One Tree Provides a Natural Sweetener, Relieves Pain, and Lowers Cholesterol

Wednesday Apr 9 | BY |
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Birch Tree

With this tree in your back yard,
you can help prevent cancer, boost your immune system, and lower your cholesterol.

If you have a birch tree in your back yard, you have a gold mine of health benefits just waiting to be unearthed.

Surprised? Here’s more about what this zebra-like natural wonder can provide.

A Nutritious Sap for Syrups and Soups

Somewhat like the maple tree, the birch tree produces a sap that’s full of vitamins, minerals, and natural sugars. It’s a great source of potassium, calcium, magnesium, manganese, zinc, phosphorous, iron, and B-vitamins, and can be used much like maple syrup, for pancakes, waffles, candies, and even wine. The flavor is said to be rich and caramel-like, with a hint of spice, but is made up of primarily fructose, which has a lower glycemic index than sucrose—the main sugar in maple syrup.

Tapping the birch tree for this quality sap doesn’t injure it, as it takes away only about 10-15 percent the tree’s total sap content. The best time to gather the sap is when it rises in spring—around early April. Those who produce the syrup on a bulk basis let trees rest for two years between taps.

One creates birch syrup by removing most of the water from the sap, then concentrating the sugar content through evaporation. To make your own birch wine, check out this article, and to tap your own birch tree, find directions at NaturalPathways.com or at TreeHugger.com.

A Hearty Bark to Stimulate the Lower Cholesterol

Birch bark has three compounds that provide health benefits:

  1. Betulin
  2. Lupeol
  3. Betulinic acid

A 2011 animal study reported that betulin helped lower cholesterol, prevent obesity, and improve insulin sensitivity. The participants also were less likely to develop atherosclerotic plaques in their arteries.

Betulin also has anti-inflammatory and anti-fungal qualities, which have shown to be useful in skin care. The compound is often added to creams and cosmetics, and the University of Minnesota reports that it can help provide healthy skin and hair, and delivers anti-aging benefits.

Other studies have indicated that birch bark may have some cancer fighting properties. A 2012 study found that the extract stopped the growth of both cervical and skin cancer cells. Again, researchers focused on betulin, and noted that Native Americans used the bark to treat inflammatory conditions, including poison oak and even tuberculosis.

The American Cancer Society adds that three German studies concluded betulinic acid showed anti-tumor activity against cells from “certain types of nervous system cancers in children.” Two additional lab studies from the University of Illinois found that it may be useful as an anti-tumor drug.

Finally, birch bark may also help heal skin wounds, having been found in an animal study to help tame inflammation, keep the wound free of bacteria, and encourage wound closing.

Tender Leaves Soothes Inflammation

The leaves of the birch tree have a great reputation as anti-inflammatories. Herbalists recommend that you soak the leaves in apple cider vinegar to release the minerals and micronutrients, then consume the enriched vinegar directly to ease a cough, or warm it up in a tea to treat urinary tract infections or edema (birch can be used as a diuretic). The liquid is also said to be a good detoxifying agent, and like wintergreen, can help purify the blood.

You can use the same liquid to wash problematic skin, especially if you’re dealing with eczema, dermatitis, or other forms of inflammation. Oil extracted from birch buds is said to be helpful in taming acne.

Do you know of other birch health benefits? Please share your tips when using this natural resource.

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Sources
Cell Press. “Birch bark ingredient comes with many metabolic benefits.” ScienceDaily, 5 January 2011. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/01/110104133901.htm.

“Benefits of Birch Bark,” University of Minnesota, April 1, 2013, http://discover.umn.edu/news/business-law/u-m-partners-businesses-commercialize-techonolgy.

Dehelean CA, Feflea S, Molnár J, Zupko I, Soica C. Betulin as an antitumor agent tested in vitro on A431, HeLa and MCF7, and as an angiogenic inhibitor in vivo in the CAM assay. Nat Prod Commun. 2012 Aug;7(8):981-5.

Soica CM, Dehelean CA, Peev C, Aluas M, Zupkó I, Kása P Jr, Alexa E. Physico-chemical comparison of betulinic acid, betulin and birch bark extract and in vitro investigation of their cytotoxic effects towards skin epidermoid carcinoma (A431), breast carcinoma (MCF7) and cervix adenocarcinoma (HeLa) cell lines. Nat Prod Res. 2012;26(10):968-74.

Rzeski W, Stepulak A, Szyma?ski M, Juszczak M, Grabarska A, Sifringer M, Kaczor J, Kandefer-Szersze? M. Betulin elicits anti-cancer effects in tumour primary cultures and cell lines in vitro. Basic Clin Pharmacol Toxicol. 2009 Dec;105(6):425-32.

“Birch Bark Extracts Block Cervical and Skin Cancer Growth,” R.E.A.L. Natural, http://www.realnatural.org/researchers-determine-that-birch-bark-extract-blocks-cervical-and-skin-cancer-growth/.

“White Birch,” American Cancer Society, http://www.cancer.org/treatment/treatmentsandsideeffects/complementaryandalternativemedicine/herbsvitaminsandminerals/white-birch.

Katie Golde, “Birch remedy finds credibility in clinical studies,” Northwestern University, February 4, 2014, http://news.medill.northwestern.edu/chicago/news.aspx?id=227458.

Colleen M. Story

Colleen M. Story

Colleen M. Story, a northwest-based writer, editor, and ghostwriter, has been creating non-fiction materials for individuals, corporations, and commercial magazines for over 17 years. She specializes in the health and wellness field, where she writes and ghostwrites books, e-books, blogs, magazine articles, and more.

Colleen is the founder of Writing and Wellness. Her fantasy novel, “Rise of the Sidenah,” was released with Jupiter Gardens Press in September 2015. Her literary novel, “Loreena’s Gift,” is forthcoming in spring 2016 from Dzanc Books. She lives in Idaho. www.colleenmstory.com

1 COMMENT ON THIS POST

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  1. Lilija says:

    Drinking birch juice as I’m reading this! 🙂
    So tasty. These days, while the leaves haven’t thrived yet, drinking it everyday here, at my work place, where we have an area with birches on one the yard of the office building. It’s kind a diuretic, especially in the beginning when juices first start to come in the spring.
    I hadn’t heard of making a syrup out of it, it’s not practiced at least here, in Latvia. We just drink pure juice and then ferment it for storing.

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