Coconut water has been the popular health beverage trend for a while now, but it seems that craze might be fading a bit, thanks to the latest nature-given energy drink: birch water.
This slightly sweet, thin syrup-like beverage offers lots of benefits to your health, loaded with vitamins, proteins, amino acids, and minerals. In a guide to using and making birch sap, the University of Alaska Fairbanks notes that its nutrients include vitamin C, calcium, potassium, phosphorus, manganese, magnesium, sodium, zinc, and iron.
The smooth, silky sap that tastes similar to maple syrup, though much lighter, has been drunk as a health tonic in places like Russia, Scandinavia, and the Baltic countries for hundreds for years for medicinal purposes as well as a nutritional supplement, thanks to its detoxifying, anti-inflammatory and cleansing properties.
If that’s not enough to get you to consider drinking it, these seven reasons surely will.
1. Lower cholesterol
A compound found in birch sap known as saponin has been shown in studies to offer blood cholesterol-reducing properties. A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed that saponins can lower cholesterol by binding to cholesterol and bile acids. The saponins lead to a reduction of cholesterol by preventing its reabsorption, and increasing its excretions, the scientists noted.
2. Weight loss
Birch water can even support your weight loss efforts. As it helps to eliminate excess salt, phosphates, uric acids, ammonia and certain medicines, getting rid of these impurities helps to cleanse the urinary tract, and as a result, assists one in losing weight. The reason it can be effective is that when toxins are allowed to build up, the body tends to hold onto fat as a way to protect its organs. If those toxins are eliminated, it eases the struggle most of us face when trying to lose pounds.
Nathalie Chantal de Ahna chronicled her experience using birch water as part of a cleanse for Mind Body Green and noted that she not only lost weight, but her skin was clearer and she felt better too. To those who’d like to try it, she recommends detoxing with birch water (sap) by drinking 3/4 cup on an empty stomach every day for four to six weeks.
3. Supports liver health
As birch water helps to eliminate toxins, it’s no surprise that it also works to promote better live health as the liver isn’t forced to do more than it was meant to. Birch sap helps to get rid of toxins that only the liver can process, like saturated fat, alcohol, pesticides and many others.
A 2012 study published in the Polish Botanical Society showed that after reviewing the use of tree saps throughout Europe, that birch tree sap in particular could be considered supplementary nutrition, with its sugars, minerals, and vitamins supporting the liver.
4. Clearer, brighter skin
That Nathalie of Mind Body Green experienced clearer skin after using birch water as part of a detox, is a benefit well-known by many users of the beverage, including nutritionists. Nutrition coach Candice Van Eeden (DipCNM mBANT CNHC), who has extensively researched the benefits of birch water, says that as it is able to effectively eliminate toxins, the natural result is clearer, brighter skin. Not only can it be used to achieve those affects by drinking it, but it can be used directly on the skin. It’s believed to protect skin from external stresses like UV rays and pollution, as well as to improve skin elasticity.
5. Faster wound healing
In addition to clearing the skin and even helping to heal skin conditions like acne and eczema, as birch water stimulates the growth of dermal and epidermal cells, it’s also known to speed the healing of wounds. In a study in the journal PLOS One, the authors noted that birch bark was used by North American Indians who wrapped their wounds with it to accelerate would healing. Researchers found that birch bark extract increases the ability of injured skin to produce inflammatory substances which attract the types of cells needed to remove dead tissue and bacteria. It actually causes the skin cells to move into the injury, helping to heal and close it faster.
Their findings also support previous lab data that showed a beneficial effect on cell proliferation and cell migration.
6. Joint pain relief
Nutritionist Candice Van Eeden also has remarked of birch water’s benefits when it comes to joint pain. Birch sap is well-known to help with conditions like arthritis and osteoarthritis due to its anti-inflammatory properties which can help reduce swelling. Additionally, Van Eeden says that because a buildup of uric acid in the body is toxic, excess uric acid can result in joint pain or even arthritis. Strenuous exercise is one factor that can result in the body producing excess uric acid, and she notes that about 1 in 5 people experience this condition.
