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The images you see in the blog header are courtesy of my partner, Rukshana Afia – – they are the beginnings of a collaboration between artist and herbalist to describe healing trees in all sorts of ways.

From left to right:

Birch, Horse Chestnut, Maple, Birch


Silver Birch (Betula alba and Betula pendula) was one of the first trees to recolonise Northern Britain after the retreat of the glaciers at the end of the last ice age.  It is a pioneer plant, colonising boggy areas, drying them out and helping to build soil. It forms nursery groves allowing other species to grow up around it.  It is a very generous plant, letting loose papery bark without dying, it’s leaves can be browsed by deer without dying.  It has a graceful form, very upright, with terminal branches waving easily in the breeze and seeking out the light.

Birch in the herbal dispensary is a drying, cooling, diuretic remedy useful for arthritic conditions associated with damp.  It transforms the “soil” of the tissues, improving their state and is therefore alterative.

Stephen Church in Coulsdon, Surrey also uses a bracket fungus which grows on birch – Piptoporus betulinus (Razor strop fungus).   This fungus takes up many of the properties of birch – it can also be used as an anti-inflammatory.  It is common in my local wood in Gledhow Valley, Leeds; particularly on dead trees and windfallen trunks:




About donaldpurves

Traditional Herbalist since 1989, qualified originally with National Institute of Medical Herbalists (Tutorial Course, School of Herbal Medicine/Phytotherapy), joined Unified Register of Herbal Practitioners in 2011. University lecturer in Herbal Medicine since 2005. Born and brought up in the Scottish Borders. Higher Education at University of York (Biology 1980) and Scottish School of Herbal Medicine (MSc Herbal Medicine 2003). Married to Rukshana Afia, an artist working with drawing, textiles and ceramics. Passionate about environmental, economic and social justice.
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