February 06th, 2016
Birch Twig Tea
Best if done with Yellow Birch (Betula alleghaniensis). The tea can be made with other birches but they would lack the pleasant aroma and flavour of wintergreen that the yellow birch provides.
Yellow birch can be identified by the bark, the leaves and the catkins (spike of small soft flowers that hang from the tree branches). The bark of the yellow birch is yellowish in colour and can have a hint of grey. The leaves are broadly oval, with serrated edges, and come to a sharp point at their ends. The catkins which fruit in May and June are egg-shaped and are 2-3cm long.
The final method of identification (and quite effective) is to break the twigs. Yellow birch should smell and taste like wintergreen. It was once common to use yellow birch and Teaberry (wintergreen) as a natural flavour for chewing gum and candy.
My method of brewing yellow birch tea is to break a small handful of twigs and add them to a cup of boiling water. Then remove from heat and allow to steep for 5-10 minutes. This causes less damage to the tree than harvesting the inner bark would.
Birch has been used in folk medicine as a remedy for cramps and diarrhea.
It is important that anyone reading and using this information should rely on their own identification of plants and use extreme caution when harvesting and using for their own purpose.
Sam Wentzell is an avid outdoor enthusiast and the owner operator of Sam's Woodland Tours.