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Betula (Betulae folium )

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Authorisation details
Latin name of the genus: Betula
Latin name of herbal substance: Betulae folium
Botanical name of plant: Betula pendula Roth / Betula pubescens Ehrh.
English common name of herbal substance: Birch Leaf
Status: F: Final positive opinion adopted
Date added to the inventory: 23/11/2005
Date added to priority list: 23/11/2005
Outcome of European Assessment: Community herbal monograph
Additional Information:





Product Characteristics
COMMUNITY HERBAL MONOGRAPH ON BETULA PENDULA ROTH;
BETULA PUBESCENS EHRH., FOLIUM
1. N AME OF THE MEDICINAL PRODUCT
To be specified for the individual finished product.
2. Q UALITATIVE AND QUANTITATIVE COMPOSITION 1 , 2
Well-established use
Traditional use
With regard to the marketing authorisation
application of Article 10(a) of Directive
2001/83/EC as amended
With regard to the registration application of
Article 16d(1) of Directive 2001/83/EC as
amended
Betula pendula Roth and/or Betula pubescens
Ehrh. as well as hybrids of both species, folium
(birch leaf)
i) Herbal substance
Whole or fragmented dried leaves
ii) Herbal preparations
A) powdered herbal substance
B) dry extract (DER 3-8:1, extraction solvent
water)
C) liquid extract prepared from fresh leaves
(DER 1:2-2.4, extraction solvent water)
D) Liquid extract from fresh leaves stabilised
by 96% ethanol vapours
(1:1, 50- 60% (V/V) ethanol)
3. PHARMACEUTICAL FORM
Well-established use
Traditional use
Herbal substance or herbal preparations in solid
or liquid dosage forms for oral use.
The pharmaceutical form should be described by
the European Pharmacopoeia full standard term.
1 The dried material complies with the Ph. Eur. monograph (ref. 01/2005:1174)
2 The declaration of the active substance(s) for an individual finished product should be in accordance with relevant herbal
quality guidance.
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4. C LINICAL PARTICULARS
4.1. Therapeutic indications
Well-established use
Traditional use
Traditional herbal medicinal product to increase
the amount of urine to achieve flushing of the
urinary tract as an adjuvant in minor urinary
complaints.
The product is a traditional herbal medicinal
product for use in specified indication exclusively
based upon long-standing use.
4.2. Posology and method of administration
Well-established use
Traditional use
Posology
Adults, elderly
Single dose
Herbal substance as infusion: 2 - 3 g
A) Powdered herbal substance: 650 mg
B) Dry extract: 0.25 - 1 g
C) Liquid extract prepared from fresh leaves:
15 ml 2 to 3 times daily
D) Liquid extract from fresh leaves stabilised by
96% ethanol vapours: 2.5 ml
Maximum daily dose
The maximum daily dose is 12 g of herbal
substance in 4 divided doses or 1.3 g of powdered
herbal substance in 2 divided doses or 4 g of dry
extract in 4 divided doses or 7.5 ml of liquid
extract from fresh leaves stabilised by 96%
ethanol vapours in 3 divided doses.
The use of birch preparations is not recommended
in children under 12 years of age (see section
4.4 Special warnings and precautions for use).
Duration of use
The herbal substance is traditionally used over a
period of 2 - 4 weeks.
If the symptoms persist during the use of the
medicinal product, a doctor or a qualified health
care practitioner should be consulted.
Method of administration
Oral use.
To ensure an increase of the amount of urine,
adequate fluid intake is required during treatment.
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4.3. Contraindications
Well-established use
Traditional use
Hypersensitivity to birch pollen or to the herbal
substance.
Conditions where a reduced fluid intake is
recommended (e.g. severe cardiac or renal
disease).
4.4. Special warnings and precautions for use
Well-established use
Traditional use
The use in children under 12 years of age is not
recommended because of the lack of available
experience.
If complaints or symptoms such as fever, dysuria,
spasms, or blood in urine occur during the use of
the medicinal product, a doctor or a qualified
health care practitioner should be consulted.
4.5. Interactions with other medicinal products and other forms of interaction
Well-established use
Traditional use
None reported.
4.6. Pregnancy and lactation
Well-established use
Traditional use
Safety during pregnancy and lactation has not
been established.
In the absence of sufficient data, use during
pregnancy and lactation is not recommended.
4.7. Effects on ability to drive and use machines
Well-established use
Traditional use
No studies on the effect on the ability to drive and
use machines have been performed.
4.8. Undesirable effects
Well-established use
Traditional use
Gastrointestinal complaints (nausea, vomiting,
diarrhoea) and allergic reactions (itching, rash,
urticaria, allergic rhinitis) have been reported.
The frequency is not known.
If other adverse reactions not mentioned above
occur, a doctor or a qualified health care
practitioner should be consulted.
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4.9. Overdose
Well-established use
Traditional use
No case of overdose has been reported.
