I’m not one for making resolutions in the New Year as I prefer to set them at other times. However, this year I have been thinking about trees and how I would like to work with trees a little bit more over the next year or so. At the present moment we find ourselves in the Celtic Tree Month of the Birch Moon which is a good time to concentrate on new beginnings*.
* For anyone who may not be familiar with the Celtic Tree Months this link is a good starting point for information
On just a quick Google search of birch I realise what a wonderful, amazing tree it is and why it is perfectly appropriate for this time of year and for new beginnings. Several species including Betula pendula (Silver Birch), Betula Alba (White Birch), Betula lenta (Sweet birch), Betula pubsecens (Downy Birch), Betula Utilis (Himalayan Birch) have been used for medicinal purposes. Just a few of its uses are listed below:
- It is a pioneer species, one of the first new species to colonise ground making it hardy, tough and adaptable;
- The twigs are commonly used in witches’ besoms and most people are familiar with the expression “a new broom sweeps clean“;
- The birch has a strong Goddess association and is often referred to as the “Lady of the Woods“;
- Native Americans (particularly in the North) relied on the birch for food, clothing, shelter, containers, canoes and medicine;
- The sap is used to make syrups and wines;
- It is a great detoxifier used for the treatment of urinary and kidney problems and helps clear up many skin problems as well as expelling worms;
- It is used in the treatment of arthritis and rheumatism;
- It contains pain relieving salicylate – similar to aspirin compound;
- It has been used as a paper substitute particularly for prayers;
- It is home to the chaga mushroom which is a wonderful adaptogen and used in cancer treatment.
As I beginning the fourth year of my herbal apprenticeship I am aware that I have not been regularly writing up the work I have been doing and therefore my New Year’s herbal resolutions are:
- to complete and write up the year 4 tasks;
- where possible revisit years 1-3 tasks and write them up;
- not to take on a new herbal ally but revisit the previous 2 (elder and vervain);
- to work more with trees, paying attention to the Celtic Tree Calendar;
- work with birch.