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Video: Birch, Medicinal Properties And Use In Garden Landscape
Birch is a favorite tree of Russians
The time has come for the first thunderstorms
and young leaves, the
winds played between the birches
on the strings of the sun …
Finding yourself in the forest in early spring, you pay attention first of all to the elegant, as if washed by the rain, white-trunk birches. This tree with green curls fluttering in the wind is the most beloved in Russia.
The people composed many songs about birch, many poets dedicated their poems to it, artists often depicted birch groves or individual trees in their paintings.
This tree is remarkable both in autumn and in winter: birch forms pure (birch forests) and mixed forests, birch groves, and is found in different types of forests. Birch forests are mainly represented by trees of the same age. Over time, under the canopy of the transparent crown of a birch forest, coniferous trees settle, forming birch-spruce, birch-pine and birch-deciduous plantations. The natural process of replacing birch forests with conifers takes about 100 years, but this period is often shortened by numerous fellings.
Birch is a tree 10-25 meters high with a trunk diameter of 25-120 cm (less often - shrubs up to 2-4 m.) It has an egg-shaped or obovate crown with slightly upward or hanging branches. The buds are sessile (mostly pointed), pubescent, sticky, and the leaves are alternate, petiolate, simple, egg - or diamond-shaped, serrated or serrate along the edge. Birch is the only breed in the world, in many species of which the bark, birch bark, snow-white, smooth or fractured, with exfoliating layers in the form of thin ribbons or large plates. It has a powerful root system that goes deep and in all directions, due to which its wind resistance is high.
As a rule, birch blooms from 8-15 years (April-May) abundantly and annually, usually simultaneously with the blooming of the leaves. Its flowers are collected in inflorescences - earrings. Male earrings are located at the ends of branches, in winter they are dense, dark brown in color, clearly visible from a distance. Women's (staminate) green earrings are much shorter than men's. Seed ripening in July - September. The mass of 1000 seeds is 0.1-0.2 g. Scattering with the help of the wind over long distances, the seeds often act as discoverers and pioneers of woody vegetation; they easily take root on dry and moist soils, populating clearings, fires and new sites. Only for active growth, seedlings need a lot of light, since this breed does not tolerate shading at all.
Birch grows successfully and quickly in a variety of climatic conditions, but its white-stemmed species grow most rapidly. Intensive growth is observed in the period from 10 to 70 years. By the age of 40-50, trees in favorable conditions reach a height of 25-30 m and more, this is a light-loving culture, frost and drought-resistant, undemanding to soil fertility and moisture, therefore it is found on stony, sandy, loamy podzolized soils and on drained chernozems, hardy in relation to gas and smoke pollution. The life span of birch in different species is from 40 to 120 years, although some specimens live up to 200 years.
The scientific name of the deciduous birch culture is Betula (Birch family) - betulya ("chop") alba ("white"). The genus of birch has 120-140 species. Since it can grow in a variety of climatic conditions, it is found in almost all natural zones of the Northern Hemisphere, with the largest number of species found in the flora of eastern Asia and North America. Many species are important forest-forming species that are part of mixed plantations (with other deciduous and coniferous species), but sometimes they also form clean tall birch groves. In the tundra, shrub thickets are formed - dwarf birch forests. Birch extends far to the north and south (up to the northern and southern borders of vegetation growth).
On the territory of Russia, two types of white birch are most widespread - fluffy and warty (low birch is found in peat bogs). They largely determine the beauty and originality of the landscape of the central part of the country, occupying vast Eurasian areas (except for the Far North and South): at the drooping, its eastern border reaches Lake Baikal, and the fluffy one is able to "rise" to the north, as it is more adapted to the harsh climatic conditions of the North. Both species often grow together in the same plantation, although they have different ecological "habits": drooping birch prefers drier and higher places, downy birch quite successfully tolerates high soil moisture, therefore it is often found in highly humid and even wetlands. They grow together with many other deciduous and coniferous species, often playing an important role in the change of conifers, and are also the first to populate the places of windblows, clearings, fires and wastelands, populate abandoned arable lands, where they form clean plantations.
Hanging birch (warty, weeping) B. pendula reaches a height of 20-30 m with a trunk diameter of 60-80 cm. It has an openwork crown with thin branches hanging down (hence the name) and snow-white (or grayish-white) peeling bark (with black dots along the trunk). Young shoots are reddish-brown, on them (a characteristic specific feature) there are small resinous tubercles (glands-warts): "wart" - hence the second name. The leaves are long, slightly leathery, rhombic-ovate with a double-edged toothed edge, dotted with resinous glands. The most valuable kind of hanging birch is "Karelian". Carrying out breeding work, specialists have selected a high-stemmed form from the Karelian birch, which is of the greatest economic importance. For landscaping in forest plantations, drooping birch is mainly used.
