When I think of Birch, I think of Chaga and Birch syrup. Birch water too. And when I think of those things, I think of home. Birch is the tree of my childhood, having a fondness for rocky sloped terrain. The oil too was the scent of my childhood, Root Beer being my favorite soda and the Birch mints mislabeled as Wintermint candy which had such a hold on me at the age of 5 that I took to stealing it from the country store once. Thankfully, my mom was astute enough to change my thieving trajectory. The bark fascinated me as well; in the dead of Alberta winter, I would carefully would peel the silvery bark to write on with my small red hands, frozen from making snow girls and angels.
Like so many trees in the conifer family, Birch grows all over the Northern hemisphere (mostly) and offers a smorgasbord of uses. The leaves, a refreshing tea reputed to act as a diuretic and the bark, buds, sap and juice all supportive treatment of skin diseases, infections, and inflammation. And yes, Birch essential oil is a prominent ingredient in good quality authentic Root Beer. Birch Essential Oil doesn’t give up its essence easily. It must be macerated no less than 12 hours and results in a lower yield but arrives at a rewarding oil that stands worlds apart from commercial Birch. As it is high in methyl salicylate, I’m a fan of adding a little Birch essential oil to skin care, face cream in particular for its anti inflammatory use. Birch is always central in my muscle or liniment rubs, often ending up on my skin as a perfume of the day. One should expect nothing less from a quirky aromatherapist. I have not had the opportunity to distill Birch oil myself, but in the fourth volume of Ernest Guenther in “Essential Oils” (1952), the author remarks that Birch distillate comes over as a milky liquid and being heavier than water, separates in the bottom of the receiver. I can only imagine how beautiful the hydrosol would smell from that distillation.
Suggested uses: In muscle or liniment blends, blend a drop or two in bath salts (preferably epsom) for sore muscles. Useful addition in face creams, particularly in the treatment of acne.
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