Black Birch Identification: Medium-size tree with rounded crown and smooth, dark red to almost black bark. Broken twigs have wintergreen fragrance. Buds alternate, both side and end buds present, about 3/10 of an inch long, light brown, broadest near base and tapering to a point. Fruits are erect brown cones 1 to 1-1/2 inches long, containing many tiny, winged seeds. Fruits mature in late summer and early
fall. Cones persist into winter. Leaves oval, toothed, and up to 6 inches long.
Flowers: April – May
Parts Used: Bark & leaves
Other Names: Cherry birch, mahogany birch, mountain mahogany, spice birch, and sweet birch.
Habitat: Forests or open woods, especially moist, north facing, protected slopes; in deep, rich, well-drained soils. Southern Quebec, southwest Maine to northern Georgia, Alabama; north to eastern Ohio.
History: The black birch was widely used by American Indians, in bark tea for fevers, stomachaches, lung ailments; twig tea for fever. Essential oil (methyl salicylate) distilled from bark was used for rheumatism, gout, scrofulas, bladder infection, and neuralgia.
Constituents: Essential oil (methyl salicylate).
Properties: Anti-inflammatory, Analgesic, Anthelmintic, Astringent, Diuretic, Diaphoretic, Stimulant.
Main Uses: Used in the treatment of diarrhea, dysentery and cholera. The natural properties are cleansing to the blood and it is used specifically for rheumatism, dropsy, gout, stones in the kidneys and bladder, and to expel worms.
To alleviate pain or sore muscles, the oil has been applied as a counterirritant. The essential oil was formerly produced in Appalachia. But now, methyl salicylate is produced synthetically, using menthol as the precursor.
The oil of Birch is applied to the skin for eczema and cutaneous diseases; the tea is effective when gargled for canker and mouth sores.
Preparation And Dosages:
Bark – Strong decoction, (1 to 2 ounces, up to 4 times a day).
Leaves – Standard infusion as bath or wash as needed.
Tincture: Inner bark – (1:2, in 60% alcohol), 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon.
Black Birch is also a wild food.