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Birch blossoms, raw, silver birch, flowers and leaves

Birch blossoms, actually flowers and leaves of the silver birch (white birch), can be eaten raw, as an infusion or used in the kitchen including fruits.
Given the lack of nutritional information for this ingredient, we did not include it in the calculations for the nutrition table.
Macronutrient carbohydrates 0%
Macronutrient proteins 0%
Macronutrient fats 0%

The three ratios show the percentage by weight of macronutrients (carbohydrates / proteins / fats) of the dry matter (excl. water).

Ω-6 (LA, <0.1g)
Omega-6 fatty acid such as linoleic acid (LA)
 : Ω-3 (ALA, <0.1g)
Omega-3 fatty acid such as alpha-linolenic acid (ALA)
 = 0:0

Omega-6 ratio to omega-3 fatty acids should not exceed a total of 5:1. Link to explanation.

Values are too small to be relevant.

From the silver birch , often called white birch or warty birch ( Betula pendula ), we can use both the flowers ( birch blossoms ) and the leaves and the sap in the trunk as raw food.

Use in the kitchen:

The young, low-fiber, high-protein leaves are a good addition to breads, patties, sauces, and herb mixtures with a neutral, matte taste. The leaves are a great addition to raw salads, for example, together with dandelion , cress , and lamb's lettuce . Birch leaves can be pickled in a similar way to sauerkraut and are suitable for making fresh plant juices and for cold or hot vitality drinks, such as tea. 1,2

The male, elongated, yellow inflorescences (flowers, birch catkins) can be added to bread dough, patties, raw breads and soups as a flavouring ingredient, or can be candied. As a seasoning, they enhanceherbal vinegar , herbal oil and wild plant salt - or they can be processed in a similar way to a chutney. Birch buds taste deliciously nutty in your morning muesli (cereal) or in a salad. 2

The young and still soft fruits - these are small, winged nuts with a slightly aromatic taste 5 - make a delicious treat when candied or dipped in chocolate. They are used in tea, punch or wild plant lemonade. They can be used in patties, in vegetable soups and as briefly fried or pickled vegetables. 2

The watery, sweet sap of the birch tree can be processed into beer, spirits, wine or vinegar due to its high sugar content. The vitalising mineral drink can be drunk fresh or thickened into a syrup. Underneath the black-white bark there is a delicate layer of bark that can be used as flour for various baked goods. 2

Preparation of (fresh) birch leaf tea:

To prepare a medicinal herbal tea, pour 250 ml (¼ l) of boiling water over two heaped teaspoons of birch leaves and strain after 10 minutes. Drink three cups of the infusion per day, moderately warm, as birch leaf tea. Once the water has been successfully drained, the tea must be discontinued. 1

Vegan recipe for birch blossom sauce:

Ingredients: 2 tablespoons birch blossoms, 1 tablespoon honey , 100 ml vegetable stock , 200 g vegan sour cream , 1 tablespoon cornstarch , a little salt .

Preparation: Heat the vegetable stock, add the birch buds and honey and leave to cool. Stir in the sour cream and puree with a hand blender to make a sauce. Mix 4-5 tablespoons of the sauce with the cornstarch and add to the rest of the sauce. Heat, stirring constantly, until the sauce thickens. Season with salt and enjoy with steamed potatoes or vegetables.

Not only vegans or vegetarians should read this:
Vegans often eat unhealthily. Avoidable nutritional mistakes.

Purchasing - where to buy?

Birch leaves (standard approval) are available loose, in tea bags or as soluble instant tea. The leaves are often a component of bladder and kidney teas, gout and rheumatism teas and so-called detox teas. In addition to dry extracts, e.g. in the form of tablets, you can buy alcoholic extracts in juices. The freshly pressed plant juice is available in its purest form and in various combinations. 3,4

Birch leaves can be bought at Coop Vitality . Herbal tea blends with birch leaves are available at the supermarket chains Edeka and Rewe , in the organic supermarket Alnatura , in organic shops, in health food stores, in pharmacies and online. We have not yet found any birch leaf tea at Migros , Denner , Spar , Aldi , Lidl and Denner .