5. PHARMACOLOGICAL PROPERTIES
5.1. Pharmacodynamic properties
Well-established use
Traditional use
Not required as per Article 16c(1)(a)(iii) of
Directive 2001/83/EC as amended.
5.2. Pharmacokinetic properties
Well-established use
Traditional use
Not required as per Article 16c(1)(a)(iii) of
Directive 2001/83/EC as amended.
5.3. Preclinical safety data
Well-established use
Traditional use
Not required as per Article 16c(1)(a)(iii) of
Directive 2001/83/EC as amended, unless
required for the safe use of the product.
Adequate tests on genotoxicity have not been
performed.
Tests on reproductive toxicity and carcinogenicity
have not been performed.
6. PHARMACEUTICAL PARTICULARS
Well-established use
Traditional use
Not applicable.
7. DATE OF COMPILATION / LAST REVISION
8 May 2008
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Assessment Report
ASSESSMENT REPORT
FOR HERBAL SUBSTANCE(S), HERBAL PREPARATION(S) OR COMBINATIONS
THEREOF WITH TRADITIONAL USE
Betula pendula Roth; Betula pubescens Ehrh., folium
BASED ON ARTICLE 16D(1) AND ARTICLE 16F AND 16H OF DIRECTIVE 2001/83/EC AS
AMENDED
Herbal substance(s) (binomial scientific name of
the plant, including plant part)
Betula pendula Roth and/or Betula pubescens
Ehrh. as well as hybrids of both species, folium
(birch leaf)
Powdered herbal substance
Dry extract (DER 3-8:1, extraction solvent water)
Herbal preparation(s)
Liquid extract prepared from fresh leaves (DER
1:2-2.4, extraction solvent water)
Liquid extract from fresh leaves stabilised by 96%
ethanol vapours (1:1, 50-60 % (V/V) ethanol)
Pharmaceutical forms
Herbal substance or herbal preparations in solid or
liquid dosage forms for oral use
Rapporteur
Dr A. Raal
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TABLE OF CONTENTS
I.
REGULATORY STATUS OVERVIEW 1
5
II.1.
I NTRODUCTION
6
II.1.1.
Description of the herbal substance(s), herbal preparation(s) or
combinations thereof
6
II. 1.2.
Chemical composition of herbal substance
6
II. 1.2.1. Flavonoids and other phenolic compounds
6
II.1.2.2. Other constituents
7
II.1.2.3. Assessor’s conclusions on chemical composition
8
II.1.3.
Information on period of medicinal use in the Community regarding the
specified indication
8
II.2.
NON-CLINICAL DATA
9
II.2.1.
Pharmacology
9
II.2.1.1. Overview of available data regarding the herbal substance(s),
herbal preparation(s) and relevant constituents thereof
II.2.1.1.1. Isolatedsubstances
9
II.2.1.1.1.1. Flavonoids
9
II.2.1.1.1.2. Triterpenoids
9
II.2.1.1.1.3. Minerals
9
II.2.1.1.1.4. Others constituents
10
II.2.1.1.1. Infusion, powder, sap, aqueous, aqueous-ethanolic and methanolic
birch leaf extracts
10
II.1.2.
Assessor’s overall conclusions on pharmacology
11
II.2.2.
Pharmacokinetics
11
II.2.2.1. Overview of available data regarding the herbal substance(s),
herbal preparation(s) and relevant constituents thereof
II.2.2.2. Assessor’s overall conclusions on pharmacokinetics
11
II.2.3.
Toxicology
12
II.2.3.1.
Overview of available data regarding the herbal substance(s)/herbal
preparation(s) and constituents thereof
12
II.2.3.1.1. Mutagenicity and carcinogenicity
12
II.2.3.2. Assessor’s overall conclusions on toxicology
12
II.3.
C LINICAL D ATA
12
II.3.1.
Clinical Pharmacology
12
II.3.1.1. Pharmacodynamics
12
II.3.1.1.1. Overview of available data regarding the herbal substance(s)/herbal
preparation(s) including data on constituents with known
therapeutic activity
II.3.1.1.2. Assessor’s overall conclusions on pharmacodynamics
12
II.3.1.2. Pharmacokinetics
13
II.3.1.2.1. Overview of available data regarding the herbal
substance(s)/herbal preparation(s) including data on constituents
with known therapeutic activity
II.3.1.2.2. Assessor’s overall conclusions on pharmacokinetics
13
II.3.2.
Clinical Efficacy
13
II.3.2.1. Dose response studies
13
II.3.2.2. Clinical studies (case studies and clinical trials)
13
II.3.2.3. Clinical studies in special populations (e.g. elderly and children)
13
II.3.2.4.
Assessor’s overall conclusions on clinical efficacy
13
II.3.3.
Clinical Safety/Pharmacovigilance
13
1 This regulatory overview is not legally binding and does not necessarily reflect the legal status of the products
in the MSs concerned.
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9
11
12
13
 
II.3.3.1. Patient exposure
13
II.3.3.3. Serious adverse events and deaths
14
II.3.3.4.
