Click on a letter to see pictures and individual herb information with folklore usages.
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(BETULA PENDULA), (Betula alba)
As it gives a pale colour to the skin, it is used for the preliminary and the final stages of tanning. It contains betulin and betuls camphor.
The leaves contain betulorentic acid.
By destructive distillation, the white epidermis of the bark yields an empyreumatic oil, known variously in commerce as oil of Birch Tar, Oleum Rusci, Oleum Betulinum or Dagget. This is a thick, bituminous, brownish-black liquid, with a pungent, balsamic odour. It contains a high percentage of methylsalicylate, and also creosol and guaiacol. The Rectified Oil (Oleum Rusci Rectificatum) is sometimes substituted for oil of Cade.
Birch Tar oil is almost identical with Wintergreen oil. It is not completely soluble in 95 per cent. acetic acid, nor in aniline, but Turpentine oil dissolves it completely.
The bark and leaves are used in preparations for skin diseases. Distillation of the bark yields Birch tar oil, an astringent ingredient of ointments for eczema and psoriasis. Birch tea is an infusion of the leaves. It is bitter tasting but helpful in gout and rheumatic complaints.
The young shoots and leaves secrete a resinous substance having acid properties, which, combined with alkalies, is said to be a tonic laxative. The leaves have a peculiar, aromatic, agreeable odour and a bitter taste, and have been employed in the form of infusion (Birch Tea) in gout, rheumatism and dropsy, and recommended as a reliable solvent of stone in the kidneys. With the bark they resolve and resist putrefaction. A decoction of them is good for bathing skin eruptions, and is serviceable in dropsy.
The inner bark is bitter and astringent, and has been used in intermittent fevers.
The vernal sap is diuretic.
Moxa is made from the yellow, fungous excrescences of the wood, which sometimes swell out from the fissures.