Drinking birch water regularly can help to prevent a buildup of crystals in the joints to prevent pain from occurring in the first place. You can even apply it to affected joints directly by making a compress from steamed, mashed birch leaves to help relieve pain and reduce inflammation, in addition to drinking it to help heal from the inside too.
7. Reduces cavities
Who enjoys going to the dentist? Not many people, and particularly dreaded is the sound of that drill. If you’d like to reduce your odds of developing cavities, therefore reducing your trips to the dentist and enduring the drill, consuming birch water can help. It aids in promoting good oral health thanks to a substance known as xylitol. This is a type of natural sugar that is known to prevent cavities as some types of bacteria known to cause decay is unable to use it as a food source, according to the California Dental Association.
In the article “The Decay-Preventitive Sweetener,” the CDA notes, “Xylitol inhibits the growth of the bacteria that cause cavities. It does this because these bacteria (Streptococcus mutans) cannot utilize xylitol to grow. Over time with xylitol use, the quality of the bacteria in the mouth changes and fewer and fewer decay-causing bacteria survive on tooth surfaces. Less plaque forms and the level of acids attacking the tooth surface is lowered. Studies show that Streptococcus mutans is passed from parents to their newborn children, thus beginning the growth of these decay producing bacteria in the child. Regular use of xylitol by mothers has been demonstrated to significantly reduce this bacteria transmission, resulting in fewer cavities for the child.”
How To Make Your Own Birch Water
So now that you know why birch water has become all the rage, you probably want to know how to get some. Due to its growing popularity, it’s becoming more widely available at markets and health food stores, but you can also make your own if you live in an area with birch trees. Just about any northern area in the northern hemisphere has them.
When to get the sap. If you have birch trees in your area, you can get the sap anytime temperatures are above freezing, usually sometime between March and early November, depending on where you live, and how cold the winter has been.
What to look for. There are a number of different birch species, though they all can be used and are easily identifiable by their white and grey bark. The most common are the white birch and the silver birch. Look for trees that are at least 10 inches around in diameter, and appear to be healthy. Trees that have lots of branches typically have the best sap flow.
Getting the sap out. Getting the sap out isn’t rocket science, in fact, it’s fairly easy, provided you have some basic equipment. You’ll need a drill with a 7/16” drill bit as well as a container for collecting the sap and either food grade tubing or a tap. If you use a bottle, it can be attached to the tree with a thin rope or heavier string, or you can insert tubing into the hole in the tree and then run it down to the bottle on the ground.
When you’re ready, just select a point approximately three feet from the base of the tree. Then, drill at an upward angle, about 30 degrees, cutting about a one-and-a-half-inch hole into the tree. As soon as the hole is cut, sap, which looks like water, will begin to flow out almost immediately. Now you’ll need to insert some type of food grade tubing or a tap.
When it flows out of the tube or tap, position your container so that it collects the runoff. Be sure to keep the container covered to avoid getting insects into the sap. It can take a few hours, or even as long as a day to collect a gallon. The sap can continue to be collected until the flow starts to get cloudy, or it slows to a crawl.
How to use the sap. Now, after all, that hard work comes the fun part. You can actually taste the sap right from the tree. Although it tastes like water, you’ll note subtle flavors of sweetness and a fresh taste that makes it amazing to drink. It doesn’t stay fresh long, so you’ll need to store it in the refrigerator and drink it within a few days if you’d like to continue to enjoy it fresh. If left out a room temperature, it will begin to ferment even quicker. Other than enjoying it straight, you can also add ginger and turmeric for an especially healthy tonic, or use it instead of water in herbal teas.
Can You Buy Birch Water?
Yes, in many health food stores you’ll find birch water. You can also find birch water online, such as from here on Amazon. When purchasing birch water look for an organic product free of any additives. This Säpp Birch Water is regarded as one of the best available.