Friday, 30 March 2007

Carn Meini

Site Name: Carn Meini Alternate Name: Carn Menyn
Country: Wales County: Pembrokeshire (Sir Benfro) Type: Ancient Mine or Quarry
Nearest Town: Newport Nearest Village: Mynachlog-Ddu
Map Ref: SN145325 Landranger Map Number: 145
Latitude: 51.959955N Longitude: 4.701252W


Rocks of the Ordovician period were formed between 500 and 440 million years ago. Igneous, sedimentary and metamorphic rocks from this period are found in Pembrokeshire. It was a period of volcanic activity, when land emerged from the sea by the up thrusting landscape features, Carn Llidi and Penbiri are remnant s of volcanic activity.

Ordovican rocks occur across most of north Pembrokeshire, especially around the Preseli Hills, where outcrops of igneous rocks push up through the Ordovician sedimentary strata. Metamorphic rocks such as shale and slate also occur. Fossil graptolites, a marine animal, are found in both sedimentary and metamorphic rocks in the area.

Poor acid soils are associated with Ordovician rocks. An environment of windswept moors, rushes, heathers and few trees is a typical landscape. Buzzards, in search of rabbits, wheel above land suitable only for hill grazing.

Carn Meini, a dolerite outcrop on the Preseli Hills, is the source of the bluestone at Stonehenge. How the stones reached there, by man or geological forces, is still under debate. The dolerite was used for making axes in the Neolithic period. The local shale splits into slabs or ‘rab’ useful for building walls or roofing. Slate quarrying was once an important local industry, its products were used to roof the House of Commons.

Bedd Arthur

Site Name: Bedd Arthur Alternate Name: Arthur's Grave, Beddarthur
Country: Wales County: Pembrokeshire (Sir Benfro) Type: Stone Circle
Nearest Town: Cardigan Nearest Village: Crymych
Map Ref: SN131324 Landranger Map Number: 145
Latitude: 51.958588N Longitude: 4.721549W

Stone Circle in Pembrokeshire. This so-called stone circle lies overlooking the Bluestones outcrop of Carn Meini. It is actually oval or horse-shoe shaped leading to speculation that it may have been this site which influenced the original horseshoe of Bluestones at Stonehenge.

Translated as 'The Grave of Arthur', it comprises thirteen small standing stones along with two or three more now fallen. Some believe it may be a henge - as it lies adjacent to the ancient trackway which runs to Carn Meini (and then on to the hillfort of Foel Drygarn) this would make sense. Access is via this ancient trackway (now a public footpath) with a reasonably gentle walk over from Carn Meini.

The prehistoric site of Bedd Arthur, (Arthur’s Grave) lies on a hillside, across the valley from the infamous Carn Menyn. Some call it an oval stone circle, some see it more as two parallel stone lines, closed at one end. It has even been suggested that its horseshoe shape was the inspiration for the innermost circle at Stonehenge. The bluestones used for the inner circles were from Carn Menyn just across the valley, and skeletons of men found at Stonehenge have been traced to this area, who knows. One thing is for sure, whatever its significance and purpose to our ancestors, Bedd Arthur is an exceptionally enigmatic and tranquil site today.

But not much use for shelter.

Nick Drake

Gold and silver
Is the autumn
Soft and tender
Are the skys
Yes and knows
All the answers
Written in
My true love's eyes

Autumn's leaving
Winter is coming
I think that I'll
Be moving along
I've got to leave her
And find another
I've got to sing

My heart's true song

Round and round
The burning circle
All the seasons
One, two and three

Autumn leaves
And then the winter
Spring is born
And world is free

Gold and silver
Bounds my heart on
All too soon
They fade and die
And then I'd know
There'd be no others
Milk and honey
Where they lie

Monday, 26 March 2007

Learning About Spring

I know very well what you're up to , spring,.
You can't hide flowering pussywillows
behind grey rosebush waterfalls,
and nothing you do to the earth can mask
the spreading greenness, the flood of grass.
You can't convince me that maples
are turning red with cold from the snow.
From years of playing this game, I know.
And I can see the flowering hills
and I can smell the daffodils.

Sunday, 25 March 2007

Coke can fire starter

I have been meaning to try this for some time and at long last spring brings some fine weather so i dug out my can that i polished during the winter and some char cloth and within seconds the char cloth was throwing a heated party, i then tried some kitchen and toilet paper but without success (will try again early summer).
I did cheat though, i didn't use the chocolate wrapper as it was scratching the tin (probably rubbing too hard), i used brasso wadding which brings the can to a mirror finish within 3 minutes (i then found out that brasso wadding is well worth having in your survival tin as it lights instantly with one strike from fire steel), i also tried fine wire wool and silver polish which did the job nicely. This method of starting a fire should be written in all survival books, a simple aluminum can could be a life saver with this bit of knowledge.

Tuesday, 13 March 2007

Wild Medicinal Plants To Be Protected Under New Global Standard

A much needed global standard for wild medicinal plant harvesting was launched at the World Organic Trade Fair last week. Over 70,000 species of plants are traded internationally every year, and 80% of these are harvested from the wild. Due to unchecked harvesting practices, many of these plants are in danger of extinction through over-harvesting and habitat loss.
new standard, known as the International Standard for Sustainable Wild Collection of Medicinal and Aromatic Plants (ISSC-MAP) is already eagerly being embraced by many retailers around the world to ensure plants used in medicine and cosmetics are not over-exploited. Consumers can expect to seeproducts with this labelling as early as Winter of 2007.

A Natural Cure For Athlete's Foot?

Athlete's Foot:

Besides keeping your feet dry and powdered with orris root,
try a vinegar rinse (one cup water, one teaspoon cider
vinegar) to which one tablespoon thyme and red clover
have been added. Soak for 15 minutes.

Some interesting articles from the web about birch

Sharon's Notes - Useful Wild Trees

Since I started with "Wild Apples" - I decided to continue along the tree avenue, and share with you all my "BIRCH" file - it is huge and I really am still deciding how much to eliminate as it is not all to do with foraging.
I do not have to go as far to forage for birch trees as I do for apples. Here on our 100+ acres of forest we have several. Actually we are truly blessed as we live where two types of forest meld and have a mix of both south and north species of trees. All which our area can have we have growing somewhere as the terraine is so diversified. Some one recently called our area "The Land Between" stating it was a under acknowledged eco system soon to be drastically disturbed with current population patterns. Hate hearing negative omens like that.
Back to birches. .

