Birch Bark, Sweet (Betula lenta)
Description: The Birch tree is a graceful tree about 25m high, which has a pyramidal shape while young. It has bright green leaves and a dark reddish-brown aromatic bark, which is broken into plates or patches. Native to southern Canada and southeastern USA; it now grows also in Russia and parts of Eastern Europe.
This Birch oil is considered a commercial grade oil and is purchased as Birch oil however, true steam distilled Birch oil is no longer produced commercially on a large scale because it is not economically feasible to compete with other products such as wintergreen oil which, in terms of chemistry, is practically identical. The low price of this “birch oil” would also seem to indicate the dubious nature of its authenticity. Authentic Birch oil is produced by a small number of family distilleries around the world and on a very small scale, and is the only authentic birch oil known to be on the market today. If and when it is available, expect to pay a very high price.
Blends well with: Cedarwood, Fir Balsam, Copaiba Balsam, Sandalwood, Peru Balsam, Spruce, and Rosewood.
Aromatic Scent: Birch has a sweet, sharp, camphoraceous scent that is very fresh and similar to Wintergreen. People sometimes associate it to the smell of rootbeer.
Cautions: Birch Oil is potentially toxic and may cause skin irritation. It is important to cleanse the liver often when using this oil because of toxic build-up. Use in dilution and avoid during pregnancy.
Birch bark was historically used by North American native people as a tonic and beverage to bring on a sweat and to induce heating. The native people credited birch for being an analgesic, anti-inflammatory, anti-pryetic, anti-rheumatic, antiseptic, astringent, depurative, diuretic, and tonic. Over the years, Birch was added to massage oil blends to benefit muscle and joint discomfort, accumulation of toxins, arthritis, cellulitis, obesity, edema, poor circulation, rheumatism, tendinitis, cramps, hypertension, anti-inflammatory, high in cortisone-like functions, dull or congested skin, eczema, hair care, dermatitis, psoriasis, gout, ulcers, broken or bruised bones. The Birch tree increased the quality of life of people for thousands of years. The fact that the Birch tree varies in thickness and can be split in numerous layers, and that it has a resinous inner bark, which makes it waterproof and resistant to decay, makes it an extremely versatile tree. The Anishinabeg Indians believed the Birch was immune to Lightning Strikes and was used as a Protector. During a storm, people would take shelter under a Birch tree believing it to be incapable of being struck. Birch was used in the making of Medicine Rattles; long cylinders made from Birch Bark were covered with the hide of an animal and filled with stones. Hieroglyphics tell us that people recorded medicine lodge rituals, histories, and spiritual teachings on to the outer bark of Birch. Wintergreen oil was extracted from the twigs and roots of the Birch tree and used to flavor bad tasting medicines and to freshen the air. Taken internally, medicine from the root bark was cooked with maple sugar to make a syrup taken for cramps of the stomach. An infusion of the inner bark was used as an enema and for treating diseases of the blood. When someone died in the community of the Anishinabe, they were often wrapped in the bark of birch before being buried and covered with more bark.