test begins to settle, bottle it up . . . it is gentle, and very harmless in operation within the body, and exceedingly sharpens the Appetite, being drunk ante pastum.”. The dried leaves and bark from the larger roots are a delightful tea substitute. A wholesome, agreeable tea is made from the essential oil contained in the inner bark and twigs. This essential oil is also used as a wintergreen flavouring in foods.

Medicinal Uses: The cambium (the layer directly under the bark) is eaten in the spring, cut into strips like vermicelli.  The bark, in the form of an infusion is used as a general stimulant and to promote sweating.  As a decoction or syrup, it is used as a tonic for dysentery and is said to be useful in genito-urinary irritation.  The flavor of wintergreen and birch bark, in the form of a tea, was popular with Native Americans and European settlers.  The juice of the leaves once made a gargle for mouth sores.  Throughout the centuries, the sap has been used in making medicinal wine and were made into a diuretic tea.  Also an ingredient in skin lotions.

Other Uses:    Landscape Uses:Specimen, Woodland garden.
Betula lenta was used commercially in the past for production of oil of wintergreen before modern industrial synthesis; the tree’s name reflects this scent of the shoots.

The sap flows about a month later than maple sap, and much faster. The trees can be tapped in a similar fashion, but must be gathered about three times more often. Birch sap can be boiled the same as maple sap, but its syrup is stronger (like molasses).

Betula lenta’s leaves serve as food for some lepidopteran caterpillars. See List of Lepidoptera that feed on birches.
Known Hazards: The essential oil obtained from the bark contains 97 – 99% methyl salicylate. This is very toxic when taken orally, and it can also be absorbed through the skin, resulting in human fatalities. As little as 4, 700 mg can be fatal in children. The aromatic and aliphatic hydrocarbons in birch tar are irritating to the skin. Do not use in patients with oedema or with poor kidney or heart functions.

Disclaimer:The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplements, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider

 Resources:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Betula_lenta
http://es.wikipedia.org/wiki/Archivo:Betula_lenta_subsps_lenta_01-10-2005_14.54.08.JPG
http://www.herbnet.com/Herb%20Uses_RST.htm
http://www.pfaf.org/user/Plant.aspx?LatinName=Betula+lenta

 

 

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Herbs & Plants

Birch

Silver Birch - Silhouette
Image by oddsock via Flickr

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Botanical Name:Betula
Family: Betulaceae
Kingdom: Plantae
Division: Magnoliophyta
Class: Magnoliopsida
Order: Fagales
Genus:
Betula
Common Name:The common name birch is derived from an old Germanic root, birka, with the Proto-Indo-European root *bherag, “white, bright; to shine.” The Proto-Germanic rune berkanan is named after the birch. The botanic name Betula is from the original Latin.Birch is the name of any tree of the genus Betula (Bé-tu-la), in the family Betulaceae, closely related to the beech/oak family, Fagaceae.Bhurjapatra,Betula utilis.

Parts Used:Leaves, bark, sap.
Habitat: Native to Europe from the northern Mediterranean regions to Siberia and to temperate regions of Asia, it is also found in North America. Grows in mostly of northern temperate climates.

Description:The tree is handsomely deciduous, reaching 100 feet in height, with pale gray papery bark, toothed leaves, and catkins in the spring. The birch flourishes in woods, thickets, and in private gardens. The leaves are collected in the wild during the spring.The simple leaves may be toothed or pointed. The fruit is a small samara, although the wings may be obscure in some species. They differ from the alders (Alnus, other genus in the family) in that the female catkins are not woody and disintegrate at maturity, falling apart to release the seeds, unlike the woody cone-like female alder catkins.

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The bark of all birches is characteristically marked with long horizontal lenticels, and often separates into thin papery plates, especially upon the Paper Birch. It is practically imperishable, due to the resinous oil which it contains. Its decided color gives the common names Red, White, Black], Silver and Yellow to different species.

The buds form early and are full grown by midsummer, all are lateral, no terminal bud is formed; the branch is prolonged by the upper lateral bud. The wood of all the species is close-grained with satiny texture and capable of taking a fine polish; its fuel value is fair.

The leaves of the different species vary but little. All are alternate, doubly serrate, feather-veined, petiolate, and stipulate. Apparently they often appear in pairs, but these pairs are really borne on spur-like two-leaved lateral branchlets.