My birch file is also filled with survival tidbits and excerpts from various pages from around the web - some which retell thoughts and ideas but from slightly different viewpoints - which I hope no one finds too distracting.

We have here at Apsley Acers:
Yellow Birch - Betula alleghaniensis
Silver - White Paper Birch - B. papyrifera
Grey Birch - B. populifolia

My July note offering on BIRCH is set forth for others to add all their collective saved pieces so we can start gathering files in our database.
I hope you will take time to add any and all information I have missed.

Birch - Betula many species are numerous about 40 around the world.
Some Common Names:
Black Birch, Cherry Birch, Downy Birch, European White Birch, Silver Birch, White Birch, Grey Birch, Paper Birch, Yellow Birch, Himalayan Silver Birch, Indian Paper Birch, Beithe, Bereza, Berke, Beth, Bouleau, Lady of the Woods, Monoecia, Pioneer Tree, Tree of Birth

Sanskrit Name - Bhurjapatra
Birch is derived from "Bright" in Indo-European and related to Sanskrit "bhurga," "Birkana" in German, "Beorc" in Saxon, "Bedwen" in Welsh, "Bjarkan" in Norse. "Beith" in Gaelic is the first month of a lunar calendar and as the start of the Ogham alphabet, it is appropriate for beginnings and entry into Druidism. S.T. Coleridge named it "Lady of the Woods". As birch is one of the first trees to come into leaf it would be an obvious choice as representation of the emergence of spring. Often it is the wood of choice for the Maypoles, Yule Log of last season, anytime, really! But, because of its associations with spring cleaning and babies, it is appropriate for Oimelc or Spring Equinox. Its wood is good for starting fires for any season.

The earliest classical Sanskrit writers attest the use of 'Birch' bark for literary purposes. Owing to its papery nature, the bark (peel), was used in ancient times as a writing material in place of paper. It was valued for covering umbrellas, hookah-pipes, for packing, roofing, occasionally as textile and in the manufacture of Russian leather. 'Kalidasa' mentions it in his dramas and ethics. The use of this bark was discontinued by Akbar, the Moghul Emperor, who introduced the manufacture of paper.

The name is a very ancient one, probably derived from the Sanscrit bhurga, 'a tree whose bark is used for writing upon.' From its uses in boat-building and roofing it is also connected with the A.S. beorgan, 'to protect or shelter.'

Birch (Betula Alba, also known as The Lady of the Woods, and Tree of Life) is the first tree in the Celtic Tree calendar as Beth the Birch. It is one of the few trees to have a rune, or letter symbol, associated with it. (It is the rune of birth, mothers and children, and it has the qualities of secretiveness, and protection) Remember the old scare tactic when you were a child? If you are bad...Santa will bring a bag of sticks! Those "sticks" were Birch twigs and that tale related back to the time of Saint Nicolas.
The Norse associated the Birch tree with the god Thor, and a Birch planted close to your home would ward off the "evil eye", lightening and infertility.

(Sharon's note: As you drive up our long driveway to our house there is a large birch planted prior to our moving here - the first lady to live in our one room cabin had 12 children way back in the mid 1870's)

Birch is remarkable for its lightness, grace, and elegance, and after rain it has a fragrant odour.

The young branches are of a rich red brown or orange brown, and the trunks usually white, especially in the second species of B. alba, B. verrucosa. B. pubescens is darker, and has downy instead of warted twigs.

The wood is soft and not very durable, but being cheap, and the tree being able to thrive in any situation and soil, growing all over Europe, is used for many humble purposes, such as bobbins for thread mills, herring-barrel staves, broom handles, and various fancy articles. In country districts the Birch has very many uses, the lighter twigs being employed for thatching and wattles. The twigs are also used in broom making and in the manufacture of cloth.
The tree has also been one of the sources from which asphyxiating gases have been manufactured, and its charcoal is much used for gunpowder.

The white epidermis of the bark is separable into thin layers, which may be employed as a substitute for oiled paper and applied to various economical uses. It yields oil of Birch Tar, and the peculiar, well-known odor of Russian leather is due to the use of this oil in the process of dressing. It likewise imparts durability to leather, and it isowing to its presence that books bound in russia leather are not liable to become mouldy. The production of Birch Tar oil is a Russian industry of considerable importance. It is also distilled in Holland and Germany, but these oils are appreciably different from the Russian oil. It has the property of keeping away insects and preventing gnatbites when smeared on the hands. It is likewise employed in photography.

When the stem of the tree is wounded, a saccharine juice flows out which is susceptible, with yeast, of vinous fermentation. A beer, wine, spirit and vinegar are prepared from it in some parts of Europe. Birch Wine, concocted from this thin, sugary sap of the tree, collected from incisions made in the trees in March, honey, cloves and lemon peel being added and then the whole fermented with yeast, makes a very pleasant cordial, formerly much appreciated. From 16 to 18 gallons of sap may be drawn from one large tree, and a moderate tapping does no harm.

Ascending to an altitude of 4,200 m. Birch forests occur on open exposed tracts which are under snow throughout the greater part of winter.

Morphology Description (Habit)
It is a moderate-sized tree that grows up to 20m in height. It sometimes occurs as a mere shrub,forming the upper limit of forest vegetation. The bark is smooth, shining, reddish white or white, with white horizontal lenticels. The outer bark consists of numerous thin papery layers, exfoliating in broad horizontal rolls. The inner cortex is red and moist. The leaves are ovate-acuminate, elliptic, and irregularly serrate. The flowers bloom in May-June, in pendulous spikes. Seeds are thin and winged.

Parts Used
bark, leaves, resin
Buds: volatile oil which includes the camphor-like betulin
Young leaves: rich in saponins; also a falavinoid dreivative, hyperoside resin, tannins, sesuuuiterpenes, betulovinic acid, vitamin C.
Bark: betulinol and a glycoside.
Birch bark only contains about 3 per cent. of tannic acid, but is extensively used for tanning, wherever there are large birch forests, throughout Northern Europe. As it gives a pale colour to the skin, it is used for the preliminary and the final stages of tanning. It contains betulin and betuls camphor.
The leaves contain betulorentic acid.
By destructive distillation, the white epidermis of the bark yields an empyreumatic oil, known variously in commerce as oil of Birch Tar, Oleum Rusci, Oleum Betulinum or Dagget. This is a thick, bituminous, brownish-black liquid, with a pungent, balsamic odour. It contains a high percentage of methylsalicylate, and also creosol and guaiacol.
The Rectified Oil (Oleum Rusci Rectificatum) is sometimes substituted for oil of Cade.
Birch Tar oil is almost identical with Wintergreen oil.
It is not completely soluble in 95 per cent. acetic acid, nor in aniline, but Turpentine oil dissolves it completely.

