By John A. Heatherly, Author of The Survival Template

photo by MSBarrows

Birch trees are both elegant and useful, especially in the Springtime, and can be utilized in the following ways:

1.  Treatment for Poison Ivy – With the arrival of warm weather, families are spending time outdoors, and poison ivy could be a problem.  Small twigs of birch can be boiled into a tea, cooled slightly, then applied to affected areas.  This little known treatment can work wonders when other medications fail!

2.  Tree taps – In the Spring, Birch trees can be tapped to procure liquid for drinking or to be boiled into delicious sap syrup.  After placing a small (approximately 1 inch) wooden peg or “tap” into the inner bark, sap can easily be gathered.  If trying this, please research the tap process a bit to ensure that you properly repair the tree when finished, as tapping can be harmful if done improperly.

3.  Fire-starter – Strips of birch bark are one of nature’s best tinders.  They are highly flammable and burn with a black smoke.  Caution: I do not recommend extracting birch bark from the decorative trees outside of restaurants for a fire-craft demonstration in the parking lot.  Once I dazzled my friends with the trick but no one else in the area seemed impressed.

4.  Tea – Mild tea can be made from a palmful of leaves (one palmful per cup of water) or a stronger tea from the boiled twigs (1-2 palmfuls of twigs per cup.)  The tea has a diuretic effect, and strong birch teas act as a sedative in times of stress (1/2 cup per day.)

5.  Edible inner-bark – The inner bark can be dried in the sun then ground into flour.

Have you used birch in these or other ways?

*Sources: Personal experience; Tom Brown’s Guide to Wild Edible and Medicinal Plans

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© Copyright 2012 The Survival Mom, All rights Reserved. Written For: The Survival Mom
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John's exploration of wilderness survival includes coursework at Tom Brown Jr.’s TrackerSchool, military service as a Survival, Evasion, Resistance, Escape (S.E.R.E.) Instructor, and the study of leadership as an Officer. He is the author of THE SURVIVAL TEMPLATE and THE CAVE AND THE SEA, A NOVEL which can be found at

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  1. Ellie says

    You can peel the birch bark off the tree in large strips and make baskets and containers to carry stuff in. The native Americans in Canada have done it for centuries.


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