In Scotland, Silver Birch tree has long been known as a ‘traditional tonic’ and medicinal plant, which dates back many hundreds of years and is quoted in a lot of very old texts. As an acne medication, the sap can be used orally as a tonic or applied directly to the skin. Orally, the Birch sap is thought to detoxify the body, while topically, the effects on the skin are to give a mild astringent effect, leaving the skin clean and clear. The sap also has antimicrobial and anti inflammatory effects: thus reducing the bacterial count on the skin and for those spots already present, reducing the inflammation.
The Birch leaves, when collected in Spring time, can be brewed into a tea for a refreshing tonic drink or be used as a hot compress, which invigorates the skin, particularly for acne on the face. The leaves can be brewed for a period of 10-15 minutes in a teapot. As an aside, in days gone by none of the tree was wasted, so the bark was brewed into a beer (for medicinal purposes!).
Birch tree in various forms, has also been utilised to treat arthritis, eczema, gout and psoriasis, but really it is at its best when being used to treat acne vulgaris. Also, if you collect your own sap and leaves (as the author does) then the walk in the woods and fresh air also contribute to a healthy lifestyle and a very nice day out. There are many species of Birch (Betula spp.) but, most have been reported as having medicinal properties and the differing species of Birch giving-off differing quantities of sap. The sap and leaves can be obtained from health food stores, herbalists or on-line and usually is very reasonably priced.
It is interesting to note that, when researching the history of Birch medicines in old texts, that acne was not described or recorded as a prolific disease and actually wasn’t called acne at all, but referred to as ‘festering of the skin’. Consequently, this begs the question of whether acne vulgaris is really just a medical condition that goes with modern day society. The differences between a modern society and bygone one, being: poor diet, lack of exercise, stress and a huge reliance on a lot of modern day chemicals in foods etc. So logically to cure acne, a person has to address their way of life fundamentally and then also get help with acne medication.
So, we can see how a common everyday tree like Birch, was known to our ancestors as being a very valuable commodity, particularly in the fight against acne and its dreadful symptoms.