One of trees' and shrubs' main sources for medicine is their bark. There are two types of bark. The outer bark is generally composed of dead tissue, and helps protect the live inner-bark tissue. It is the inner bark (where the vascular bundles lie), that is usually sought out for medicine, as it contains many of the phytoconstituents (plant chemicals) that help mend our mammalian bodies.

In 200 B.C, native people of North America learn to make salicylate pain remedies from birch bark. Researchers in the last century identified and isolated Salicin, a glycoside as active principle. From Salicin, Salicylic acid and finally Acetylsalicylic acid were synthesized.

Principal Constituents
The bark contains betulin. Betulic acid is also identified from the bark.

Infusion of the bark is antiseptic, carminative. Betulin, extracted from the bark, has been used for esterfication. A diuretic, anti-inflammatory, analgesic, tonic

Birch should not be used for edema due to cardiac or kidney dysfunction.
Side Effects: acute skin irritation, nasal allegies, any other fast bodily changes

A Birch depurative cure / cleanse.
To remain healthy, our body must constantly eliminate and regenerate.
In other words, our health depends on the balance between the organic processes of construction and the cleaning out of metabolic waste
Our neuro-sensory, digestive and motor activities inevitably involve the elimination of carbohydrates, fats and proteins. This waste is responsible for the sensation of fatigue. To regenerate, our body needs physical rest (sleep, holidays) as well as physiological rest
Age modifies our physiology. The body of the child, growing up rapidly, shows great vitality and suppleness, whereas in the old person the metabolism tends to slow down, the body loses its tonicity and tends to stiffen and to weaken. It becomes harder to get rid of metabolic waste, it accumulates and forms deposits which are reabsorbed with difficulty and can lead to different pathologies, of rheumatic type notably
From one year to the next, the natural balance between the process of construction and of destruction evolves gradually, quicker or slower. It is the natural process of aging. If it isn't possible to suppress it, it is however possible to prevent its acceleration
The lack of exercise, an unbalanced diet or a disease can lead to an accumulation of toxins in the body at any moment. It is notably the case during winter. With the cold, the lack of light and fresh food, the metabolism slows down and assimilation is hindered. When spring approaches, one feels worn out and downcast, with diffuse pain in the back, in spite of the bursting life that nature shows
To stimulate regularly the bodily functions of elimination with a depurative cure of birch associated to a food diet allows the system to drain its metabolic waste before it becomes a source of pathologies.
After 35, this type of cure is systematically advised every year in spring to regain balance and vitality.
It is also beneficial at the beginning of autumn, in case of general fatigue and of articular and back pain.
Generally speaking, the depurative cure of birch completes effectively medical treatments in case of painful articular symptoms. It is also the perfect adjuvant therapy for the external treatment of skins with problems. During a slimming course, the birch cure stimulates the elimination of toxins which is often slowed down when the bolus is reduced.

How is the birch cure practised?
To obtain a complete drainage of the body, it is advised to follow a cure for 5 to 6 weeks and to take a soupspoon (or a phial) of juice or syrup of birch in some water or herb tea, 2 to 3 times a day, if possible before meals. The persons wishing to reduce their consumption of sugar will rather choose the birch juice.
Food diet
During a depurative cure, it is important not to overload the body with food that chokes, that's why it is better to reduce the consumption of meat and dairies and to eat fruits and vegetables regularly. The rich sauces will also be avoided as well as too salty or too sweet food
Very often, spring fatigue is accompanied with sluggishness of the intestinal, hepatic and biliary system. To stimulate these organs, it is recommended to drink herb teas of plants known for their depurative action every day (stinging nettle, meadowsweet), or eat vegetables (dandelion, horseradish, artichoke, stinging nettle).
The regular elimination of stools will be facilitated by eating 4 to 5 prunes soaked a few hours before, every evening. As for drinks, let us not forget the essential role of water to clean out the system.

What is Birch it used for:
Various parts of the tree have been applied to medicinal uses.
The young shoots and leaves secrete a resinous substance having acid properties, which, combined with alkalies, is said to be a tonic laxative.
The leaves have a peculiar, aromatic, agreeable odour and a bitter taste, and have been employed in the form of infusion (Birch Tea) in gout, rheumatism and dropsy, and recommended as a reliable solvent of stone in the kidneys. With the bark they resolve and resist putrefaction.
A decoction of them is good for bathing skin eruptions, and is serviceable in dropsy.
Birch leaf tea is a powerful diuretic capable of dissolving kidney stones and bladder stones. It also kills off harmful bacteria in the kidneys and urinary tract.
To obtain the full diuretic effect, add a pinch of sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) to the infusion to promote the extraction of the diuretic hyperoside.
Dried leaves mixed with pansy and lime flowers, as a drink used for common colds.
Traditional healers have long considered the leaves of the European white and silver birch effective in boosting urine output ( a use particularly popular in Europe) and remedying skin rashes, hair loss, rheumatic complaints, and conditions requiring that blood be "purified".

The oil is astringent, and is mainly employed for its curative effects in skin affections, especially eczema, but is also used for some Internal maladies.
Oil extracted from the buds or bark has been used externally in lotions to treat posriasis and eczema. Add the oil to Aloe gel.
CAUTION: Do not confuse this oil with sweet birch oil, which is extracted from the black birch (Betula lenta).
White birch - Some tests have shown it may be effective in killing melanoma (skin cancer) cells
An oil made by distilling the bark of the sweet birch was traditionally used for bladder infections, rheumatism, gout and nerve pain.
Today the oil appears in medicinal ointments and other commercial topical preparations as a counter-irritant, pain killer and antiseptic.
A birch tar oil formulated from European white birch is used to treat chronic eczema, psorasis, and other skin diseases.

The leaves also have a substantial reputation for treating rheumatism, arthritis and gout.

