Yellow Birch : Uses

Today’s Uses:

The yellow birch is used for a plethora of things, which is why it is one of the most valuable birches in the U.S. Its biggest export is its lumber.  Many people use the yellow birch for furniture and cabinetry for its beautiful “rosy tint”(277) and its strong grained, even-textured, wood (Walker 1984).  Some also still use it for flooring in their homes. The yellow birch represents around 75% of birch lumber. 


 One use not everyone knows about is that the sap from a yellow birch can be utilized to make syrup. Birch sap is more acidic than maple and is made of fructose and glucose, in comparison to the sucrose maple syrup is made of. However, it takes roughly 100 liters of sap to create one liter of birch syrup, so it is not as efficient when compared to a sugar maple. Imagine how expensive Birch Syrup would be! Taping birch trees for syrup is more popular in Alaska and Canada, even though there are only a few producers. The Crooked Chimney is an example of a birch syrup company; the majority of their locations are in New Hampshire. They recommended using birch syrup as a sweetener for coffee, a glaze for various foods such as steak and fish, a garnish for yogurt, baked goods and breakfast pastries, an ice cream topper, and salad dressing. Yellow birches can also be used for tea, which has a wintergreen flavor derived from the yellow birch’s twigs.  The wintergreen flavor can be extracted from the twigs by cutting them into small pieces so the inner bark is very exposed. Fill a jar with the chopped twigs, about ⅔, and pour 80 or 100 proof vodka so all the twigs are covered. For a few months, let the concoction sit in a dark area at room temperature. Do not forget to shake everyday or so. Occasionally taste the extract to monitor how strong it is, and once it is ready, strain the twigs from the extract. This extract can also be used to flavor teas as well as baked goods. 

Medicinal Uses in Native American Tribes

The yellow birch was very popular among some Native American cultures. Some evenchewed the twigs to clean their teeth due to the wintergreen aroma and taste of the wood. The Ojibwa tribe was one of many who used the yellow birch tree as a resource. They  used the bark to make canoes and used the wood for building material; as did other tribes such as the Potawatomi and the Cherokee. The Ojibwa also placed the bark on coffins when they buried their dead, used the sap to make tasty beverages, and made cooking tools out of the wood. They also used the yellow birch for medicinal purposes such as using the extract of the bark to cure or alleviate internal blood diseases.  The Iroquois used a tea they made from the bark to heal rashes and made a complex compound that acted as a blood purifier, while the Mi’kmaq heated the bark to relieve sore joints and muscles (similar to a heat compress). Tribes in Delaware used the extract from the bark to “remove bile from the intestines”.  Although it was used for medicinal purposes, the yellow birch held the most value in its wood.