In addition to birch leaf extracts, birch bark extracts, birch charcoal and birch tar are used in cosmetics. 3

Found in the wild - Season:

How tall does a silver birch grow? The silver birch ( Betula pendula ) can reach a height of 9-25 meters, depending on the climate zone. With its characteristic silvery-white bark and shimmering leaves, it is one of the most elegant birch species. The white coloring of trunks and branches is due to the substance betulin. The silver birch has drooping branches that are covered with warty resin glands when young. 5,6,7

In Central Europe, the silver birch is considered the most important pioneer tree species, as it is the first to colonize fallow, rubble and bare areas. It prepares the forest soil and is a valuable protective tree species. 16 Silver birch trees can be found on burned areas, in moors, on forest borders and on reforestation areas. 7

Season: The flowering period of the catkins (flowers) is from April to May, in some areas earlier. In low-lying, non-cold zones, the tender, light green spring foliage is collected in May and June. The stems should still be soft enough to be crushed with the fingers. The fruits are about 3 mm long nuts or winged seeds that ripen in August to September.

To obtain birch sap (bleeding sap), the bark is cut in spring (from March to April) or holes are drilled into the trunk to collect the sap that flows out in metal containers. Depending on the weather and temperature, the birch sap flows for about ten days in a daily amount of one to five liters. 1

Birch tar is obtained from the birch bark, which is peeled and dried from the trunk, older branches and twigs in spring (March to May), through what is known as dry distillation. 1 However, the tree can suffer serious damage from the bark injury!


Fresh birch leaves and flower heads should be left to dry in an airy, dark place. Dried plant parts can be stored in a cool, dry place, protected from light. Dark, well-sealable jars or metal containers are ideal for this.

To prevent fermentation of the fresh plant juice or the stock juice, you can store the liquids in the refrigerator or freeze them in small portions. Another alternative is to preserve them with alcohol. Depending on the percentage, you use 30-50% alcohol and mix it with the pressed juice or the stock juice.

Ingredients - nutritional value - calories:

The ingredients of birch leaves (silver birch and downy birch) that determine their effectiveness are flavonoids (1.5-3.5%) (including hyperoside, quercetin), phenolcarboxylic acids, triterpene esters (betulinic acid, betulinol), tannins and essential oil. Other ingredients are vitamin C , potassium salts , bitter substances and saponins. 1,2,3,8,9

According to the European Pharmacopoeia, the leaves of the silver birch or downy birch must contain at least 1.5% flavonoids as hyperosides. The leaves of the silver birch usually have a slightly higher flavonoid content than those of the downy birch. In general, young leaves have a higher content than older ones. 3

In addition to organic acids, the sap contains salts, invert sugar, proteins and plant growth substances. 1

The bark of the silver birch and the downy birch (Betulae cortex) contains betulin, tannins, bitter substances, essential oil, resins and other organic substances. 1 Both birch species contain the terpene betulin in much higher concentrations than the leaves. 8 The birch tar produced from the bark is characterized by its phenol content. 1

Health aspects - effects:

The main active ingredient in birch leaves is flavonoids. Pharmacological and animal studies have shown the physiological effect of increased urine, chloride and urea excretion. Scientists suspect that the relatively high vitamin C content and the essential oil support this effect. The increased urine excretion prevents the formation of kidney stones and kidney gravel. 3

Another proven effect of birch leaf extracts is the inhibition of biofilm formation by Escherichia coli bacteria. 3

The therapeutically effective components of the bark are anti-inflammatory, anti-tumor and antiviral terpenes (betulin, betulinic acid, lupeol). 10,11 Betulins have played a promising role in cancer and HIV research for several years. 12

Birch trunk sap has mild analgesic and antimicrobial effects. 13

Dangers - Intolerances - Side effects:

The immune system of allergy sufferers can react very strongly to birch pollen, as it contains highly potent allergens (proteins). When inhaling or coming into direct contact with the pollen, the body releases histamine, which can lead to inflammation of the conjunctiva of the eyes and the nasal mucosa. This pollen allergy is colloquially known as "hay fever". Symptoms can include: itchy or watery eyes, itching in the nose, palate or ears, sneezing, a blocked or runny nose or difficulty breathing. 14