The inner bark is bitter and astringent, and has been used in intermittent fevers.
The bark, soaked in water used as a footbath for rheumatism.
A decoction of the bark has been used to allay intermittent fevers.

Sweet Birch extracts have wintergreen (or root beer) flavor and scent widely used in foods and fragrances at commercially accepted concentrations.

The vernal sap is diuretic.

Moxa is made from the yellow, fungous excrescences of the wood, which sometimes swell out from the fissures.

Of alcoholic extract of the leaves, 25 to 30 grains daily.

Birch wood can be burned inside a tent to keep mosquitoes away.

These dated entries are from " Use of Plants for the Past 500 Years"
Native Americans treated fevers, upset stomach, rheumatism and other ailments from the leaves and bark of the sweet birch. The bark was boiled and pounded to make poultices for minor wounds.
Inner bark scrapings were boiled, the liquid made one vomit.
1799 - Lewis - Birch sap - scorbutic disorders and other blood foulness
1840 - Gosse Quebec - Birch sap is evaporated by boiling - exposed to the summer sun made a good vinegar.
The fresh sap though pleasant has a slightly acid taste - where it flows it leaves a fungus like mass - a mucilaginous substance in a delicate pink hue - possibly similar to what is called "Mother of Vinegar".. insects gather quickly.
Birch was considered a sign of poor land.
The layers of bark when separated and divided into narrow strips takes much patience but makes an exceedingly soft and elastic mattress.
1840-41 - Phelps - after stripping off the bark a white milky substance was gathered as a consumption remedy.
1884 - Holmes - the white rotten wood is boiled in a decoction of Ledum latifolium/L.groenlandicum - labrador tea - for an hour. The wood is afterwards dried - rubbed into powder and sifted. Used for chafed surfaces - the flesh is washed in cold water and the powder sifted onto the area. Also used as a dusting powder for children.
1901 - Morice - desribed in deatil how a Cataract is treated with a minute pellicle torn from a piece of paper birch bark - doubled up one of the sides of the curve is used as a scraper to remove the cataract - ninebark after care notation.
1916 - Waugh - Iroquois - drink was made with a boild bundle of birch twigs.
1926-7 Densmore Chippewa - states that the early Chippewa understood the use of enemas as a nourishment and medicine the apparatus used was the bladder of a deer/hollow rush (used only once then burned) held in place with slippery elm strips on a birch bark tray. Administered medicines were the inner bark of the birch and also ash wood.
A red dye was made from the inner birch wood - inner and outer of red osier dogwood and oak bark scraped and water steeped. Boiled and ash from cedar bark added.
Things wrapped in birchbark do not spoil or decay.
Heavy Birch Bark is heated and shaped for splints.
Makuks - containers are sewed with split roots for storage
1928 - Parker - Seneca - birch used as a carminative
1933 - Smith - Potawami - gather birch tigs and soak them for the wintergreen frangrant oil used to season other medicines to mask disagreeable flavors.
1977 King Bay - Ojibwa - head is bound with birch bark for headache - utilizing the methyl salicylate property similar to willow.
1624 - Sagard - They also used large vats called Acha from the bark for storage - torches from horn-shaped rolls of bark. Baskets and bowls of reeds and birch bark were common.
I read with interest this description of native pumpkin seed sowing which the Huron women practiced.
1624 - Sagard - "they also sow many native pumpkins and raise them with great ease by this invention: The Huron women in season go to the forest to gather a quantity of rotten wood powder around old stumps; then having prepared a large bark box they make a layer in it of wood powder on which they sow the pumpkin seeds; afterward they cover it with another layer of dust and again sow seeds - many layers till the box has 4-5 fingers worth of empty space in order to leave room for the shoots. The cover the box with a large piece of bark and put it on two poles suspended in the smoke of the fire which heats gradually and the seeds sprout in a very few days.. ready for planting they take bunches, separate then and plant in previously prepared places.
Early settlers reportedly made a mouth was and (intestinal) worm treatment from parts of the tree.

Birch (Betula spp., Betulaceae). In the Caucasus and Central Asia, birch baths of European white birch (B. pendula Roth.) are used for external ulcers and wounds.
To prepare a bath, it is recommended to infuse a teaspoon of the budding leaves in 100 ml of boiling water In Himalayan regions, a decoction of the bark of Himalayan birch (B. utilis) is used to wash wounds.
Birch preparations were used successfully in the Central Clinic of the First Moscow University against erosion of the skin and conditions when the wound does not heal for a long time.

To Stimulate metabolism gently.
BETULA, birch; it is excellent for drainage in general, and for the rheumatic subject in particular.
In case of overweight, we advise birch buds; BETULA PUBESCENS.
They stimulate our endocrinal functions in general, as well as our sex hormones and thyroid hormones.
A gentle awakening without risk.
Exact formulation will be BETULA PUBESCENS buds MG ( glycerine macerate) 1D , 100 drops a day.

Common Birch (Betula pubescens) Immune System: Common Birch targets the cleansing of the liver and other organ systems. It is known as the universal drainer and is an excellent general remedy for strengthening the immune system.
As Black Currant is for the adrenals, Common Birch is for the immune system.

* Infections of the ear, nose and throat
* Allergies
* Adrenal gland
* Chronic Fatigue
?ip joint and Osteoarthritis (stimulates local blood flow)

Traditionally the Birch is appropriate in treatment of diarrhoea, dysentery, cholera, and all maladies of the alimentary tract. The natural properties are cleansing to the blood and it is used specially for rheumatism, dropsy, gout, stones in the kidneys and bladder, and to expel worms.

The dose is one teaspoon of leaves and or bark infused in a cup of boiling water for 15 minutes, 3-5 cups daily. It mixes well with other herbal teas.

Externally, drink the tea freely when troubled with boils or skin eruptions. The tea is effective when gargled for canker and mouth sores.

Oil of wintergreen is distilled from the inner bark and twigs of the Black Birch (Betula lenta) also known as the Cherry Birch or Sweet Birch. The oil of Birch is applied to the skin for eczema and cutaneous diseases. Extract of leaves, buds, and bark are applied to ulcers, wounds, boils, eczema, and all skin conditions of broken and unbroken surfaces, rheumatic pain, swelling, and albuminuria.

Birch charcoal was used as an absorbent in cases of poisoning, gas bloating and indigestion.