Laboratory findings
14
II.3.3.5. Safety in special populations and situations
14
II.3.3.5.1. Intrinsic (including elderly and children) /extrinsic factors
14
II.3.3.5.2. Drug interactions
14
II.3.3.5.3. Use in pregnancy and lactation
14
II.3.3.5.4. Overdose
14
II.3.3.5.5. Drug abuse
14
II.3.3.5.6. Withdrawal and rebound
14
II.3.3.5.7. Effects on ability to drive or operate machinery or impairment
II.3.3.6. Assessor’s overall conclusions on clinical safety
of mental ability
15
II. 4.
TRADITIONAL USE
15
II. 4.1.
Traditional use in phamracy and medicine
15
II.4.1.1. Traditional use in Ancient Times
15
II.4.1.2. Traditional use in Middle Ages and later
15
II.4.1.3. Traditional use in ethnomedicine
16
II.4.1.4. Traditional use in Modern Times
16
II. 4.1.6. Traditional use of other herbal drugs of birch
18
II. 4.2.
Traditional use without pharmacy and medicine
19
II.4.3.
SSESSOR S O VERALL C ONCLUSIONS ON TRADITIONAL USE
19
II.5.
A SSESSOR S O VERALL C ONCLUSIONS
19
III.
ANNEXES
III.1.
COMMUNITY HERBAL MONOGRAPH ON BETULA PENDULA ROTH;
BETULA PUBESCENS EHRH., FOLIUM
III.2.
LITERATURE REFERENCES
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II.3.3.2. Adverse events
14
15
I. REGULATORY STATUS OVERVIEW
MA: Marketing Authorisation;
TRAD: Traditional Use Registration;
Other TRAD: Other national Traditional systems of registration;
Other: If known, it should be specified or otherwise add ’Not Known’
Member State
Regulatory Status
Comments
Austria
MA
TRAD
Other TRAD
Other Specify:
Belgium
MA
TRAD
Other TRAD
Other Specify:
Bulgaria
MA
TRAD
Other TRAD
Other Specify:
Cyprus
MA
TRAD
Other TRAD
Other Specify:
Czech Republic
MA
TRAD
Other TRAD
Other Specify:
Denmark
MA
TRAD
Other TRAD
Other Specify:
Estonia
MA
TRAD
Other TRAD
Other Specify:
Finland
MA
TRAD
Other TRAD
Other Specify:
France
MA
TRAD
Other TRAD
Other Specify:
Germany
MA
TRAD
Other TRAD
Other Specify:
Greece
MA
TRAD
Other TRAD
Other Specify:
Hungary
MA
TRAD
Other TRAD
Other Specify:
Iceland
MA
TRAD
Other TRAD
Other Specify:
Ireland
MA
TRAD
Other TRAD
Other Specify:
Italy
MA
TRAD
Other TRAD
Other Specify:
Latvia
MA
TRAD
Other TRAD
Other Specify:
Liechtenstein
MA
TRAD
Other TRAD
Other Specify:
Lithuania
MA
TRAD
Other TRAD
Other Specify:
Luxemburg
MA
TRAD
Other TRAD
Other Specify:
Malta
MA
TRAD
Other TRAD
Other Specify:
The Netherlands
MA
TRAD
Other TRAD
Other Specify:
Norway
MA
TRAD
Other TRAD
Other Specify:
Poland
MA
TRAD
Other TRAD
Other Specify:
Portugal
MA
TRAD
Other TRAD
Other Specify:
Romania
MA
TRAD
Other TRAD
Other Specify:
Slovak Republic
MA
TRAD
Other TRAD
Other Specify:
Slovenia
MA
TRAD
Other TRAD
Other Specify:
Spain
MA
TRAD
Other TRAD
Other Specify:
Sweden
MA
TRAD
Other TRAD
Other Specify:
United Kingdom
MA
TRAD
Other TRAD
Other Specify:
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II.1.
I NTRODUCTION
This assessment report reviews the scientific data available for herbal preparations of Betula pendula
Roth and Betula pubescens Ehrh. as well as hybrids of both species, folium (birch leaf).
The report focuses on findings with aqueous and aqueous - ethanolic extracts and tea since clinical
experience has been collected mainly with these types of preparations, and they were used in most
preclinical and clinical trials.
Other preparations used for a long period like the bugs, tar and fresh plant juice are discussed in
section II.4. ‚Traditional use’.
II.1.1.
Description of the herbal substance(s), herbal preparation(s) or combinations
thereof
Herbal substance(s)
The whole or fragmented dried leaves of Betula pendula and/or B. pubescens as well as
hybrids of both species. They contain not less than 1.5% of flavonoids, calculated as
hyperoside (C 21 H 20 O 12 = 464.4), with reference to the dried drug (European
Pharmacopoeia, 2005).