Flower and fruit
The flowers are monoecious, opening with or before the leaves and borne on three-flowered clusters in the axils of the scales of drooping or erect aments. Staminate aments are pendulous, clustered or solitary in the axils of the last leaves of the branch of the year or near the ends of the short lateral branchlets of the year. They form in early autumn and remain rigid during the winter. The scales of the staminate aments when mature are broadly ovate, rounded, yellow or orange color below the middle, dark chestnut brown at apex. Each scale bears two bractlets and three sterile flowers, each flower consisting of a sessile, membranaceous, usually two-lobed, calyx. Each calyx bears four short filaments with one-celled anthers or strictly, two filaments divided into two branches, each bearing a half-anther. Anther cells open longitudinally. The pistillate aments (catkins) are erect or pendulous, solitary; terminal on the two-leaved lateral spur-like branchlets of the year. The pistillate scales are oblong-ovate, three-lobed, pale yellow green often tinged with red, becoming brown at maturity. These scales bear two or three fertile flowers, each flower consisting of a naked ovary. The ovary is compressed, two-celled, and crowned with two slender styles; the ovule is solitary.

The ripened pistillate ament is called a strobile and bears tiny winged nuts, packed in the protecting curve of each brown and woody scale. These nuts are pale chestnut brown, compressed, crowned by the persistent stigmas. The seed fills the cavity of the nut. The cotyledons are flat and fleshy. All the species are easily grown from seed.

Ecology
Birches often form even-aged stands on light, well-drained, particularly acidic soils. They are regarded as pioneer species, rapidly colonising open ground especially in secondary successional sequences following a disturbance or fire. Birches are early tree species to establish in primary successions and can become a threat to heathland if the seedlings and saplings are not suppressed by grazing or periodic burning. Birches are generally lowland species, but some species such as Betula nana have a montane distribution. Birch is used as a food plant by the larvae of a large number of Lepidoptera (butterflies and moths) species, see List of Lepidoptera that feed on birches.

Uses:
Birch wood is fine-grained and pale in colour, often with an attractive satin-like sheen. Ripple figuring may occur, increasing the value of the timber for veneer and furniture-making. The highly-decorative Masur (or Karelian) birch, from Betula verrucosa var. carelica has ripple texture combined with attractive dark streaks and lines. Birch wood is suitable for veneer, and birch ply is among the strongest and most dimensionally-stable plywoods, although it is unsuitable for exterior use.

Due to birch pulp’s short-fibre qualities, this hardwood can be used to make printing paper. In India the thin bark coming off in winter was used as writing paper. This has excellent life. The paper is known as bhoorj patra. Bhoorj is the Sanskrit name of tree and patra means paper. This bark also has been used widely in ancient Russia as note paper (beresta) and for decorative purposes and even making footwear — lapti.

Extracts of birch are used for flavoring or leather oil, and in cosmetics such as soap or shampoo. In the past, commercial oil of wintergreen (methyl salicylate) was made from the Sweet Birch (Betula lenta). Birch tar or Russian Oil, extracted from birch bark, is thermoplastic and waterproof; it was used as a glue on, for example, arrows, and also for medicinal purposes.

Silver Birch (Betula pendula) is Finland’s national tree. Occasionally one uses leafy, fragrant twigs of silver birch to gently beat oneself in a sauna. The twigs are called vihta or vasta. This has a relaxing effect on the muscles.

Birch leaves make a diuretic tea and to make extracts for dyes and cosmetics.

Ground birch bark, fermented in sea water, is used for seasoning the woolen, hemp or linen sails and hemp rope of traditional Norwegian boats.

Birch twigs were bound in a bundle, also called birch, to be used for birching, a form of corporal punishment.

Many of the First Nations of North America prized the birch for its bark, which due to its light weight, flexibility, and the ease with which it could be stripped from fallen trees, was often used for the construction of strong, waterproof but lightweight canoes, bowls, and wigwams.

Birch is used as firewood due to its high calorific value per unit weight and unit volume. Birch is prized by the Sami people as it burns well, without popping, even when frozen and freshly hewn. The bark is also used in starting fires. The bark will burn very well, even when wet, because of the oils it contains. With care, the bark can be split into very thin sheets that will ignite from even the smallest of sparks.

Birches also have spiritual importance in several religions, both modern and historical.

Birch ply is made from laminations of birch veneer. It is light but strong and has many other good properties. Birch ply is used to make longboards (skateboard), giving it a strong yet flexy ride. It is also used (often in very thin grades with many laminations) for making model aircraft.

Tonewood
Baltic Birch is among the most sought after wood in the manufacture of speaker cabinets. Birch has a natural resonance that peaks in the high and low frequencies, which are also the hardest for speakers to reproduce. This resonance compensates for the roll-off of low and high frequencies in the speakers, and evens the tone. Birch is known for having “natural EQ.”

