Herb Information- Silver Birch | Betula Pendula

Silver birch, Betula Pendula, herb

Betula pendula Betulaceae Also called European white birch.

This elegant deciduous tree is distinguished by its smooth, papery, silver bark and long, drooping catkins in spring. In folklore the silver birch is held to have sacred powers against evil spirits and witchcraft . Theátree can reach a heightá25-30m. Its leaves are triallgular with serrated edges and its fruits are winged seedpods.

Parts used

  • Young leaves and bark
  • Newly formed leaves are collected in spring.
  • After drying, the leaves are used for infusions, powders, capsules or tinctures.
  • The bark, collected from felled timber, is mainly used for decoctions.


For internal use

TO TREAT minor inflammation of the urinary tract, urinary or kidney stones, oedema INFUSION Put 2-3g of dried leaves cut up into small pieces in a cup of boiling water. Leave to infuse for 10-15 minutes. When the temperature lowers to 40'(, add sodium bicarbonate (1g a litre). Take 3 cups a day, 30 minutes before meals. CAPSULES (50mg dry extract) Take 1 or 2 capsules, one to three times a day.

TINCTURE (1:4 in 25% alcohol) Put 15 drops into a glass of water. Take three times a day after meals.

For external use

TO TREAT skin inflammations INFUSION Use 50g of dried leaves to 1 litre of water. Bathe skin with the infusion two or three times a day.



As much as 3 per cent of the silver birch leaf is made up of flavonoids (hyperoside and rutoside mostly), which have anti-inflammatory and diuretic effects. The leaf and bark contain phenolic acids, tannins, plus vitamin ( and methyl salicylate.

Medicinal uses

Because of the large amount of flavonoids present in the plant,the silver birch leaf is an effective diuretic and anti-inflammatory agent, besides being a urinary and renal antiseptic. Such properties make it useful for treating minor infections of the urinary tract such as urethritis and cystitis. It is also used to treat urinary or kidney stones as well as oedema.

A further use for the antiinflammatory action of silver birch is in the treatment of rheumatic pains, where it is often combined with spiny restharrow, nettle or meadowsweet. Externally, an ointment containing silver birch can ease eczema and psoriasis.

The silver birch is reputed to be able to cure warts. A small, moistened piece of fresh bark, which is changed every day, is placed on the skin over the wart. Alternatively, a decoction made of ground-up bark can be used. The effect is thought to be due to the tree's antiviral compounds (betulinic acid) and its salicylates. Extensive research of a betulinic acid derivative, reviewed in 2002, highlights its effective antiviral activity against HIV.


  • To date, silver birch has revealed no toxic effects when taken in therapeutic doses. However, it could cause certain allergies, especially in people who are sensitive to celery and mugwort pollen.
  • Caution should be taken by hayfever sufferers.
  • Silver birch is not recommended for individuals with kidney or heart disorders.
  • Because of its methyl salicylate content, children should not take it.


Suited to well-drained acidic soil. Position in the sun or shade. Birch is grown from cuttings, grafting and by seed. A young specimen can also be planted.


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