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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