Herbal preparation(s)
- powdered herbal substance
- dry extract (DER 3-8:1, extraction solvent water)
- liquid extract prepared from fresh leaves (DER 1:2-2.4, extraction solvent water)
- liquid extract from fresh leaves stabilised by 96% ethanol (1:1, 50-60 % (V/V) ethanol)
Stabilised juices are obtained from fresh herbal crude drugs, usually after preliminary inactivation of
the enzymes, differently from expressed juices. They exist as a pharmaceutical form of herbal
medicinal products in Poland for several dozen years. The technology of stabilised juice was described
in 1973 by Lutomski in “Technology of Herbal Drug” PZWL Warszawa (Lutomski and Małek, 1973)
and then in consecutive edition of “ Farmacja stosowana” by Janicki et al. in 1996, 1998, 2000, 2001
and 2006 (Janicki and Fiebieg, 1996). Fresh leaves, previously cleaned and comminuted, are subjected
to stabilisation with 96% ethanol vapours in autoclaves under 0.2 Mpa for 2-4 hours. Stabilised juice is
obtained from thus prepared fresh leaves by their maceration with the solvent prepared from ethanolic
extract fluid obtained after stabilisation, 96% ethanol and water, in a ration ensuring that the content of
ethanol is in finished product is 50-60% (Janicki and Fiebieg, 1996).
Stabilised juice of Succus Betulae folii recens for oral use, is presented on the Polish pharmaceutical
market since 1956 (Lutomski and Małek, 1973; Janicki and Fiebieg, 1996). In the Community herbal
monograph on Betulae folium the stabilised juice prepared from fresh birch leaves is mentioned as the
liquid extract from fresh leaves stabilised by 96% ethanol vapours (1:1, 50-60% (V/V) ethanol).
II.1.2.
Chemical composition of herbal substance
II.1.2.1. Flavonoids and other phenolic compounds
The birch leaves contain 1-3% of flavonol glycosides, basically hyperoside and other quercetin
glycosides together with glycosides of kaempferol and myricetin (Keinänen and Julkunen-Tiitto, 1996;
Ossipov et al, 1996; Dallenbach-Tölke et al, 1987a; Dallenbach-Tölke et al, 1987b; Dallenbach-Tölke
et al, 1986; Pokhilo et al, 1983; Pawlowska, 1982; Steinegger and Hänsel, 1992; Schier et al, 1994;
Brühl 1984; Robbers and Tyler, 2000, Bradley, 2006); among other phenolic compounds
3,4’dihydroxypropiophenone 3-glucoside, caffeic acid and chlorogenic acid (Keinänen and Julkunen-
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Tiitto, 1996; Ossipov et al, 1996), lignans, diarylheptanoids (Wang and Pei, 2000b; Wang and Pei,
2001; Hänsel and Sticher, 2007); also triterpene alcohols and malonyl esters of the dimmarene type
(Pokhilo et al, 1983; Fischer and Seiler, 1959; Fischer and Seiler, 1961; Baranov et al, 1983; Pokhilo
et al, 1988; Pokhilo et al, 1986; Rickling, 1992; Hilpisch et al, 1997; Pokhilo and Uvarova, 1998), and
saponins (Kroeber, 1924; Kofler and Steidl, 1934; Tamas et al, 1978) are present.
The content of flavonoids in the samples of birch leaves ranges 2.3-3.5%, as calculated with reference
to hyperoside (Kurkin and Stenyaeva, 2004). Flavonoid aglycons found on the surfaces of Betula spp.
leaves may constitute up to 10% of the dry weight of the leaf. Birch species with diploid chromosome
sets did not contain any of the flavanones that were present in the leaves of other species (Lahtinen et
al, 2006).
In (Hänsel and Sticher, 2007) the following flavonoids are mentioned in the leaves of birch:
Quercetin-3-O-galactoside (=hyperoside), quercetin-3-O-glucuronide, myricetin-3-O-galactoside,
quercetin-3-O-rhamnoside (=quercitrin), as well as other quercetine glycosides.
Seasonal dynamics of water-soluble phenols in B. pendula leaves in mosaic urban environment and in
different weather conditions during vegetation period was studied. The maximum of phenol content
was observed in the first and second decades of May with a transition to a lower level in the middle of
July and rising in late summer and autumn. The tendency of a decrease in the phenol content during
drought years was observed (Kavelenova et al, 2001).
The birch leaves contain mainly polymeric proanthocyanidins; their total content (expressed as dry
weight) is 39 mg/g in B. pendula. (Karonen et al, 2006).
Carnat et al (1996) analyzed the content of flavonoids in the dried leaves of B. pendula (14 batches of
commercial origin) and B. pubescens (3 batches). They found in both species respectively: total
flavonoids 3.29 and 2.77%, hyperoside 0.80 and 0.77%, avicularin 0.57 and 0.26%,
galactosyl-3 myricetol 0.37 and 0.18%, glucuronyl-3 quercetol 0.25 and 0.36%, quercitrin 0.14 and
0.12%. The flavonoid levels were higher in young leaves and lower in old leaves of B. pendula.
