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The Healing Medicine of Trees - Birch

Monday, October 22, 2018 8:55 PM | Wise Woman (Administrator)

The Healing Medicine Of Trees - Birch
by Susun Weed





Trees are some of the most fascinating of all plants and of all herbal medicines. The lore surrounding any one type of tree – even some individual trees – is vast.

Consider doing a brief meditation with each tree, breathing with it, listening to it, and being open to the messages that it has to share with us. Every breath is a give away dance of joy.

BIRCH is the tree of beginnings. Birch (Beth) begins the ogam alphabet. Birch was the first tree to take hold in Europe as the glaciers retreated after the last ice age. Birch is one of the first trees to grow in disturbed soils. A birch tree in your dream is a strong indication that you are beginning a new aspect of your life, and that new spiritual understandings await you.

Birch is Betula to the botanist. In Sanskrit, it is burgha, meaning “that which is good to write upon.” The use of birch bark as a material to write upon is thought to predate paper, and even to be the model for papermaking. Magic spells are often written on a piece of birch bark.

Birch is the “way shower.”  Birch is safety and warmth in the cold. Birch is the sky ladder of the Siberian shaman. Birch is the cradle for the newborn. Birch twigs are used to whip the skin in Scandinavian saunas; a kind of rebirth. Birch twigs are used to light the sacred fires in Wales. Birch torches were used to “purify” the land, to expel “evil spirits” and maleficent fairies, and to “beat the boundaries” at winter solstice throughout old Europe.

Birch bark will burn whether wet or dry. This knowledge has saved my life at least once in high mountains when hypothermia threatened. Birch bark is antiseptic. Because it is pliable when fresh, it may be fashioned into containers which preserve food. Strangely enough, a simple birch bark cup can be use over an open fire to boil water without bursting into flames.

There are many Native American stories in which birch saves the. The European fairy tale we know as Cinderella is based on an older Russian story in which a woman becomes a birch tree in order to take care of her orphaned daughter. (Some versions say it was a beech tree. Walt But the original tale centered on the caring love of the birch. Disney left out the tree, alas.)
Notice that the wood of birch rots away quickly while the bark remains intact, often in one piece, for many years. Birch bark canoes are justly famous.

Birch leaves – collected in the spring only – can be used to make a tea which eases sore throats, bleeding gums, sores in the mouth, constipation, gout, rheumatism, kidney stones, and bladder problems. The tea has a slightly sedative effect and eases sore muscles, too.

Older birch leaves can be added to a hot bath or made into a strong brew and poured into the tub to heal moist, oozing skin conditions.

Recent studies have found an anticancer compound in birch sap: betulinic acid. Older herbals contain recipes for birch beer made by fermenting the sap; and for birch vinegar, also made by fermentation. I have never tapped a birch tree as they don’t heal easily and can bleed to death. The sweet birch that I use to demonstrate on in the spring often drips sap for several days after I break a small limb.

Sweet birch is my favorite of the birches. It smells of wintergreen and is used commercially to produce essential oil of wintergreen. A hot water infusion of the twigs gathered before they leaf out is all I use as a household cleanser. A handful of twigs in a quart jar may be rebrewed up to thirty times before they need to be replaced. This cleanser is safe for children to drink, but effectively loosens and removes grease and grime.

Birch wood is primarily used as a veneer. It is light in weight and light in color. It is favored in the manufacture of electric guitars.

Who can fail to be moved by the mystery of a white-barked birch shining under the light of the full moon on a snowy winter night?

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