Drums are often made from Birch. Prior to the 1970s, Birch was one of the most popular drum woods. Because of the need for greater volume and midrange clarity, drums were made almost entirely from maple until recently, when advancements in live sound reinforcement and drum mics have allowed the use of Birch in high volume situations. Birch drums have a natural boost in the high and low frequencies, which allow the drums to sound fuller.

Birch wood is sometimes used as a tonewood for semi-acoustic and acoustic guitar bodies and occasionally used for solid-body guitar bodies. Birch wood is also a common material used in mallets for keyboard percussion.

Food

In Belarus, Russia, the Baltic States, Finland, Sweden, Denmark and parts of northern China, birch sap is consumed as a refreshing beer, and is believed to have tonic qualities. It is watery and pale green in color, with a slightly sweet flavor, and is bottled commercially. Birch sap may also be made into kvass. The sap of particular birch species may also be rendered into birch syrup, vinegar, birch wine (which most often turns out a sparkling wine, although Grythyttan Vin AB of Sweden also produces a still birch wine), birch beer (a soft drink similar to root beer), and other foods. In contrast to maple syrup, birch syrup is very difficult to produce, making it more expensive than other food syrups. It is also considerably less sweet than maple syrup and the sap for syrup production is not available until a month later than maple’s. The syrup is made mainly in Alaska (from Alaska Birch) and Russia (from several species), and more rarely elsewhere.

Xylitol can also be extracted from birch, a sugar alcohol artificial sweetener, which has shown effectiveness in preventing, and in some cases repairing, tooth decay.

According to the Food Network series Unwrapped, birch is a preferred wood for the manufacture of toothpicks.

Medicinal uses:

Key Actions:
*antiseptic
*astringent
*anti-inflammatory
*diuretic
In northern latitudes birch is considered to be the most important allergenic tree pollen, with an estimated 15-20% of hay fever sufferers sensitive to birch pollen grains.

The chaga mushroom is an adaptogen that grows on white birch trees, extracting the birch constituents and is used as a remedy for cancer.

The bark is high in betulin and betulinic acid, phytochemicals which have potential as pharmaceuticals, and other chemicals which show promise as industrial lubricants.

Birch bark can be soaked until moist in water, and then formed into a cast for a broken arm.

The inner bark of birch can be ingested safely.

A German study indicated that the leaves were useful in treating bacterial and inflammatory diseases of the urinary tract.

Remedies
*infusion made from the leaves for the removal of waste products in the urine thereby treating kidney and bladder stones, rheumatic conditions, and gout.

*sap as a diuretic
oil or expressed liquid from the leaves in preparations for eczema, psoriasis, and other chronic skin complaints.

*lotions made from decoctions for chronic skin problems

*ointment for rheumatism and gout

*decoction of the bark on chronic skin conditions

Traditional Uses:-
*Birch tar is a clear, dark brown oil obtained through a distillation process and used for parasitic infestations of the skin and other chronic skin complaints. It is also a constituent of Unguentum contra scabiem used in the treatment of scabies.

*The leaves are used with other diuretic herbs to reduce fluid retention and swellings.

*The bark can be macerated in oil and applied to rheumatic joints.

*The Himalyayan Silver Birch is used in Ayurvedic medicine as a treatment for convulsions, dysentery, hemorrhages, and skin diseases.

*Mexicans use the leaves in a diuretic tea.

Ayurvedic Uses:
Ear disorders, bile disorders, anomalies of blood, psychological disorders, anti-obesity, anti-toxin.

Click to see:->Birch Herb Description – Drug Interactions, Dosage and Some of Its Useful Properties – Ayurveda

Disclaimer:The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplements, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider.

Resources:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Birch
http://www.innvista.com/HEALTH/herbs/birch.htm

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Herbs & Plants

Black Birch (Betula lenta)

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Betula lenta
Image via Wikipedia

Botanical Name: Betula lenta
Family: Betulaceae
Genus: Betula
Subgenus:Betulenta
Species:B. lenta
Kingdom:Plantae
Order: Fagales


Popular Name(s):Cherry birch, mahogany birch, mountain mahogany, spice birch, and sweet birch. Mountain Mahogany,

Parts Used: Inner bark, twigs & leaves
Flowers: April – May

Habitat: Black Birch is native to eastern North America. Forests or open woods, especially moist, north facing, protected slopes; in deep, rich, well-drained soils. Southern Quebec, southwest Maine to northern Georgia, Alabama; north to eastern Ohio.It is a species of birch native to eastern North America, from southern Maine west to southernmost Ontario and southern Michigan, and south in the Appalachian Mountains to northern Georgia.