The chemical structures of quercetin and hyperoside as main flavonoids are as follows (Evans, 2000)
II.1.2.2. Other constituents
The content of the lipids and the fatty acid compound of their fractions in the leaves of B. pendula and
B. pubescens change according to the phase of their development. The growth of a leaf blade is
accompanied by a change of the lipid fractions' fatty acid compound. There is a decrease of linoleic
acid relative content (18:2) and an increase of linolenic acid (18:3).
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In yellowed leaves in all lipids fractions there is a high level of linolenic acid and in neutral and
phospholipids the part of saturate fatty acids is large (Shulyakovskaya et al, 2004).
Thirty-three components were identified from the carbon dioxide extract of B. pendula leaves, the
major ones being α-pinene (2.22%), bornyl acetate (2.736%), lambertianic acid (2.448%), and n-
tricosan (2.50%) (Demina et al, 2006).
Four diarylheptanoids were isolated from leaves of B. platyphylla and identified as acerogenin E,
(3R)-3,5'-dihydroxy-4'-methoxy-3',4''-oxo-1,7-diphenyl-1-heptene,
15-methoxy-17-O-methyl-7-oxoacerogenin E, and acerogenin K (Wang and Pei, 2001). Also a new
monoterpene glucoside, (2E,6Z)-2,6-dimethyl-8-β-D-glucosyloxy-2,6-octadienoic acid (Wang et al,
2001a), and a new caffeoylquiniclactone, named neochlorgeniclatone (Wang et al, 2001b) were
isolated from the leaves of B. platyphylla .
A series of phenols and acids were isolated from the leaves of Betula platyphylla Suk:
1,2-dihydroxybenzene, 4-hydroxybenzaldehyde, 1,4-dihydroxybenzene, 3,4-dihydroxybenzoic acid,
4-hydroxy-3-methoxybenzoic acid, 2-furoic acid, gallic acid, succinic acid and β-sitosterol (Wang and
Pei, 2000a).
The accumulation of the metals such as Cu, Ca, Mn, Fe, Pb, Cd, and Sr in the leaves and branches of
the birch trees was investigated as well as in different parts of the crown, and also in soil samples. The
planting of Betula pendula Roth birch trees is recommended to reduce the environmental pollution
with metals (Ginijatullin and Kulagin, 2004).
There are also essential oil (0.04-0.05%), vitamins (up to 2-8%) of ascorbic acid, nicotinic acid,
carotenes, etc), coumarins (0.44%), tannins (5-9%), saponins (up to 3.2%), sterols, etc in the leaves of
B. pedula (Turova et al, 1987; Lavrjonov and Lavrjonova, 1999). The content of ascorbic acid
mentioned in Robbers and Tyler (2000) seems to be more realistic (0.5%).
The content of essential oil of leaves is similar to the content of essential oil of bugs
(3,5-6% of essentail oil): Betulol, betulenic acid, naphthalin, sesquiterpenes (Lavrjonov and
Lavrjonova, 1999).
II.1.2.3.
Assessor’s conclusions on chemical composition
The chemical composition of birch leaves has been investigated quite extensively. The characteristic
components of Betulae folium are flavonoids: Hyperoside and other quercetin glycosides together with
glycosides of kaempferol and myricetin. The chemical composition of other constituents of birch
leaves is not less well documented.
II.1.3.
Information on the period of medicinal use in the Community regarding the
specified indication
See Section II.4. Traditional use
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II.2.
NON-CLINICAL DATA
II.2.1.
Pharmacology
II.2.1.1. Overview of available data regarding the herbal substance(s), herbal preparation(s)
and relevant constituents thereof
Depending on the extraction technique birch leaf extraxts contain differing amounts of flavonoids
(such as quercetin), flavonol glycosides (principally hyperoside and other quercetin glycosides
together with glycosides of myricetin and kaempferol), and other phenolic compounds (ESCOP
monographs, 2003). Unfortunately information concerning the quantitative composition of the
preparation is not available.
Among the components listed above, quercetin is mentioned as the main active ingredient of birch
leaves. A possible synergistic action of several flavonoids and phenolic components is assumed.
Therefore the whole extract of Betula spp. leaves must be considered as the active ingredient.
II.2.1.1.1. Isolated substances
II.2.1.1.1.1. Flavonoids
Various flavonoids were investigated for their inhibitory activity on specific neuropeptide hydrolases
which regulate the formation of urine through excretion of sodium ions (Borman and Melzig, 2000).
The certain flavonoids, principally quercetin, and other phenolic compounds present in birch may
contribute to the accelerated formation of urine (Melzig and Major, 2000). Usually the activities of
whole flavonoid complex, extracted with water, ethanol (70%) or butanol, were investigated. The
aquaretic effect correlated with the amount of flavonoids, but no saluretic effect could be demonstrated
(Rickling, 1992; Schilcher, 1987, 1990; Schilcher and Rau, 1988; Schilcher et al, 1989). Potassium
nitrate containing in leaves may increase an action of the flavonoids (Petkov, 1988).