The inner bark can be dried and ground in flour for emergency use.

Birch can be tapped in early spring for their flavorful sap. Native Americans tapped the Birch for its sap as a beverage, syrup, and sugar. Many tribes harvested this sap as a fresh and nutritious beverage. It was and still is used for birch beer and vinegars. By the end of "tapping season" the sap was the base for various teas, and botanicals were steeped in it for additional flavor and sweetness. Birch sap flows abundantly and can be processed like maple sap to make sweet, molasses like syrup. The flow is usually best in late March or April.

Birch sap was used in the spring as prepared as tea and is considered a vitamin treat as a tonic for anaemia, gout, scurvy, and rheumatism.

Black Birch bark was carefully peeled, and small pieces were enjoyed raw or boiled for several minutes and then chewed. This gum provides refreshing and beneficial juices

Cautionary Note - Everyone has different reactions, allergies, or sensitivities to foods, herbs, plants, mushrooms, medicines, etc. Always test your reaction to a new item by minimal contact or very small dose. Do not attempt to use any herbal medicine without first being assured that you can use it safely. Remember, it took generations of our ancestors to find out which herbs and plants were good for them. In the same way we must re-learn and gain our own personal experience to which things are to our benefit.

Birch (Betula alleghaniensis) contains an active principle similar to cortisone and is beneficial for massage associated with bone, muscle, and joint discomfort. It has also been used for arthritis, tendonitis, and rheumatism. Its aromatic wintergreen-like influences elevate, open and increase awareness in the sensory system. It may be applied neat to the bottom of the feet. Avoid using the oil during pregnancy or on people with epilepsy. Planet: Venus. [Water]

BIRCH: (Betula alba) A Druid sacred tree. Also known as Lady of the Woods, Paper Birch or White Birch. The antibacterial leaves give a diuretic tea used to treat gout and rheumatism, to dissolve kidney and bladder tones and to lower cholesterol. Steep two teaspoons of leaf per cup of water for twenty minutes. The dose is one to one a half cups over a day. Birch twigs and leaves are simmered and added to the bath for itchy skin conditions and falling hair. Taken before bed, the tea is sedative. The young shoots and leaves make a tonic laxative. The inner bark is simmered and used in fevers. Twigs and bark are simmered using two teaspoons of plant per cup of water for twenty minutes. The dose is one-fourth cup four times a day.

The twigs of B. lutea (Yellow birch) and B. lenta (black birch) are gathered in spring and simmered gently for twenty minutes to make a delicious beverage.
Please note: the leaves must be used fresh, and not after Midsummer, as they will then contain natural insecticides.
The white birch has no real flavor and does not make a good beverage tea. The bark and bud oil are used in medicated soaps.

This is an old and effective remedy to combat cystitis, urinary problems, gout, rheumatism and arthritis and to remove excess water from the body. To make the tea, collect the birch leaves (the best time is in the spring when the leaves are fresh) and dry them out of direct sunlight. Put 2-3 teaspoonfuls in a cup and pour on boiling water, then cover and allow to stand for 10 minutes. Take the tea 3-4 times daily or just occasionally if you need a mouthwash. Fresh leaves can also be used but as the months progress the leaves deteriorate.

BARK. Strong Decoction, 1-2 ounces, to 4X a day; external wash.
LEAVES. Standard Infusion as bath or wash, as needed.

Forms Available Include:
. for internal use: Infusion (made with leaves, sometimes available in tea bag form), juice (from fresh plant)
. for external use: European white birch tar oil, sweet birch oil, often sold as methyl salicylate in gels, liniments, lotions, ointment, and solutions.

Dosage Commonly Reported:
An infusion tea is made using 1 - 2 tablespoons chopped leaves per cup of water and is drunk several times per. Sweet birch oil appears as an ingrediant in many commercial liniments, gels, lotions, and ointments; carefully follow package instructions to avoid overexposure to the contained ingrediant methyl salicylate.

Of the many folk uses ascribed to this type of tree, scientific evidence can be found only for the use of European or silver birch as diuretics as or eczema treatments, and sweet birch oil as a topical treatment for inflamed or irritated joints.

Silver or white birch tea may be a viable diuretic, according to research done over the years. Experts believe that flavonoids and possibly the volatile oil and other substance in the dried leaves are responsible for the increased urine out put observed in laboratory rats.
Studies have not confirmed this diuretic effect. Still, German health authorities approve of these birches for making teas to treat disorders such as inflammation and infections of the kidney and urinary tracts and to help prevent the formation of kidney stones. When making a diuretic tea, avoid boiling leaves because this could destroy the valuable volatile oil believed to contribute to the diuretic effect.

In the case of birch tar oil, a doctor should oversee the treatment of chronic skin conditions, as increasing must be carefully monitored. Sweet birch oil contains concentrations (98%) of compound called methyl salicylate, which also appears in wintergreen oil and can be made synthetically, Applied to the skin in the form of gel, ointment, lotion, or topical solution, methyl salicylate is medically accepted as a mild counterirritant for inflamed or irritated joints. ( Counterirritants cause superficial irritation to deflect deeper pain and discomfort). Methyl salicyclate is similar to aspirin and should also help reduce pain and inflammation.

Researchers are exploring the value of a substance called betulin, which is found in some birch species and bears important similariites to betulinic acid, to inhibit skin skin cancers called melanomas.

Infusions made of European or silver birch leaves are relatively safe to use, according to common usage in European countries, although anyone taking a duiretic should be sure to drink plenty of fluids. German health authorities warn that individuals with swelling due to impaired heart or kidney function should not use this preparation however. They report no adverse interactions with other medicines. Most conditions requiring a diuretic are serious enough to merit a doctor's attention.

When using birch tar oil - or any wood tar, for that matter - remember that prolonged or extensive use (or over large parts of the body) merits regular testing the urine for the presence of proteins and sediments, given the risk of kidney irritation.

Whether derived from birch or wintergreen or synthesized in the labratory, the oil from birch sold as methyl salicylate should be used very cautiously as a counterirritant. Follow package instructions and avoild applying it after vigorous exercise or in hot and humid weather because dangerous amounts could get absorbed into your system.

Never swallow methyl salicylate, it is much more toxic than most salicylates, such as acetylsalicylic acis found in aspirin, and fatal poisonings in children have been reported.