Description: Black Birch is a deciduous tree growing up to a height of 20 m. Its twigs, when scraped, have a strong scent of oil of wintergreen. The leaves are pointed, alternate, ovate, 5-10 cm in length and 4-8 cm in breadth. The male trees bear flowers about 3 inches long. Female catkins produce flowers about 1 inch long. It fruits are composed of numerous tiny winged seeds which are packed between the catkin bracts.

Medium-size tree with rounded crown and smooth, dark red to almost black bark. Broken twigs have wintergreen fragrance. Buds alternate, both side and end buds present, about 3/10 of an inch long, light brown, broadest near base and tapering to a point. Fruits are erect brown cones 1 to 1-1/2 inches long, containing many tiny, winged seeds. Fruits mature in late summer and early
fall. Cones persist into winter. Leaves oval, toothed, and up to 6 inches long.

The flowers are wind-pollinated catkins 3-6 cm long, the male catkins pendulous, the female catkins erect. The fruit, maturing in fall, is composed of numerous tiny winged seeds packed between the catkin bracts.

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Black Birch was used commercially in the past for production of oil of wintergreen before modern industrial synthesis; the tree’s name reflects this scent of the shoots.

The sap flows about a month later than maple sap, and much faster. The trees can be tapped in a similar fashion, but must be gathered about three times more often. Birch sap can be boiled the same as maple sap, but its syrup is stronger (like molasses).

The Sweet Birch‘s leaves serve as food for some lepidopteran caterpillars. See List of Lepidoptera which feed on Birches.

History: The black birch was widely used by American Indians, in bark tea for fevers, stomachaches, lung ailments; twig tea for fever. Essential oil (methyl salicylate) distilled from bark was used for rheumatism, gout, scrofulas, bladder infection, and neuralgia.

Harvest: Twigs, red inner bark, and bark of larger roots year round, but best in late winter and spring. Sap in early spring, 3 to 4 weeks later than Sugar Maple.Harvest during Spring (sap & inner bark); All Year (twigs).

Constituents: Essential oil (methyl salicylate).
Nutrients: Vitamins A, B1, B2, C, and E. Calcium, chlorine, copper, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, sodium, and silicon.

Note: It has been recorded that during the civil war, the edible bark of Black Birch probably saved the lives of hundreds of confederate soldiers.

Edible Uses: Tea, flour.
Medicinal Properties & Uses: Black Birch has anthelmintic, astringent and diuretic properties.It is Anti-inflammatory, Analgesic, Anthelmintic, Astringent, Diuretic, Diaphoretic, Stimulant. A tea made from the inner bark is used as a mouthwash and in diarrhoea, rheumatism, gout and boils. It purifies the blood also.
Used in the treatment of diarrhea, dysentery and cholera. The natural properties are cleansing to the blood and it is used specifically for rheumatism, dropsy, gout, stones in the kidneys and bladder, and to expel worms.
To alleviate pain or sore muscles, the oil has been applied as a counterirritant. The essential oil was formerly produced in Appalachia. But now, methyl salicylate is produced synthetically, using menthol as the precursor.
The oil of Birch is applied to the skin for eczema and cutaneous diseases; the tea is effective when gargled for canker and mouth sores.
The cambium (the layer directly under the bark) is eaten in the spring, cut into strips like vermicelli. The bark, in the form of an infusion is used as a general stimulant and to promote sweating. As a decoction or syrup, it is used as a tonic for dysentery and is said to be useful in genito-urinary irritation. The flavor of wintergreen and birch bark, in the form of a tea, was popular with Native Americans and European settlers. The juice of the leaves once made a gargle for mouth sores. Throughout the centuries, the sap has been used in making medicinal wine and were made into a diuretic tea. Also an ingredient in skin lotions.

Preparation And Dosages:
Bark – Strong decoction, (1 to 2 ounces, up to 4 times a day).
Leaves – Standard infusion as bath or wash as needed.

Tincture: Inner bark – (1:2, in 60% alcohol), 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon.

Black Birch Tea:Steep twigs or fresh or dried inner bark in water, or preferably, birch sap. (Do not boil. Boiling removes volatile wintergreen essence.) Sweeten to taste.

Black Birch is also a wild food.

Disclaimer : The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplement, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider.

 

Resources:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Betula_lenta
http://www.indianspringherbs.com/BlackBirch_M.htm
http://www.herbsguide.net/black-birch.html
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sweet_Birch
http://www.herbnet.com/Herb%20Uses_RST.htm