Downy birch B.pubescens is a straight-stemmed tree with short branches spread upwards and in all directions, smooth white or grayish bark and pubescent young shoots, oval-ovate (more leathery than drooping birch) leaves. A valuable variety is burl birch ("kapostvolny" and "kapokoreshkovaya").
Birch wood is homogeneous in structure, therefore it is characterized by high strength; it is hard, elastic, easy to work with and lends itself well to polishing, therefore, for many centuries it has found wide application in the life of our people and in many economic sectors. Plywood, skis, wooden parts of guns, parquet, turning products, household items are made from it. The wood of Karelian birch and burl is used for the manufacture of expensive furniture and various handicrafts. For example, the growths sometimes formed on the trunks and roots - "caps" have long been an excellent ornamental material. They were used to make caskets, snuff boxes and cigarette cases. These items were valued more than silver ones. Crafts made from a special burl (white with a black pattern), called "bird's eye", cost the price of gold. From wood, by dry distillation, valuable products are obtained, which serve as the basis for varnishes, formalin, and perfumes. It provides a valuable fuel with high heat dissipation; when it is burned, the coals remain hot for a long time; soot is used to make inks and paints.
Birch ash is a valuable fertilizer, as it contains up to 30 microelements. The extract from May leaves (depending on their concentration) paints well woolen and cotton fabrics in various colors (yellow, black-brown, yellowish-green and golden-yellow). The bark is successfully used as a tanning agent; birch bark products are made from it. Along with other larch species (aspen, alder, poplar, maple, willow, linden), housewives harvest birch brooms for the winter, which is an excellent roughage, especially if the brooms are leafy, with young shoots and dried in the shade. Branches serve as food for wild animals, while buds and catkins are essential food for most forest birds.
For many centuries, when there was no paper, it was successfully replaced by birch bark. So, in the ancient Russian city of Novgorod, during excavations, many birch bark letters were found, thanks to which we learned a lot about the life of our ancient ancestors. The northern peoples - Evenks, Nenets - had birch bark boats, indispensable on shallow rivers: they were submerged in water only 5-10 cm. They built from birch bark and dwellings - a plague.
In birch forests, especially on sandy soils, many chanterelle mushrooms are found, which are very highly valued abroad. Last August, I noticed that most of these mushrooms are found precisely next to fallen and moss-covered birches. Under a palisade of thin birches, where the soil is often covered with a thick layered mass of rotting leaves, you can find black mushrooms (also called "blackies", or "blackies"), which like to hide from human eyes there. Common boletus (boletus, blackhead) should not always be looked for under trees, but sometimes a little further from them. I collected a lot of aspen mushrooms last summer in birch and coniferous forests, although by name it seems to be supposed to grow near aspens.
We see that birch is suitable for many things, but the most important thing is that it healed and cures people from many diseases. Reports on the healing properties of birch leaves and buds can be found in herbalists dating back to the 16th and 17th centuries. In folk medicine, bark, buds, leaves, roots and birch sap are used due to the presence of biologically active substances in them. All this has been confirmed by scientific medicine. So, the bark contains glycosides, saponins, resinous acids, tannin, essential oil. The buds and leaves of birch also contain a whole complex of these useful compounds: essential oil (buds - 3-5.5%), flavonoids, tannins, vitamin C (2.8% in the leaves), carotene, resin, grape sugar, yellow coloring matter, inositol, nicotinic acid, trace elements. Such a rich composition determines the varied use of raw materials.
Infusion of birch leaves and buds is used in complex therapy in the treatment of diseases of the liver, respiratory organs (laryngitis, bronchitis, tracheitis). An aqueous infusion of birch buds is used as a diuretic, choleretic and disinfectant. It is used for edema of cardiac origin, but with caution, especially with prolonged use.
To prepare the infusion, 10 g (1/2 tablespoon) of birch buds are poured into 200 ml (glass) of boiling water in an enamel bowl and heated with a lid closed in a boiling water bath for 15 minutes. After cooling, it is kept at room temperature for 45 minutes, filtered and the remaining raw materials are squeezed out. You can prepare the infusion for 2-3 days, but always keep it in a cool place, take it warm 20-40 minutes before meals (it is better to check the dose with your doctor). Alcohol tincture from the kidneys is a reliable wound-healing agent. It is used to wipe the skin with poorly healing wounds, abrasions and bedsores. With functional kidney failure, it is not recommended to use infusions of buds and leaves.