Birch is medicinally used for arthritis, biliousness, bleeding gums, breast cancer, canker sores, cholera, cystitis, dandruff, dermatitis, diarrhea, dropsy, dysbiosis, dysentery, eczema, edema, fever, gonorrhea, gout, hypercholesterolemia, insomnia, intestinal worms, jaundice, kidney stones, minor wounds, nephritis, pyelonephritis, pyorrhea, rheumatic fever, rheumatism, and ureteritis. It is an astringent, and antirheumatic.

Birch Sweet {Betula Lenta}: The birch oils are generally good for helping the body remove toxins and purifying the blood. A good kidney tonic too.

Birch White {Betula Alba}: This oil is reputed to help with the removal of kidney stones too.
An infusion of fresh birch leaves may be used to treat edema, various bladder and kidney ailments and poor circulation. It is also said to prevent the formation of kidney stones. Birch sap is used to strengthen the immune system and as a general tonic. It is also used for nearly all skin ailments including dandruff and to speed hair growth. Birch tar is wonderful for skin diseases and to help wounds heal. An infusion of birch buds is used to remove skin spots.

Magickal Uses:
Birch is a fertility herb, an herb of love, and one of protection. Birch is sacred to Thor; one is never to take the bark from this tree unless it has been kissed by Thor (stricken by his lightening). Once Thor has claimed the tree's spirit it is then available for human use. (actually, taking the bark is forbidden by the folklore of many cultures) Modern pagans use this tree to give honor to the Goddess of the Woodlands. A circle of Birch Trees is among the most Magickal of sites in the sacred woodlands. Birch parchment (taken correctly) is used for Magickal writings. Birch may be used to banish negative energy, and provide protection. Celtic lore suggests the trimming of nine woods taken at Candlemas for the Beltaine fires. The original nine are Birch, Oak, Fir, Willow, Rowan (Mountain Ash), Apple, Grape vine, Hazel, and Hawthorne. Use Birch for your besom. Working with Birch may invoke the Goddess Aino, whose blood gave birth to the waters of the world. Through her we might better understand elemental water.

Legend of the Winabojo and the Birch Tree
As long as the world stands this tree will be a protection and benefit to the human race.

Lady of the Woods - the Birch

Lady of the Woods - the Birch

By Martin Blount of Treespirit

(Originally published at Beltane 1994)

Silver Birch TreeThe birch, or Beth as it was known to our Celtic ancestors, or Bedwen as it is known in Wales, is truly a native tree of these islands. It thrived here before the Ice Ages and was one of the very first trees to recolonise Britain after the ice had retreated. Massive tracts of forests, consisting of birch and Scots pine, covered the ancient landscape.

Today, three species of birch grow in Britain - the Dwarf Birch, the Downy Birch and the Silver Birch. The Dwarf Birch is restricted largely to the Scottish moorlands and, as its name suggests, is really only a shrub. The Downy Birch (Haarbirke in Scottish) is far more widespread and prefers the cold, wet acid soils of the uplands. The Silver Birch (Gemeine Birke in Scottish, Bedwen Arian in Welsh) prefers the drier soils and is also widespread.

Neither of the latter two grow well on chalky soils and both like their fair share of sunlight, as do we humans. The birch is usually the first tree to establish itself on new sites, and it grows rapidly and is very hardy and tolerant of adverse conditions. It withstands frosts and will grow right up to the edge of the tundra as well as up to altitudes of 2,000ft. Amazingly, even man's suicidal pollution of the air by modern industry does not seem to worry the birch excessively - perhaps there is hope for our planet after all!

For many centuries trees played a very important spiritual/mystical role in man's lifestyle. "Beth" was the first letter (B) in the tree Ogham alphabet and also represented the first month of the Celtic year. In the centuries before we became obsessed with wealth and industry, man still lived in close harmony with his environment and the birch represented new awakening, the return of spring and fertility. In the past the Earth was realised to be a living entity - the Mother of mankind - and the moon also represented an aspect of this Mother. The three phases of the moon - waxing, full and waning - were seen as the Maiden, Mother and Old Hag stages of the cycle of nature - death and rebirth. The birch tree, being symbolic of fertility and new birth, was therefore closely associated with the waxing/Maiden phase of the moon. In Norse mythology, the birch is dedicated to Thor, who besides being the God of Thunder is also a fertility God.

In many places, such as Pembrokeshire (now Dyfed) girls would give their lovers a twig of birch as a sign of encouragement; if they were not so lucky they often got a hazel twig. For a long time the "Besom Wedding" was considered legal and even in the 19th century many Irish navvies still regarded it so. A besom of birch would be held over the doorway of their house, the couple would jump over it and then they were wed.

The fires of the Festival of Beltaine/Mayday/Calan Haf, which took place on 1st May, were kindled with birch twigs and much of Beltaine, it being a fertility festival of people, crops and animals, was spent by young couples frolicking in the birchwoods. Fertility dances, to ensure health and abundant crops, were performed around the maypole of birch. Very often the maypole was a living birch tree. Our modern Mayday Bank Holiday is a remnant of the Beltaine celebrations but it is a shame that all its origins and symbolism have been largely forgotten. Nowadays, it doesn't even fall on Mayday.

The birch was also seen as a protective influence, so on Midsummer's Eve boughs were hung over doors to bring good luck; and in Herefordshire on Mayday trees were decorated with red and white rags then propped against stable doors to ward off evil.

Not only did the birch have these values but it played a great practical role as well. The bark was stitched together by early man to make food vessels and canoes for hunting. In spring, the sap was made into mead and the fresh cambial tissue was made into a highly nutritious bread. The pitch was made into a glue for fixing flint arrow and spear heads onto their wooden shafts.

In Scandanavia people wrapped the bark around their legs to keep out the wet - this being the origin of our modern gaiters. The twigs were ideal for besoms, thatching roofs, for smoking hams and fish, for baskets, bedding and providing a firm base for roads over marshy ground. The sawdust was good for smoking fish, the bark was used in tanning hides and was also used on roofs to keep out the rain in much the same way as felt is used today. The timber is tough, stiff and fairly easily worked and is used in joinery, carving, cabinet and furniture making, clogs, spools and bobbins, plywood and flooring. The pulp can be made into writing paper. The timber is not very durable unless it is treated with perservative. Birch logs burn well if dry and are a very useful firewood.

