Birch | What's that?
With its graceful appearance and delicate leaves, the birch tree (Betula) is an unmistakable symbol of spring. An elegant tree with a light, thin-leaved crown and a layered trunk, it also has an appealing, innocent look. This ‘sacred tree’ is found in most parts of the northern hemisphere, in Europe, on the East Coast of North America, in Asia and Japan.
The birch is related to alders, hornbeams and hazels, and is considered a botanical pioneer: it is often the first tree to set down roots in a new habitat. This is thanks to its ability to sprout wherever light filters through in a forest or in any other open space, including wasteland. It does not demand much from its environment and grows extremely fast – up to one metre in the first 10 years – which enables it to spread rapidly. Birch seeds carry far and wide, and will germinate wherever they land within just three weeks.
The birch tree does most of its growing in May and June. Its edible leaves and leaf buds are harvested, and its sugar-rich birch sap is tapped. In spring, the delicate leaves contain especially high levels of valuable substances such as flavonoids, an abundance of vitamin C, saponins and essential oils. Flavonoids help the human body protect its cells and promote natural detoxification. Traditional medicine uses the leaves to treat rheumatism, gout and oedema thanks to its diuretic properties. The leaf buds and birch sap help with slow-healing wounds, rashes and dandruff. Massaging the scalp with birch sap can also promote hair growth.