From the May 2000 Idaho Observer:

Birch for bones, flesh, cartilage, skin and eyes

by Carol Geck, ND

As Spring approaches, we anxiously watch for the birch tree leaves to burst forth. Nothing is more beautiful to watch in the summer and autumn than birch leaves flickering in the breeze.

Here in North America, birch trees have many common names such as Black Birch, Cherry Birch, Spice Birch, Mahogany Birch, Mountain Mahogany, Sweet Birch, Paper Birch and Water Birch. There are many other species that are indigenous to Europe, from the northern Mediterranean regions to Siberia and the temperate regions of Asia.

In the Northwest area of the United States, our American Indians used the bark of the Paper Birch widely to make baskets, canoes and baby cradles. They stripped the bark from the tree in rectangular sheets in late spring, and sewed it with split cedar or spruce roots. Many of the local natives made soap and shampoo from birch leaves. Birch sap was also used as a tonic. Recent research indicates that betulinic acid, which makes birch bark white, shows promise in treating skin cancer and may one day be an ingredient of sun screens and tanning lotions.

Water Birch provides important habitat for many species of birds and mammals that live near streams, lakes and marshes. The American Indians and early European settlers flavored their tea with birch bark. They also harvested the sap from hollowed-out cavities and drank it as a sweet beverage.

In folk medicine, the leaves were used as a blood purifier as well as for gout and rheumatism. The leaves were also used in a “flushing-out” therapy for bacterial and inflammatory diseases of the urinary tract and for kidney gravel. Externally, the leaves were used for hair loss and dandruff. The folk medicinal effect was not well documented but was passed down through generations as beneficial for the aforementioned conditions.

Recent research has shown that birch's main constituent, methyl salicylate, is similar to the salicylic acid used in aspirin. Many years ago, the original “aspirin” was made from white willow trees; then the early pharmaceutical companies found that with the addition of coal tar to salicylic acid, the action of the aspirin would be stronger and with a more long lasting effect. Thus, a “better idea” was born.

Coal tar substances have been found in many pharmaceutical preparations, purportedly to enhance the product's action, but have also been known to suppress other disease conditions. When purchasing any over-the-counter or physician prescribed preparations, check with the pharmacist or PDR (Physician's Desk Reference) to find out the properties and actions of coal tar.

It is important to be aware of how much coal tar you ingest.

In my ongoing study and use of aromatherapy, I have found the wonderful benefits of Birch Essential Oil to be a natural replacement for many synthetic preparations. Birch Essential Oil contains an active principle constituent similar to cortisone, which is beneficial for joint, muscle and bone discomfort.

Several years ago I endured many bone surgeries. Before and after each surgery I was injected numerous times with cortisone. About 30 years later, I experienced foggy vision with many “floaters.” I was told by my ophthalmologist that I had severely formed cataracts in both eyes and needed both lenses replaced.

Being that I was considered “too young” to have cataracts, he asked me if I had been given large amounts of cortisone during my youth for my hip and back problems; as the medical community had now discovered that this so called “miracle drug” had been known to cause cataracts years later by destroying the lenses. If I had been told about this horrible side effect in the late “60s, I certainly would have refused those injections! At times, I still suffer bouts of bone pain, only now I use Birch Essential Oil which has been a “GODSEND” for me.

We should realize that drinking more water is very helpful to our bodies; but...let's face it, water can be quite boring! We have used one drop of Birch Essential Oil in a cup of hot water, making this a wonderful nourishing tea. Adding 4 to 5 drops to a gallon of pure water, or distilled water makes a delightful cool drink anytime of the year, plus just look at the benefits that you may receive when you drink water with the essential oil added.

This wonderful oil may be beneficial for urinary tract disorders, bladder infections, skin diseases, arthritis, rheumatism, inflammation, tendonitis, cystitis, gall-stones, gout, hypertension, ulcers, acne, cramps, osteoporosis, muscular pain, edema and eczema. It is reassuring to know that God put all of these plants and trees on our earth for us to use and stay well with.

The Essential Oil of Birch (Betula alleghaniensis) is much easier to work with than going out and gathering the leaves and bark. Besides, there are many species of Birch trees and some of the species have different actions and reactions. To be safe, we only use essential oils that have been AFNOR (Association French Normalization Organization Regulation) certified. This standard differentiates the true therapeutic-grade essential oils from similar Grade A essential oils with inferior chemistry. This guarantees that we are using a 100 percent pure unadulterated therapeutic Grade A Birch Essential Oil.

I can not impress on you enough that any essential oil that you apply to the body MUST be 100 percent pure and unadulterated. If you use any other essential oils that are adulterated, the expected results may be altered due to the petro-chemicals involved in the processing. In fact, some of these petro-chemicals have been proven to be carcinogenic. So it is best to be safe as well as confident in the therapeutic action of the oil you are using.

If you would like more information on pure unadulterated therapeutic Grade A Birch oil, or are interested in learning more about the numerous ways to use essential oils and would like to attend an Essential Oil Workshop, please call (208) 255-2307 for more information.


Carol Geck currently operates Heal-Thy Self Consulting in Bonners Ferry, Idaho. She is a board-certified Naturopath and a certified IIRA Iridologist, she is also trained in Live Blood Cell analysis and Aromatherapy. You can reach Carol for a personal consultation by calling (208) 267-6606 or (208) 267-5995.

Disclaimer: This article is for educational purposes only. Consult your health care professional about any serious disease or injury. Do not attempt to self-diagnose or prescribe any natural substance such as essential oils for serious health conditions that require professional attention.

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