The silvery grey bark, which becomes fissured with age, yields a tar which is used in ointments for skin ailments and the sap is used in hair tonics. For those who like long walks in the forests, the wet inside of the bark is good for relieving muscle pain when placed against the skin. When cutting the bark, take it from the branches, not the trunk. Never take a complete ring from around the trunk as this would halt the flow of nutrients and would kill the tree.

The birches, Downy or Silver (or Betula pubescens and Betula pendula, to give them their Latin botanical names) are both fast growing and reach about 65ft. They are often used as nurse trees to protect less hardy species, especially on the higher, more open grounds.

The birch seed, which is small and light and easily spread by the wind (750,000 seeds to the lb) is eaten by many birds such as the chaffinch, redpoll and siskins. Other birds like the tree pipit and the greater spotted woodpecker are attacted to many of the 229 species of insects which thrive on, in or near birches, such as the Kent Glory Moth which feeds on birch leaves from May to July.

Many trees and plants such as alder, alder buckthorn, bird cherry, grey willow, oak, rowan, Scots pine, guelder rose, heather, honeysuckle, bell heather, bracken, bilberry, crowberry, wavy hair grass, yellow tormentil, heath milkwort, wood sorrell and gorse grow well alongside birch, depending on soil types. The hallucinogenic fungus Fly Agaric grows in symbiosis with the birch, and another fungus, the Birch Bracket or Piptoporus betlinus is responsible for the death of many birches. The latter is a light-coloured, hoof-shaped fungus and the infectious mycelium spreads into the higher branches and trunk and works its way down the trunk, causing a reddish-brown rot. The fungus gains entry through damaged bark and spreads from tree to tree, so when collecting sap, check around to see that none of the bracket fungus is visible. The honey fungus also lives on the birch, especially dead birch, and yet another is responsible for the clumps of twigs which look like large nests in the birch's branches and is known as witch's broom.

Birch Sap Wine

  • 8 pints sap
  • ½lb chopped raisins
  • 2lb sugar
  • juice of 2 lemons
  • general purpose yeast

Collect the sap from a number of trees so as not to overtap an individual tree, which could kill it. The sap should be collected in early March whilst it is still rising. Select larger trees, bore a hole about 1"-2" deep, around 4ft off the ground, place a tube or something similar in the hole and allow the sap to run down. Then put a suitable container underneath and allow to fill. The hole will heal naturally, but it wouldn't hurt to wedge a piece of birch bark over the hole to aid it. Boil the sap as soon as collected, add the sugar and simmer for 10 minutes. Place the raisins in a suitable bucket, pour in the boiling liquid and add the yeast and lemon juice when it has cooled to blood temperature. Cover the bucket and leave to ferment for three days before straining off into a demi-john and sealing with an air lock. Let stand until fermentation finishes, then rack off into a clean jar and let the sediment settle. Bottle the wine and store in a cool place for at least a month.

Birch Tea

This is an old and effective remedy to combat cystitis, urinary problems, gout, rheumatism and arthritis and to remove excess water from the body. To make the tea, collect the birch leaves (the best time is in the spring when the leaves are fresh) and dry them out of direct sunlight. Put 2-3 teaspoonfuls in a cup and pour on boiling water, then cover and allow to stand for 10 minutes. Take the tea 3-4 times daily or just occasionally if you need a mouthwash. Fresh leaves can also be used but as the months progress the leaves deteriorate.

Folk and Magic Use Of The Birch

"Beneath you birch with silver bark
And boughs so pendulous and fair,
The brook falls scattered down the rock:
and all is mossy there."
Samuel Taylor Coleridge

When the huge glaciers of the last ice age receded,
birch trees would have been one of the first to re-colonise
the rocky, ice-scoured landscape. Hence, in botanical terms
the birch is referred to as a pioneer species.

Similarly in early Celtic mythology, the birch came to
symbolise renewal and purification. Beithe, the Celtic birch,
is the first tree of the Ogham, the Celtic tree alphabet.
It was celebrated during the festival of Samhain (what is now
Halloween in Britain), the start of the Celtic year, when
purification was also important. Bundles of birch twigs were
used to drive out the spirits of the old year. Later this
would evolve into the 'beating the bounds' ceremonies in
local parishes. Gardeners still use the birch besom, or
broom, to 'purify' their gardens. Besoms were also of course
the archetypal witches 'broomsticks', used in their shamanic
flights, perhaps after the use of extracts of the fly agaric
mushrooms commonly found in birchwoods.

Interestingly, the birch also has strong fertility
connections with the celebrations of Beltane, the second,
summer, half of the Celtic year (nowadays celebrated as
May Day). Beltane fires in Scotland were ritually made of
birch and oak, and a birch tree was often used as a,
sometimes living, maypole. As birch is one of the first
trees to come into leaf it would be an obvious choice as
representation of the emergence of spring. Deities
associated with birch are mostly love and fertility
goddesses,such as the northern European Frigga and Freya.
Eostre (from whom we derive the word Easter), the Anglo
Saxon goddess of spring was celebrated around and through
the birch tree between the spring equinox and Beltane.
According to the medieval herbalist Culpepper, the birch
is ruled over by Venus - both the planet and the goddess.
According to Scottish Highland folklore, a barren cow
herded with a birch stick would become fertile, or a
pregnant cow bear a healthy calf.

The word birch is thought to have derived from the Sanskrit
word bhurga meaning a 'tree whose bark is used to write upon'.
When the poet S.T. Coleridge called it the 'Lady of the Woods',
he was possibly drawing on an existing folk term for the tree.
Birch figures in many anglicised place names, such as
Birkenhead,Birkhall and Berkhamstead, and appears most
commonly in northern England and Scotland. Beithe
(pronounced 'bey'), the Gaelic word for birch, is widespread
in Highland place names such as Glen an Beithe in Argyll,
Loch a Bhealaich Bheithe in Inverness-shire and Beith in
Sutherland. The adjective 'silver' connected with birch
seems to be a relatively recent invention, apparently making
its first appearance in a poem by Alfred Lord Tennyson.

