Birch has many qualities that can benefit your skin and improve your health. Many species of Birch are used for healing, the most well known being Silver Birch (B. pendula).
Silver Birch does not grow in Iceland but Downy Birch (B. pubescens) does. Many sources claim that these two species act similar and that has also been my experience. For the last 30 years I have used Icelandic Birch to heal skin disorders and to improve my patients’ health.
I pick the leaves and the tips of the young shoots of Downy Birch early in the summer. I make infused oil from the fresh Birch the same day as I harvest it. This oil is then blended with other herbs to make the Bliss Healing Balm. That balm has been very popular for various skin disorders for the last 10 years in Iceland.
I also use fresh Birch to make tinctures for my patients and I additionally dry the leaves for tea. If you want to read more about Downy Birch, I recommend my book: Icelandic herbs and their medicinal uses.
- Botanical name: Betula pubescen
- Parts used: leaves, bark and the tips of young twigs.
- Action: diuretic, anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, astringent, diaphoretic and mildly analgesic.
- Used for: wound healing, eczema, psoriasis, rheumatoid arthritis, psoriatic arthritis, gout, kidney stones, edema, cystitis, muscle pain.
- Preparations: tea, tincture, infused oil, poultice, cream, ointment.
Birch is very good for the skin as it’s both anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial. It also explains its traditional use as a wound healer. Birch is also excellent for skin diseases such as eczema and psoriasis.
- Wound healing, itching and insect bites
- Diaper rash, sore nipples and stretch marks
- Vaginal yeast infection and hemorrhoids
- Skin disorders and cold sores
The leaves are very diuretic and effective in the treatment of edema and cystitis. They’re excellent for healing joint inflammation as they have anti-inflammatory properties. They’re also used in cases of rheumatoid arthritis, psoriatic arthritis and gout. Decoction or tincture of the bark can be effective in the treatment of muscular and joint pain. You can soak a cloth in the liquid and put it on the painful area.
Birch is used in hair products as it can stimulate hair growth. Herbalists have traditionally used Birch both internally and externally to promote hair growth.
“Birch tree has strengthening, diuretic, blood cleansing and astringent powers. Tea is made from the young shoots and dried leaves. A decoction is made from the bark which is fitting when taken 2 tablespoons at a time and powder from the bark is good against weakness, fatigue and loss of appetite. A teaspoonful mixed with whey, to be taken three times a day.”
Birch leaves are not safe for those with edema due to dysfunction of the heart and kidneys.
Anna Rósa is a medical herbalist and author of the bestselling book Icelandic Herbs and Their Medicinal Uses. She’s the CEO and founder of Anna Rósa Skincare and a member of the National Institute of Medical Herbalists in UK. It’s the oldest herbalist institute in the world, founded in 1894.