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Saturday, January 20 2018 @ 01:43 AM AKST

Tapping the Health Benefits of Birch

Health and WellnessThey are so common in most of Alaska that you may be forgiven if you have stopped noticing them: Birch Trees. What you may not know are the many health benefits to be derived from that tree in your yard.

Birch is a broadleaved deciduous hardwood tree of the genus Betula in the family Betulaceae, which also includes alders, and is closely related to the beech/oak family.

Every part of the tree has a use in either health or home. For arts and crafts, firewood, or as a healthy drink, Birch delivers.

Birch sap or birch water is the sap directly tapped from birch trees, Betula alba (white birch), Betula pendula (silver birch), Betula lenta, Betula papyrifera, and Betula fontinalis.

Birch sap is collected only at the break of winter and spring when the sap moves intensively. When fresh, it is a clear and uncoloured liquid, very similar to water, often slightly sweet with a slightly silky texture. After two to three days, the sap starts fermenting and the taste becomes more acidic. Birch sap may be consumed both fresh and naturally fermented.

Birch sap is a traditional beverage in boreal and hemiboreal regions of the northern hemisphere as well as parts of northern China.

In addition to Chaga, some of the health benefits claimed from birch include:

"Birch sap is a refreshing drink that has a hint of sweetness that tastes similar to maple syrup but is much more complex. It's extracted from birch trees mainly found throughout North America, specifically parts of Canada and New England in the U.S. It has been marketed as a unique Alaskan delicacy with between a 1,000 and 1,500 gallons of birch syrup produced annually, says the University of New Hampshire..

"The health elixir is touted as one of the best juices you can drink compared to coconut water because it has restorative and detoxifying properties. Its naturally healthy, sweet, and positive nutritional profile appeals to health-conscious consumers interested in traditional and folk medicine. Birch sap can help boost immunity, fight fatigue, treat arthritis and joint pain. It also acts as an energy or sports boost to prevent migraines.

The thin, watery sap has the potential to takeover coconut water, since it contains naturally occurring nutrients, which can help aid a range of ailments. It’s time to tap the sap and taste the five sweet benefits of birch tree sap:

1. Decreases Cavities

The consumption of birch water can help you maintain good oral health due to xylitol. The natural sugar can prevent cavities, since some types of decay-causing bacteria cannot use xylitol as a food source. "Xylitol is a naturally occurring sugar alcohol that is harvested from birch trees and their sap. Xylitol has been proven to decrease risk of cavities and is a widely-used sugar substitute,” Doctors Matthew Nejad & Kyle Stanley, dentists at Helm | Nejad | Stanley Dentistry in Beverly Hills, Calif., told Medical Daily in an email.

2. Eliminates Cellulite

Birch tree sap contains diuretic properties that help to flush out harmful toxins, uric acid, and excess water from the body. Therefore, it's also thought to help eliminate cellulite from the body. According to Weleda’s “Birch Cellulite Oil,” a dermatologically proven treatment, it aids in getting cellulite “visibly toned down after just one month.” Dermatological tests have found there is a 21 percent increase in smoothness and a 22 percent increase in tightness after just one month of twice a day regular use.

3. Lowers Cholesterol

Saponin, a compound in birch sap, has been shown to have blood cholesterol-lowering properties. A 1997 study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found saponins can lower cholesterol by binding to bile acids and cholesterol. The bile acids form mixed micelles with cholesterol, which facilitates its absorption. Saponins lead to the depletion of body cholesterol by preventing its reabsorption and increasing its excretion.

4. Promotes Liver and Kidney Health:

The sap can also act as a highly-effective detoxifying agent for the liver. It captures and is able to neutralize toxic waste products. It eliminates toxins that only the liver can process such as alcohol, saturated fat, and pesticides, among many others. A 2012 study published in the Polish Botanical Society reviewed the use of tree saps in northern and eastern Europe and found birch tree sap is used as supplementary nutrition in the form of sugar, minerals, and vitamins to help the liver. Drinking birch water can benefit the kidneys by eliminating and filtering waste through the urinary tract. It eliminates waste that only the liver can process, such as excess salt, uric acid, phosphates, certain medicines, urea, and ammonia. This helps deeply detoxify the body and can even lead to weight loss. "Extracts from the leaves have been used in herbal supplement combinations to aid detox, kidney function and bladder health by supporting the body’s natural elimination of toxins and impurities — it partly does this by acting as a diuretic," Alice Mackintosh, a nutritionist at The Food Doctor, told The Huffington Post UK Lifestyle."

5. Rejuvenates Skin

"Birch water is touted for replenishing the skin and protecting the skin cells. The sap can be used as a wash to improve skin texture and relieve skin problems such as eczema and acne, according to NYR Natural News. "Birch juice not only rejuvenates but also protects skin cells from oxidative stress, including Ultra Violet rays, environmental pollution, and consequences caused by inflammation," read researcher Dr. Janis Ancans’ recent study, Yahoo News reported."

There's another benefit to Birch: Chaga.

Inonotus obliquus, commonly known as chaga mushroom (a Latinisation of the Russian term 'чага'), is a fungus in Hymenochaetaceae family. It is parasitic on birch and other trees. The sterile conk is irregularly formed and has the appearance of burnt charcoal. It is not the fruiting body of the fungus, but a mass of mycelium, mostly black due to the presence of massive amounts of melanin. The fertile fruiting body can be found very rarely as a resupinate (crustose) fungus on or near the clinker, usually appearing after the host tree is dead. I. obliquus grows in birch forests of Russia, Korea, Eastern and Northern Europe, northern areas of the United States, in the North Carolina mountains and in Canada.

The chaga mushroom is considered a medicinal mushroom in Russian and Eastern European folk medicine and research on its medicinal potential is ongoing.

Inonotus obliquus. Karmėlava forest, Lithuania. Photo by Tomas Čekanavičius

The name chaga (pronounced "tsjaa-ga") comes from the Russian word of the mushroom (anglicized from czaga), which in turn is purportedly derived from the word for the fungus in Komi-Permyak, the language of the indigenous peoples in the Kama River Basin, west of the Ural Mountains. It is also known as the clinker polypore, cinder conk, black mass and birch canker polypore.[2]

In Norwegian, the name is kreftkjuke' which literally translates as "cancer polypore", referring to the fungus' appearance or to its alleged medicinal properties. In Finnish, the name is pakurikääpä, combined from pahkura and kääpä translating as "wart polypore".

In England and Canada, it is known as the sterile conk trunk rot of birch, which refers to the fruiting bodies growing under the outer layers of wood surrounding the sterile conk once the tree is dead, to spread the spores. In France, it is called the carie blanche spongieuse de bouleau (spongy white birch tree rot), and in Germany it is known as Schiefer Schillerporling (slate Inonotus). The Dutch name is berkenweerschijnzwam (birch glow mushroom).

Laboratory studies on extract of chaga mushroom has indicated possible future potential in cancer therapy, as an antioxidant, in immunotherapy, and as an anti-inflammatory.

More about Chaga on Wikipedia.

And Birch bark burns even when wet.

Additional reading- Birch Trees: Natural Medicine in Your Backyard

Plans and art made from Local Birch

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Tapping the Health Benefits of Birch | 1 comments | Create New Account
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Tapping the Health Benefits of Birch
Authored by: Anonymous on Sunday, January 18 2015 @ 06:59 PM AKST
Inonotus obliquus would NOT be a good name for a band.