The uses of birch are many and varied. The wood is tough,
heavy and straightgrained, making it suitable for handles
and toys and good for turning. It was used to make
hardwearing bobbins, spools and reels for the Lancashire
cotton industry. Traditionally,babies' cradles were made
of birch wood, drawing on the earlier symbolism of new
beginnings. In 1842, J.C. Loudon, in his Encyclopedia
of Trees and Shrubs wrote that, "The Highlanders of
Scotland make everything of it;" and proceeded to list
all manner of household and agricultural implements as
well as its use as a general building material. Though
the wood lends itself well enough to many of these uses,
the availability of the wood in the Highlands must also
have played a part in its use. Loudon furthermore
mentions that " … the branches are employed as fuel in
the distillation of whiskey, the spray is used for smoking
hams and herrings, for which last purpose it is preferred
to every other kind of wood. The bark is used for tanning
leather, and sometimes, when dried and twisted into a rope,
instead of candles. The spray is used for thatching houses;
and, dried in summer, with the leaves on, makes a good bed
when heath is scarce." The sap can be tapped as it rises in
spring and fermented to make birch wine, a process still
practised in the Highlands today. Of old, the Druids made
the sap into a cordial to celebrate the spring equinox.

Folklore and herbalism credit different parts of the birch
with a variety of medicinal properties. The leaves are
diuretic and antiseptic, and an effective remedy for
cystitis and other urinary tract infections. They were
also used to dissolve kidney stones and relieve rheumatism
and gout. The sap (as wine or cordial)similarly prevents
kidney and bladder stones, treats rheumatism, and can be
used to treat skin complaints. The bark is said to ease
muscle pain if applied externally.
Paul Kendall

* Brooms handles and sweeps made of wood and twigs especially
for new year cleaning
* Russians attached a red ribbon to a branch to fight the
* Norse Farmers connected it to Thor and attached it to a
house to avoid lightning.
* Scandinavians flail themselves in saunas with birch twigs.
* Scandinavians wrapped the bark around their legs to keep
out the wet - gaiters.
* Siberian shamans used Magic Mushrooms (Amanita muscaria)
to climb the skies.
* Dutch boys lashed young women to make them fertile. (eh?)
* Anglo-Saxons beat criminals and children with switches of
* Irish often used it for making doo-dads and writing Ogham.
* In Pembrokeshire (Wales) girls would give their lovers
a twig of birch as a sign of encouragement; if they were
not so lucky they often got a hazel twig.
* The Celts made cradles of Birch for protecting the babies
* Native Americans used the bark was used for buckets, canoes,
and as a sugary drink.

* The pitch was made into a glue for fixing flint arrow and
spear heads onto shafts.
* Parchment or rune sticks of a Birch struck by lightning can
be gathered during the moon.
* The inner bark contains methyl salicylate, which is a
counter-irritant and analgesic.
* Bark infusions for rheumatism.
* Poultices of leave, catkins for skin problems
* Lotions from bark's oil
* Tea for mouth sores, kidney stones and provide a diuretic
* Young leaves and shoots for laxatives
* Small amulets of Birch will protect you from Faery and
lunatics (useful!)
* Wine can be made from the rising sap in March
* Birch beer brewed from the branches.
* Thatchers and wattlers used its branches
* Birch charcoal often used for gun-powder and indigestion
* The timber is tough, stiff and fairly easily worked and is
used in joinery,carving, cabinet and furniture making, clogs,
spools and bobbins, plywood and flooring
* The bark, when dried and twisted into a rope, is used for

Folklore: The birch is considered a feminine tree and is often
associated with the rusalki and wily. The spirits of dead
ancestors often take residence within the birch. The great
world tree, according to many Slavic traditions, is a white

Friday, 9 March 2007

Common Mallow

Common Mallow (Malva sylvestris)

Can be found on roadsides, wastes areas, margins of woods, fields

Friday, 2 March 2007


Worm stewThere are 3 main fishing techniques that we use in an outdoor survival situation. They are all very simple if you know them.

The Nightline
Find a thick and strong branch and cut it down to size removing the branches. About 1 foot long is a good length. Sharpen one end so it drives into the earth easier. Tie a line to one end. The line doesn't have to be fishing line, just any kind of rope, twine or paracord you can find. Tie the other end of the line to a rock. Working from the rock backwards, tie on lengths of fishing line about 1 foot apart and at varying lengths in order to attract fish at different depths. You can load the hooks with bugs, worms or flies then put the rock into the water. Leave the line for a good few hours whilst you tend to other activities, checking a couple of times a day.

The Lazy Man's line
This technique has numerous names but basically it's very similar to the nightline. With your peg in the ground, you'll need a longer line for this. This time, instead of the line attaching directly to the branch, it should thread through a hook, or trigger and up to a bent down branch from a nearby tree. The idea is, when the bait is taken, the trigger mechanism will release the tension on the line with the bent branch and the catch will be whipped out of the water and suspended away from anyone else nearby who may be hungry

The Looped line
This technique involves having 2 pegs in the ground at either end of a river bank. You make a single loop from your main line (not the fishing line) which is long enough to thread around both pegs whilst still having enough slack to drift out into the water. You can keep the hook lines at a relatively similar length for this which makes threading the loop around a little easier. This involves drawing the main line in from one direction whilst feeding it out in the other - rotating the loop. You would do this only occasionally as with the other techniques but the addition of many more hook lines gives this method a slightly better chance of getting a bite.


Colts foot
Luckily, the flowers can be found on Colts foot even in early spring. You can use the young shoots and leaves to make a tasty addition to any salad or stew. It's normally only found on the edge of rivers and streams. It's quite a bit easier to find in the warmer months.

Yarrow is often quite difficult to spot and it doesn't always have the little white flowers. You should look out for the feather type leaves. It can be used for fighting off colds and helping blood to clot which is useful for small cuts etc.

Garlic Mustard
This like all plants is best identified by the leaf rather than the flower. This makes things significantly easier at the time of year when the flowers aren't really out yet. It grows in roadsides, hedge rows and on banks and can be very easily distinguished by it's smell when crushed in the hand..

Although you can find nettles the whole year through, they don't always taste the same. Spring is best when the young shoots come through as they offer a slightly sweeter taste than the older bitter ones.

SWC Bushcraft knife

Here are some pictures of my knife i recently bought.
BUSHCRAFT KNIFE with extreme tapered tang, vine file work, leaf etching covering both sides of blade, fibre liners, cherry handle scales, mosaic pins, 5mm 01 CARBON, The electrochemical etching is done with an Etch-o-Matic machine and electrolyte.