Cross-allergies are a special phenomenon. For example, birch pollen allergies can lead to cross-reactions with celery , hazelnuts , roses ( apple , peach , pear , almond , plum , cherry ), laurels ( cinnamon , avocado ) or exotic fruits ( lychee , kiwi ). 12

During the flowering period, which is between March and May depending on the location, birch trees release a large amount of pollen, which varies from year to year. Every other year, birch trees have a so-called "mast year" in which they release particularly large amounts of pollen. 12,14

Contraindications to treatment with birch leaves include feverish urinary tract infections, acute prostatitis, glomerulonephritis (inflammation of the kidneys), impaired renal function, heart failure, hypertension, pregnancy and breastfeeding. In principle, flushing therapy should not be used in cases of edema due to impaired cardiac and renal function. 3

Mild gastrointestinal complaints are rare side effects. No interactions are known. 3,4,8

Use as a medicinal plant:

The parent plants for the production of herbal medicines are the silver birch, the downy birch ( Betula pubescens ) or hybrids of both species. 3

A recognized application of birch leaves (Betulae folium, pl.: Betulae folia) according to HMPC ( Committee for Herbal Medicinal Products ) is the flushing of the urinary tract as a supportive treatment for mild urinary tract complaints by increasing the amount of urine. 3

ESCOP ( the umbrella organization of national European societies for phytotherapy ) also mentions the flushing of the urinary tract in cases of inflammation of the urinary tract or kidney stones, as well as the accompanying treatment of bacterial infections of the urinary tract. 3

Commission E ( Expert Committee for Herbal Medicines ) recommends that in addition to flushing for bacterial and inflammatory diseases of the urinary tract and kidney stones, it also be used as a supportive treatment for rheumatism. 3

The average daily dose for birch leaf tea is 2-3 g of the medicinal herb several times a day, a total of 6-10 g. 3.8

Proven and well-known tea blends contain 20 g of birch leaves, 20 g of nettle leaves and 60 g of horsetail herb. 9

The daily dose of birch leaves should have a total flavonoid content of at least 150-200 mg. Therefore, preparations with a guaranteed flavonoid content should be preferred. Freshly pressed plant juices are well suited as they contain up to 2% flavonoids. Use 15 ml of fresh juice 3 times a day and 2 ml of the tincture (1:10) 3 times a day. 8 The freshly pressed plant juice should be used in a diluted state. 1

When using birch leaf flushing therapy, it is important to ensure that you drink enough fluids, at least two liters per day. If you experience periodically recurring or acute symptoms that last longer than a week, it is recommended that you consult a doctor. 3,8

According to clinical studies, indications for treatment with birch bark (Betulae cortex) are psoriasis and light-induced skin changes caused by sunlight or UV radiation (actinic keratosis). 8

Folk medicine - natural healing:

Birch leaves were not known in classical antiquity; probably because birch trees are more common in the north than in the Mediterranean. 9

The birch played a very special role in Slavic and Germanic folk beliefs. The Whitsun and Corpus Christi birches are a reminder of this. Birch water was given for stomach cramps, birch tar was used to treat abscesses and birch tar was used to make ointments for cracked skin and calluses. Tea made from the bark and leaves was recommended for diabetes. 14

In the 12th century , Hildegard von Bingen described birch blossoms as a remedy for stubborn ulcers and hard-to-heal wounds. The Italian Matthioli (or Matthiolus - not Matthiole, as quoted in the source, 16th century) reported the effectiveness of birch for kidney stones and gout, as well as for "blood purification". 12

For centuries, birch has been used by the North American Indians, in herbal medicine in German-speaking countries and in China to treat infectious diseases, skin diseases and bladder and kidney diseases. 15

In Russia and Scandinavia, the silver birch and downy birch are medicinal plants of similar importance to the linden or oak in Central Europe. In 2000, the birch was the tree of the year in Germany. 16

Today, birch leaf infusions are used internally in traditional medicine for rheumatism, gout, arthritis, arteriosclerosis, skin rashes and fever. 17

