White Birch Identification and uses

White Birches thrive throughout the Northern Hemisphere. Today, White Birches are a principal source of pulp and paper products. In the past, Native peoples of North America used White Birches both for nourishment and medicinal purposes.

Temperate regions where winter temperatures do not fall below about -40 C. (from Newfoundland west to Alaska, south to Pennsylvania and Washington, with small isolated populations further south in mountains to North Carolina and Colorado.)

Small deciduous tree with smooth, white bark. the bark is dotted with black stripes on younger trees, and peels easily. Sometimes a whole wood will be of only birch trees because of their ability to grow in clusters, with interconnected underground root systems.
AKA: Paper Birch

Food Uses:
Hollows were sometimes made into the trunk to collect sap, which is particularly plentiful in birch trees during spring. The sap can be concentrated into sugary syrup quite similar to maple syrup, consumed directly as a beverage. The young catkins were also eaten by some.

Medicinal uses:
Recent research suggests that the betulic acid, which makes birch tree’s bark white, may be effective in the treatment of skin cancer. The leaf tea is said to stimulate urination. The leaves, twigs and buds contain salycaltes, so they have been used to make medical teas which help cure pain and inflammation.

Other Uses:
The thin, paper like bark of the White Birch was used widely by native tribes in the making of canoes, baskets, containers and platters. The bark becomes particularly soft and pliable after the bark is heated. However, bark must never be removed directly from living trees. the removal of bark can permanently scar or even kill birch trees of any age. Birch wood is extremely hard, and can be used for various purposes. Since birch trees can grow in sub-alpine zones as far north as Alaska, it is a reliable source for hardwood in northern regions. It is an important source of pulp and paper products in the northern latitudes.

Some sources report that the bark tea is slightly toxic. The bud resin may irritate sensitive skin. White Birch resin can cause skin irritations and reactions in some people. Evergreen teas and fir needles should be taken in moderation. Pregnant women and people with kidney disorder should not take White Birch tea. Remember that this article is no way is intended to offer medical advice; it is merely an interesting resource for those who would like to become more familiar with some useful plants.