Plant phenolics, especially dietary flavonoids of birch, are effective against gram-positive
Staphylococcus aureus as much as flavonoids of pine ( Pinus sylvestris L.) and potato ( Solanum
tuberosum L.) (Rauha et al, 2000).
As mentioned by Schilcher and Wülkner (1992), a minimum of 50 mg of the total flavonoids per day
(2-3 g of drug as tea several times in day) is necessary for increasing of the amount of urine. A
sufficient dose of flavonoids is principally available also by using dry extracts rich in flavonoids in
capsules, sugar-coated tablets and tablets (Schilcher and Wülkner, 1992; Schilcher and Emmrich,
1992).
II.2.1.1.1.2. Triterpenoids
A fraction containing a mixture of dammarane esters, isolated from leaves of B. pendula , did not
exhibit diuretic activity when tested p.o. in male Wistar rats. Rickling and Glombitza (1993) also
concluded that former reports on the presence of saponins in birch leaf extraxts could not be confirmed
and that the haemolytic activity of the extracts, which was earlier ascribed to saponins, is caused by
the dammarane esters.
II.2.1.1.1.3. Minerals
High potassium-sodium ratios were determined in dried birch leaf (189:1) and in a 1% decoction
(168:1) (Szentmihalyi et al, 1998). The potassium content of birch leaf may contribute to the diuretic
effect (Schilcher, 1987; Schilcher, 1990; Schilcher and Rau, 1988; Schilcher et al, 1989). Birch leaves
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are rich in potassium so they do not cause the potassium-depleting problem associated with
conventional diuretic drugs (Conway, 2002).
The concentration of potassium in Betulae folium ( Betula pendula ) is 8045 µg/g dry matter (4725 µg/g
refer to the drug in decoctions), in some other herbal substances: Uvae ursi folium – 5985 (2115 µg/g),
Equiseti herba – 29820 (24810 µg/g), Sambuci flos – 22090 (19120 µg/g), Tiliae flos – 10652
(849 µg/g), Millefolii herba – 18220 (10175 µg/g) (Szentmihályi et al 1998).
II.2.1.1.1.4. Other constituents
Methyl salicylate containing in the essential oil of birch leaves or bugs has counter-irritant and
analgesic properties (Kowalchik and Hylton, 1998). As it was already mentioned above, the content of
essential oil in leaves of birch is extremely low (0.04-0.05%, 3,5-6% in bugs).
II.2.1.1.1. Infusion, powder, sap, aqueous, aqueous-ethanolic and methanolic birch leaf
extracts
After oral administration of a birch leaf tea (infusion) to rabbits, urine volume increased by 30% and
chloride excretion by 48%. In mice urine volume increased by 42% and chloride excretion by 128%
(Vollmer 1937), and in rats, urine volume did not increased but excretion of urea and chloride
increased (Vollmer and Hübner, 1937).
Young birch leaves administered orally to rats and mice did not produce these mentioned above effects
(Elbanowska and Kaczmarek, 1966). However, the oral administration of powdered birch leaves to
dogs at 240 mg/kg body weight increased the urine volume by 13.8% after 2 hours; a flavonoid
fraction extracted from dried leaves at 14 mg/kg increased the urine volume by 2.8% (Borowski,
1960).
More recent studies in rats showed an increased excretion of urine after the oral administration of
aqueous and alcoholic extracts rich in flavonoids (48, 76 and 148 mg/100 ml). The excretion of
sodium, potassium or chloride was unaffected. The authors concluded that the diuretic effect of
Betulae folium was partly, but not entirely, due to flavonoids and estimated that in humans at least
50 mg of flavonoids per day would be necessary to produce a diuretic effect (Schilcher, 1987;
Schilcher and Rau, 1988; Schilcher et al, 1989, Bradley, 2006).
Various extracts from birch leaf were administered orally to rats: An extract prepared with ethanol
70% (43 mg flavonoids/kg body weight), a butanol fraction of this extract (192 mg flavonoids/kg body
weight) and the aqueous residue from the described separation process (0.7 mg flavonoids/kg body
weight). An increase in diuresis or saluresis could not de be demonstrated for any of these preparations
(Rickling, 1992).
The water extract from birch leaves has virostatic and cytostatic properties in vitro (Petkov, 1988).
The carbon dioxide extract of B. pendula leaves showed antibacterial activity against Staphylococcus
aureus but not antiviral activity against monkey pox virus. The investigated extract is recommended
for use as an antibacterial preservative for cosmetic uses at a concentration of 0.045% in combination
with fungicides (Demina et al, 2006).
The birch sap exhibited after administration of high doses (1 or 2 ml/100 g b.m.) to rats a weak anti-
inflammatory activity for a short period, but the birch leaves extract was ineffective (Klinger et al,
1989).
Fever induced by baker’s yeast can be inhibited by the extract from birch leaves, but not by birch sap.
