There are many species of birch on earth. Where I come from you will mainly find silver birch, Betula pendula, downy birch, Betula pubescens and hybrids of the two. Collectively, they used to be known as white birch, Betula alba, which is an appropriate name for this white-barked tree.
I have chosen to write this monograph on silver birch. However, the properties described apply just as well to the downy birch as the hybrid white birch.
Birch is best known for its influence on the kidneys and urinary tract. It is, therefore, a valuable tree for people with cystitis, kidney infections and related conditions. Disorders related to kidney function, such as fluid retention, gout and eczema can be treated with birch, just as it helps the kidneys to do their detoxifying work.
Those among us who are a bit older probably remember Birch Hair Water. Birch helps against dandruff and oily skin. As a results, it is widely used as an ingredient in shampoos and skin lotions.
On a moonlit night, the birch itself seems to glow. It is, therefore, hardly surprising that many magical properties are attributed to this tree. Best known is probably its protective effect against sorcery and curses. Birch protects livestock and crops and helps against misery in general.
Birch is a symbol of spring and budding life. It was used in rods of life and to find love. To top all this, birch can be used for numerous types of divination.
Now, I have not even mentioned all the practical things you can do with this tree, but fear not… they will be covered later in the monograph.
It is easy to recognise birch by its white bark. It is a fast-growing tree that shoots up to a height of about thirty metres. They usually do not live that long. The trunk is generally dead straight. As mentioned, the bark is white or silvery in colour. This is also the case with downy birch; silver birch darkens with age. The bark of a tree older than twenty years will show black stripes and peel off in strips.
The leaves are about 6 cm long and 4 cm wide, long-stemmed, alternately arranged and rhomboid-acuminate in shape. They have a biserrated margin. The male and female catkins appear at about the same time as the leaves, with the male being twice as long and located higher up the tree than the female. After flowering, the achenes appear in the form of small, winged nuts.
Birch bark burns easily. That is why it has been used as tinder, material for making torches, et cetera, since time immemorial.
Birch bark is one of the oldest writing materials known. You can use it as plaster to fix broken bones.
Birch wood is versatile. It is used for furniture, paper and brooms. Birch wood gives a high-quality charcoal.
Birch tar, a product that humans already made in early prehistoric times, can be applied in many ways, for example as glue, roofing material and for tanning leather. It was also used as a base for ointment.
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