Birch leaves, used as a diuretic and for the treatment of inflammatory kidney diseases, do not have such side effects (but the effect from the leaves is somewhat weaker than from the kidneys). Its effectiveness as a diuretic is sometimes higher than many chemical compounds, especially since the human body gets used to it less and is less allergic to it. The leaf infusion also has a pronounced choleretic effect, and also reduces the formation of urinary stones. To prepare it, 6-8 g of leaves are poured into 0.5 liters of hot water, boiled for 10 minutes, insisted, filtered. Take 50 g three times a day with meals.
An infusion of leaves is prepared as follows: 2 tsp. (10-12 g of finely chopped leaves) is poured with a glass of boiling water, but after cooling it is filtered, baking soda is immediately added to the water infusion (at the tip of a knife), the whole infusion is drunk 3-4 times a day in 3-4 hours
Birch leaves are also used for making baths: they have a calming effect on the body, have a beneficial effect on the skin, help with dermatitis, eczema, as well as rheumatism, gout, and stimulate the body's metabolism. 300-500 g of dry crushed leaves are poured into a bathtub for an adult with 8-10 liters of cold water, brought to a boil. After insisting for 40-50 minutes and straining, the infusion is poured into the bath and the amount of water is brought to the required volume (bath temperature is 36-39 ° C, the duration of the procedure is 5-20 minutes.). It is recommended to take 1-2 baths a week, after consulting with your doctor in advance, since not all people can do this due to a number of contraindications (tumors, arrhythmias, and others). It must be borne in mind that the infusion of the leaves can stain the bath. Well mashed and steamed birch leaves are used to relieve pain in joints affected by rheumatic processes. They are put on a sore spot, a cloth bandage is made and covered with a film. The procedure is designed for 2-4 hours, the course of treatment is 7-10 days.
An interesting recipe for a mask made from young birch leaves for dry and normal skin. 1 tsp 1/4 cup of boiling water is poured into finely chopped leaves of young birch. Insisting 1.5-2 hours and straining, 1 tbsp. l. warm infusion is added to a cream for dry skin (or butter or margarine), applied in a thin layer on the face.
By the way, since the times of Kievan Rus, brooms of birch branches and linden branches were hung in huts, the fragrance of which contributed to a sound sleep.
Birch buds of both of these species of birches are harvested in the winter-spring period (January-April) before they bloom (before the divergence of the covering scales at the top of the bud). Branches with buds are cut off, tied into bundles (panicles). To do this, you can use birch branches from winter tree felling. Dried for 3-4 weeks outdoors or in a well-ventilated area, after drying, thresh. The buds can be dried at temperatures up to 30 ° C, without allowing them to bloom. However, experts do not recommend making the preparation of the kidneys themselves, since in this process (especially when drying raw materials) there are enough subtleties, the violation of which often leads to a deterioration in its quality (it may be better to purchase them in a pharmacy).
Birch leaves can be collected in May-June quite independently: in dry weather after dew has melted. They are torn off when they are still sticky and fragrant, very carefully, trying not to damage or unnecessarily expose the branches. Leaves from trees growing near roads must not be collected. They are dried in attics or in the open air in the shade, spreading them in a layer of up to 5 cm. The finished raw material of the buds has a brown color, a balsamic smell, pleasant, slightly astringent, resinous taste, the leaves have a brownish green, bitter, resinous taste. Raw materials are stored in dry, well-ventilated areas. The buds and leaves are stored in cloth and paper bags or glass jars for two years.
A parasitic birch fungus, chaga, is also actively used for medical purposes. In the spring they drink birch sap, which is a useful fortifying drink. Birch tar is used externally for the treatment of skin diseases in the form of ointments (tar and Vishnevsky). It is a good disinfectant in the treatment of skin diseases in animals.
In general, we agree: for a Russian person, there is no tree dearer and more beloved than a white-trunk birch, therefore they confess their love to her:
"My birch has a green shirt, silky skin, white bark, And she is almost like my own daughter, from the first leaf of a girl's time …
And she opened golden buds, wrapped the branches with tender foliage, well, and I climbed right under the shirt, and whisper to the birch: "I am forever yours …"