This effect was rather weak and short lasting as compared with the effect of acetylsalicylic acid. Also
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the experiments on carrageenin edema and yeast-induced fever have been reproduced with the same
results (Klinger et al, 1989).
An antimicrobial activity of birch sap against Staphylococcus aureus could be observed only with
undiluted sap the agar-diffusion test, this effect was evidently caused by penicillium grown in the sap.
The birch leaves extract was sterile, there was no antimicrobial activity (Klinger et al, 1989).
The water extracts of herbs from Solidago virgaurea, S. gigantea and S. canadensis , as well as water
and ethanol extracts from B. pendula leaves are have shown significant aquaretic properties in Wistar
SBF rats. The effect was apparent using birch extracts containing 76 mg% (50% ethanol), 48 mg%
(water extract) and 148 mg% (water) of total flavonoids. However the isolated fraction of flavonoids
was ineffective, and probably the other constituents are also important in the aquaretic action of birch
leaf A weak diuretic effect of all investigated drugs is justifying their use only for irrigation therapy as
mentioned also in the Commission E Monographs (Schilcher et al, 1989; Schilcher and Rau, 1988).
The in-vivo and in-vitro models have shown that the pharmacological actions and the use of birch leaf
mentioned in ESCOP Monographs (2003) are scientifically evidence-based (Melzig and Schmidt,
2001).
The constituents of birch leaf extracts decelerate the formation of atrial natriuretic peptide (ANP),
therefore they have aquaretic, but not diuretic effects (Melzig and Schmidt, 2001).
II.1.2.
Assessor’s overall conclusions on pharmacology
Aqueous infusions and decoctions, as well as the leaves and aqueous-ethanolic, butanolic and carbon
dioxide extracts and sap from Betulae folium as well as fractions and isolated individual substances
and their groups have been investigated in several pharmacological animal models. Unfortunately, in
many publications the correct specifications of solvent and/or drug-extract ratio are missing. In these
cases no details can be given, if the extract could not be identified otherwise. Neither a total extract of
birch leaf nor various fractions produced any significant increase in diuretic or saluretic effects after
oral administration to rats. In vivo studies on the diuretic effect of birch leaf have shown weakly
positive results on rabbits and dogs but contradictory results in rodents.
Diuretic effects do not appear to be due entirely to flavonoids since weaker effects were achieved with
isolated flavonoid fractions. The aquaretic effect correlated with the amount of flavonoids.
No remarkable antimicrobial effects, but some antiphagocytotic activity could be demonstrated;
furthermore a weak anti-inflammatory and antipyretic effect could be shown by the birch sap and leaf
extract. In comparison with anti-inflammatory drugs, antipyretics, analgesics and antibiotics the
mentioned birch products have a very weak anti-inflammatory activity.
II.2.2.
Pharmacokinetics
II.2.2.1. Overview of available data regarding the herbal substance(s), herbal preparation(s)
and relevant constituents thereof
No information available.
II.2.2.2. Assessor’s overall conclusions on pharmacokinetics
No information on absorption, distribution, metabolism, elimination, pharmacokinetic interactions
with other medicinal products is available.
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II.2.3.
Toxicology
II.2.3.1. Overview of available data regarding the herbal substance(s)/herbal preparation(s)
and constituents thereof
Experimental data on the toxicological properties of birch leaf extract and other preparations and its
single compounds are limited.
II.2.3.1.1. Mutagenicity and carcinogenicity
An extract of birch leaf showed a very weak mutagenic response in the Ames test (Göggelmann and
Schimmer, 1986). No other studies have been performed to confirm this. Adequate tests on
genotoxicity have not been performed. As it was concluded by Göggelmann and Schimmer (1986),
these results indicate that more information is required on the potential mutagenicity and moreover on
the potential carcinogenicity of medicinal plants to decide which drugs can be used in therapy without
hazard to human health. Most investigations showed a lack of carcinogenicity of quercetin (Bertram,
1989).
II.2.3.2. Assessor’s overall conclusions on toxicology
There are only some data about mutagenic activity of birch leaf extract. The birch leaf extract showed
mutagenic effects which may be ascribed to flavonols such as quercetin and kaempferol. Moreover it
must be taken into consideration that different components in a drug can influence each other.
For birch leaves there are no data available about single/repeat dose toxicity, reproductive and
developmental toxicity, carcinogenicity, local tolerance, and other special studies.
II.3
C LINICAL D ATA
II.3.1.
Clinical Pharmacology
Early studies in humans did not show a significant increase in diuresis after administration of an
infusion of birch leaf compared to the effect of pure water (Marx and Büchmann, 1937; Braun, 1941).
II.3.1.1. Pharmacodynamics
II.3.1.1.1. Overview of available data regarding the herbal substance(s)/herbal preparation(s)
including data on constituents with known therapeutic activity.
Aqueous birch leaf extracts were found to be more effective than alcoholic extracts (Weiss and
Fintelmann, 2000). Special investigations would be necessary in the future.