Baths and washes with leaf infusions or decoctions made from birch bark are suitable for skin diseases. 2 Birch sap can be used internally and externally, for example for spring or hair treatments. 13

Birch charcoal can be helpful in cases of diarrhea, as it binds pollutants and water in the intestines. Small and diluted amounts of birch tar (Pix betulina) can provide relief for chronic skin diseases. 2

Occurrence - Origin:

Pollen finds show that during the post-glacial reforestation around 13,000 years ago, almost all of Central Europe consisted of dense birch forests. The pines advancing from the south pushed the birch to the north. 12 Today, the silver birch is native to temperate Eurasia. 3

The silver birch ( Betula pendula ) includes a total of 22 subspecies that grow in North America, Asia and Europe, except in northern Scandinavia. 16

Growing in the garden or as a potted plant:

Birches can be grown in the garden or as a potted plant in a sunny to partially shaded location. Weeping birches grow undemandingly on sandy, nutrient-poor and acidic soils, but not on pure limestone soils. Harmful waterlogging can be prevented with drainage made of pebbles, sand or small pieces of clay. As young trees, birches need a lot of water. 16,18

The seeds are taken from the elongated fruit clusters in March and April. When the seedling is about 20 cm high, it can be transplanted outdoors or into a flower pot. Alternatively, you can grow a cutting from a branch or dig up a young plant near a birch tree. 18

How does a birch root? Birch has shallow roots, so you don't have to dig deep. 18 Birches generally don't need to be pruned and potted plants don't need to be repotted. Birches are hardy down to -45 °C. 19

The downy birch ( Betula pubescens ) is suitable for moist and acidic locations and the shrub birch ( Betula humilis ) is recommended as a low-growing shrub. 19

Cultivation - Harvest:

Imports of birch leaves come from China, Russia, Poland and other Eastern European countries. 3

Danger of confusion:

Silver birch trees can easily be confused with other birch species. There is no actual danger of confusion. You can find out about the special features of the plant (e.g. the shape of the leaves) by reading a fact sheet.

The downy birch (or hairy birch, Betula pubescens ), for example, has hairy young branches and the leaves are smaller than those of the silver birch. 1.5

Animal protection - species protection - animal welfare:

Brändle and Brandl name around 500 animal species that occur in connection with birch trees in Germany. Of these, 106 are beetles, 140 are large butterfly species and 105 are small butterfly species. Around 130 species are more or less specialized on birch trees. 6 One of these is the large birch sawfly.

According to Wikipedia, bird species with a certain (but not exclusive) connection to the birch are the Redpoll and the Polar Redpoll. 16

If you want to protect such animals, you can purchase various subspecies as ornamental trees: "Purpurea" with dense, dark purple foliage, "Laciniata" with incised leaves and hanging branches, "Tristis" with hanging branches and an upright trunk, and "Youngii" with a weeping willow-like growth form without a main trunk.

General information:

The silver birch ( Betula pendula ) is a deciduous tree species from the birch genus ( Betula ) within the birch family ( Betulaceae ). 16

Alternative names:

Well-known alternative names for the silver birch are silver birch, sand birch, warty birch, white birch, common birch and rough birch. According to German orthography, “hanging birch” is written as one word. In scientifically based botanical works, however, the spelling “hanging birch” is standardized as the German botanical name.

Latin synonyms are Betula alba and Betula verrucosa .

In English, the silver birch is called weeping birch or warty birch. Birch bark is called birchbark and birch sap.

Key words for use:

Today, birch is used outside of food in the manufacture of cosmetics 8 and for the production of the sugar substitute xylitol or xylitol (E 967). 20 Birch water is used as a hair and skin care product or for dyeing wool (loose green/yellow).

In the past, birch was used to make everyday objects, such as shoes and backpacks in Finland or food storage containers in Siberia. Birch tar made from birch bark has been used as an adhesive since the Stone Age. 21 Birch twigs were once used to bind brooms. Freshly sprouted birch trees were a traditional street decoration at Pentecost.

Literature - Sources: