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Birch
Birch

Birch
Betula lenta

Plant Origin: Canada
Method: Steam distilled from macerated and soaked bark
Cultivation: Unsprayed (organically grown but not certified)
Chemical Family: Salicylate ester
Aroma: Strong, minty, candy-like

Key Constituents from GC/MS Analysis: Lot# BIR-103
methyl salicylate 99.85%
ethyl salicylate 0.06%
1,8-cineole 0.03%
linalool 0.03%
limonene 0.01%

Children? Not suitable (see Safety info below)
Pregnancy/Nursing? Not suitable (see Safety info below)

Birch and Wintergreen are, chemically speaking, almost identical.

Hopewell Essential Oils' Sweet Birch is grown and distilled in the Adirondack region of Canada. Apparently true steam-distilled Birch oil is no longer produced commercially on a large scale because it is not economically feasible to compete with other products such as wintergreen oil which, in terms of chemistry, is practically identical. This amazing quality Adirondack Birch oil is produced by a family distillery on a very small scale, and it is the only authentic birch oil known to be on the market today.

Indications
Arthritis, rheumatism, inflammation, muscular pain, tendinitis, hypertension, joints, muscles and cramps. The main chemical component of Birch is methyl salicylate, which is similar to the salicylic acid used in aspirin. Contains an active principle similar to cortisone and is beneficial for bone, muscle, and joint discomfort. Analgesic, antispasmodic, anti-inflammatory, liver stimulant, and supports bone function. Birch oil may also be beneficial for cystitis, acne, bladder infection, gout, gallstones, edema, eczema, osteoporosis, skin diseases, ulcers, and urinary tract disorders.

Anti-depressant
Analgesic - joint and muscle pains, headaches, toothache
Anti-inflammatory - arthritis, rheumatism, sprains, joint and muscle aches and pains, tendon issues
Anti-spasmodic - cramps
Anti-septic and disinfectant - protect skin from bacterial and fungal infections
Astringent and tonic - skin toner, in low dosages may reduce wrinkles, sagging skin and muscles. Strengthens gums, hair and tightens muscles.
Detoxifier - helps remove toxins like uric acid from blood through increased urination and perspiration
Diuretic - cellulite, promotes urination
Germicide and Insecticide - eczema, ringworm
Febrifuge - may help reduce body temperature by promoting perspiration, which also helps by removing toxins
Rubefacient - locally warming
Stimulant - stimulates nervous system, circulatory system, digestive system and excretory system. Stimulates endocrine glands resulting in more secretions of enzymes and hormones.

Application Suggestions (see Essential Oil Usage for more information and a dilution chart.)
Topical: Dilute with a carrier oil, lotion or cream and apply to area of concern. The British Herbal Pharmacopoeia recommends using Wintergreen (Birch) externally as a liniment. Tisserand/Young suggests that the maximum dermal use level not exceed 2.5%.
Dermal Caution: Anticoagulant medication, major surgery, hemophilia and other bleeding disorders, pregnancy, nursing, children and people with salicylate sensitivity, which may apply to people with ADD/ADHD (Tisserand/Young page 215).

Inhalation: Diffuse
Inhalation Caution: Anticoagulant medication, major surgery, hemophilia and other bleeding disorders, pregnancy, nursing, children and people with salicylate sensitivity, which may apply to people with ADD/ADHD (Tisserand/Young page 215).

Internal: No suggestions, although Birch/Wintergreen is extensively used as a flavoring for toothpaste, chewing gum and soft drinks. (Lawless, Leung) Large doses of Birch can be toxic. 5mls of Birch is equal to approximately 21 aspirin (300 mg tablets). Large amounts taken orally can cause ringing in the ears, nausea, vomiting, headache, stomach pain and confusion. Tisserand notes that the maximum adult daily oral dose is 182mg, which would be about 6 drops.
Oral Caution: GERD disease, anticoagulant medication, major surgery, hemophilia and other bleeding disorders pregnancy, nursing, children and people with salicylate sensitivity, which may apply to people with ADD/ADHD (Tisserand/Young page 215).
 
Testimonies
1. I wanted to let you know about the Birch oil. When I last ordered, you said it was a superior oil and wanted some feedback on it. Well, thankfully, we haven't had much need for it until just the other day. My husband had a very stiff and sore neck, and before retiring for the night, I massaged some into his neck and shoulder area. He woke the next morning with absolutely NO PAIN! So, for our feedback: We really like it!!! - T.S.

2. My married son had an abscessed tooth, and the dentist said he would have to have a root canal done. Knowing how bad root canals are, he called me to see what I'd suggest him to do, and I suggested that he apply Plague Defense on the gum next to the tooth and diluted on the jaw. He put some drops on a cotton ball and packed it next to the tooth. The infection cleared up but then erupted again, and this cycle happened at least three times. Each time he'd start the protocol again. I read about your Enhance Tooth Suds, and why the Birch was added, so I suggested that he use the Plague Defense and then apply Birch to help drive it in. This worked! The infection was resolved and his tooth is fine. My friend had a bad toothache (abcess), and she called to ask if I had anything that would help. I gave her Plague Defense and Birch to use, and the next morning she called to say that the abcess broke and drained, and she felt a million times better.

3. I had been suffering with neck and shoulder pain for weeks, and the chiropractor was unable to help. Yesterday my back began to hurt along with my neck and shoulders. I was in so much pain all day that I went home in tears. I asked my husband to masage my back, shoulders and neck with Birch. He then suggested I put a heating pad on it. I rested for a couple hours with the heating pad and went to bed. When I woke up, I felt so much better. I just had a small amount of pain. I am so thankful for your oils. - Dawn

4. I have found that Birch extended with either St. John's Wort infused oil or Tamanu works very nicely to ease gout and joint pain. - Marge

5. I have a friend who had a large bunion on her left foot. It was extremely swollen, red and painful. It was bent to the left leaning over the next toe. She showed it to someone who said there was nothing that could be done for a bunion like hers except surgery. She had some Strength and some Birch and decided to apply it liberally to both toes, but especially to the swollen, red area of the big toe. She'd had the bunion for months. After applying it for (her words) a "brief time" (I asked how long and she estimated a couple of weeks or so), it is just fine now. After her experience, she mentioned it to another friend who also had a bunion. I don't know more of the details or her experience than that the other friend used the same oils, did the same thing and her foot is just fine now also. - Kerri

6. Darla asked if she could use Birch instead of the daily aspirin her MD prescribed. While Wintergreen/Birch are comparable to aspirin, Robert Tisserand wrote in response to a similar question: "Maybe, but there’s no evidence that the methyl salicylate content of wintergreen oil has the same long-term benefits of acetylsalicylic acid (aspirin). They are both salicylates, but that doesn’t mean they have exactly the same action. If it was me, I would go for aspirin with its proven, known benefits."

7. Last week I had three molars extracted. On one, the surgeon had to scrape bone due to infection. Along with the ice / hot packs, I have used feverfew herb by mouth and Hopewell Birch essential oil on site and on the backs of my hands. I have a high pain threshold, so that's been all I needed. - Julia

Safety
Pregnancy: Robert Tisserand wrote: It should absolutely never be taken during pregnancy. Like all salicylates, it causes fetal malformations. Even externally, it can cause problems.

Children: Taking 4-10mL by mouth can be deadly. Tisserand writes: Birch and Wintergreen should not be used on or given to children in any amount due to the risk of developing Reye's Syndrome.

Undiluted Caution: use may cause skin irritations.

Oral Caution: Tisserand notes that the maximum adult daily oral dose is 182mg, which would be less than 0.2mL. Large amounts taken orally can cause ringing in the ears, nausea, vomiting, headache, stomach pain and confusion.

Anticoagulant Medication, Childbirth, Epilepsy, Peptic Ulcer, Major Surgery: Methyl salicylate (the key constituent of Sweet Birch and Wintergreen) inhibits platelet aggregation and exacerbates blood thinning. 

Robert Tisserand, aromatherapist and author of Essential Oil Safety, wrote about Wintergreen, but we include this information here because Birch is almost identical, chemically speaking, to Wintergreen: "In Europe, the ADI (‘acceptable daily intake’) for methyl salicylate is 0.5 mg/kg/day, which equates to about 1 drop of Wintergreen oil per adult per day. ADIs are primarily intended to cover the food industry. This regulation does not apply outside of Europe."

"There is no difference between Wintergreen oil toxicity and methyl salicylate toxicity. Methyl salicylate is one of the ingredients in Listerine, so many people use it daily in a mouthwash, and very small amounts may be ingested. As always, toxicity is in relation to dose. I would suggest that Wintergreen oil is not one that should be taken orally as a medicine, unless under the supervision of a doctor or herbalist. There have been many fatalities from (accidental) overdose, and there are a number of toxicity issues – it’s fetotoxic, there are several reasons why it could be problematic in children, it’s extremely blood-thinning, and should be avoided by people with GERD. So it’s not just a question of how much is toxic – it’s also about individual sensitivity. It should absolutely never be taken during pregnancy. Like all salicylates, it causes fetal malformations. Even externally, it can cause problems."

Dermal Use: Maximum level 2.5%
"Wintergreen oil has some wonderful properties, but I would not like to see it used at more than 5%. No one has died from dermal [topical] application, but there have been at least three reported cases of people taking blood-thinning medication who broke out in internal bruising when they applied methyl salicylate-containing products to their skin. It enhances the blood thinning action of the drug, and blood leaks out of the blood vessels." 

"Methyl salicylate is good for some people, not for others. A blanket contraindication is not necessary, but it is best avoided in pregnancy – all salicylates are teratogenic in sufficient amount, including methyl salicylate and aspirin (acetyl salicylic acid). Methyl salicylate must be absolutely avoided by anyone taking blood-thinning drugs, as it increases the action of the drug, and this causes blood to leak into tissues and internal bruising occurs. Knowing a lethal dose tells you very little about what (1) a therapeutic dose would be or (2) a safe dose would be, but it does tell you what dose not to use! Therapeutic dose is good to know of course, and this varies between essential oil and also between purpose. Wintergreen oil has some wonderful properties, but I would not like to see it used at more than 5%."

Avoid contact with the eyes and other sensitive areas. Essential oils are both lipophilic and hydrophobic. Lipophilic means they are attracted to fat— like the membranes of your eyes and skin. They are also hydrophobic, meaning they do not like water. Flushing with water will only send the essential oil back to the eye's membranes. Applying a carrier oil will create another fat for the essential oil to be attracted to other than the membranes of the eyes or skin. Tisserand suggests: "With essential oils, fatty oil has been suggested as an appropriate first aid treatment, though the advantage of saline [eyewash] is that the eyes can be continually flushed, and this is less easy with fatty oil." We’ve not known this to cause permanent injury or long-term discomfort, but if you feel concerned, please call your health care provider.

References
Battaglia, Salvatore, The Complete Guide to Aromatherapy, 2002, pages 324.
Davis, P., Aromatherapy An A-Z, C.W. Daniel Company Ltd, 2000.
Rose, J, 375 Essential Oils and Hydrosols, Frog Ltd, 1999.
Tisserand, Robert, Essential Oil Safety, 2nd Edition 2014, pages 215-216.
Tisserand, Robert, Wintergreen Safety
 

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