Date of the last update: 30.03.2023
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Especially as new leaves and sprouts appear in springtime, birch extract tea is a rich source of multiple nutrients, including vitamin C and flavonoids (substances with anticancer, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and antiviral properties). Birch extract also has astringent, diuretic, analgesic, and diaphoretic properties, helping it can also help address urinary tract infections, kidney problems, rheumatism, and various skin conditions. Birch leaf tea has a subtle peppery taste, but its fresh flavour is similar to that of green tea.
Birch trees are native to the northern hemisphere, and the medicinal consumption of birch extracts goes as far back as the Middle Ages, when the application of birch bark to the skin was used to accelerate wound healing, due to the bark’s high betulin content. A member of the Betula tree family, the most common varieties of birch that are consumed for medicinal uses include silver birch (Betula pendula), white birch (Betula pubescens), and sweet birch (Betula lenta). Even prior to discovering its health benefits, it is believed that during the stone age birch extract was used as an adhesive, and some sources even suggest that the Neanderthals used birch bark to make tar and fabric. Although the trees are native to northern countries, the use of birch extracts also extends to Indian Ayurvedic medicine, giving birch extracts a long and wide medicinal history.
The infusion of birch extracts into a tea is the most common way to gain its health benefits. Collecting your own wild leaves in a nearby forest will provide you with the most fresh and nutrient-dense birch extracts, and all you need is 3-5 leaves per cup. You can also make tea by infusing the fresh twigs or bark, but bear in mind that removing the bark from living trees can damage its growth, so it’s best to stick with the leaves and small twigs, and only use the bark if the tree is being chopped down. From there, simply drop the leaves or other birch extracts in a cup or teapot, pour hot water over them, steep for 5-10 minutes, and it’s ready to enjoy.
Birch trees are quite easily recognisable by their papery (usually white) bark, and their pointed, serrated leaves. Consult a field guide to discover the local varieties near you, but luckily birch trees don’t have poisonous look-alikes that can be easily confused.
While consuming the extracts fresh allows us to get the most nutrients from the plants, you can also collect and dry the leaves to make tea throughout the year, or even buy dried birch leaves online.
Due to its diuretic effect, it is not recommendable to consume birch extracts when taking diuretic drugs or water pills, as this combination could lead to excessive water loss. Even when not taking these medications, if you regularly consume birch extracts, make sure to drink a lot of water in parallel to avoid dehydration.
The consumption of birch extract should also be avoided by those at risk of high blood pressure (hypertension). Birch’s diuretic effects may increase the amount of retained salt in the body, potentially increasing the boy’s levels of sodium, which can aggravate high blood pressure.
Lastly, many people suffer from an allergy to birch pollen. This allergy is known as Oral Allergy Syndrome (OAS), and sufferers are also frequently intolerant to carrots, mugwort, celery, hazelnuts, peanuts, soybeans, apples, and some spices. So, if you suffer from any of these food allergies, consult your doctor before consuming birch extracts.
The few reported side effects of birch extract include nausea when consumed in excessive quantities, as well as itching, rash, and flu-like symptoms in those with birch pollen allergies.
Moderate consumption of birch tea can do good for us all, flushing our system clean of retained toxins as part of a healthy and varied diet. As is always the case with consuming wild foods, collecting your own birch extracts in springtime has the added benefit of allowing us to spend time in nature attentive to our surroundings, helping us gain the mental and emotional benefits that spending time in nature can provide.
Check out also: Eating Wild Foods for Health and Connection to Nature
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