II.3.1.1.2. Assessor’s overall conclusions on pharmacodynamics
Only minimal data about pharmacodynamics are available.
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II.3.1.2. Pharmacokinetics
II.3.1.2.1. Overview of available data regarding the herbal substance(s)/herbal preparation(s)
including data on constituents with known therapeutic activity.
No information available.
II.3.1.2.2. Assessor’s overall conclusions on pharmacokinetics
No information available.
II.3.2.
Clinical Efficacy
II.3.2.1. Dose response studies
No information available.
II.3.2.2. Clinical studies (case studies and clinical trials)
In an abstract by Müller and Schneider (1999), 1066 patients were classified into four groups: 73.8%
suffered from urinary tract infections, cystitis or other inflammatory complaints, 14.2% from irritable
bladder, 9.3% from stones and 2.7% from miscellaneous complaints. 56% of patients in the first group
also received antibiotic therapy. All patients received a dry aqueous extract of birch leaf (4-8:1) at
various daily doses (from 180 to 1080 mg or more) for irrigation of the urinary tract. In most cases the
treatment period was 2-4 week. After this period the symptoms disappeared in 78% of patients in the
first group, in 65% in the second group and in 65% in the third group. The symptoms disappeared in
80% of patients treated with, and in 75% of those going without, antibiotics. Both physicians and
patients considered the efficacy to be very good (39% and 48% respectively) or good (52% and 44%
respectively) (Müller and Schneider, 1999).
In a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled pilot study, 15 patients with infections of the lower
urinary tract were treated with 4 cups of birch leaf tea or placebo tea daily for 20 days. Microbial
counts in the urine of the birch leaf tea group decreased by 39% compared to 18% in the placebo
group. At the end of the study, 3 out of 7 patients in the verum group and 1 out of 6 in the control
group no longer suffered from a urinary tract infection (Engesser et al, 1998).
II.3.2.3. Clinical studies in special populations (e.g. elderly and children)
No information available.
II.3.2.4. Assessor’s overall conclusions on clinical efficacy
Only few clinical trials were performed. There is a lack of a control group, and the period of
observation is too short. The existing clinical trials are not sufficient for accepting a well-established
use of birch leaf. No information is available on dose-response relationship and on clinical studies in
special populations, such as elderly and children.
II.3.3.
Clinical Safety/Pharmacovigilance
II.3.3.1. Patient exposure
No information available.
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II.3.3.2. Adverse events
After the use of the effervescent tablets Urorenal (500 mg dry extract from birch leaves) some adverse
reactions, but non-serious, such as skin and appendages disorders (itching, rash), gastro-intestinal
system disorders (diarrhoea, nausea, stomach upset, etc), metabolic and nutritional disorders (oedema
of the legs), and general disorders (allergic reaction with dizziness, nausea, swelling of nasal mucous
membrane, peripheral oedema) have been reported (Dr. Willmar Schwabe Arzneimittel, 1998).
In an open post-marketing study, mild adverse effects were reported in only 8 out of 1066 patients
who received a dry aqueous extract of birch leaf (4-8:1) at daily doses of up to 1080 mg for 2-4 weeks
(Müller and Schneider, 1999).
Fresh birch sap and crushed leaf of birch were tested with the scratch chamber method in 117 atopic
persons, 74 of whom were allergic and 43 were non-allergic to birch pollen, and also in 33 control
patients. The positive reactions to birch sap were seen in 39% and to leaf in 28% of the allergic
patients, but in none of the control patients. Birch leaves may cause contact urticaria in the Finnish
sauna, where bath whisks are traditionally used (Lahti and Hannuksela, 1980).
II.3.3.3. Serious adverse events and deaths
No information available.
II.3.3.4. Laboratory findings
No information available.
II.3.3.5. Safety in special populations and situations
No information available.
II.3.3.5.1. Intrinsic (including elderly and children) /extrinsic factors
No information available.
II.3.3.5.2. Drug interactions
No information available.
II.3.3.5.3. Use in pregnancy and lactation
No information available.
II.3.3.5.4. Overdose
No information available.
II.3.3.5.5. Drug abuse
No information available.
II.3.3.5.6. Withdrawal and rebound
No information available.
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II.3.3.5.7. Effects on ability to drive or operate machinery or impairment of mental ability
No information available.
II.3.3.6. Assessor’s overall conclusions on clinical safety
No serious adverse effects have been reported from human studies with birch leaf. There are no data
available about serious adverse events and deaths, drug interactions, use in pregnancy and lactation,
overdose, drug abuse, withdrawal and rebound, effects on ability to drive or operate machinery or
impairment of mental ability.
II. 4.
TRADITIONAL USE
II. 4.1.
Traditional use in pharmacy and medicine
II.4.1.1. Traditional use in Ancient Times
The therapeutic use of birch probably goes back to the ancient Greeks and Romans when Pliny is
mentioning it briefly. It was used by Teutonic tribes in potions to promote strength and beauty. With
respect to the etymology of the name ‚Betula’ the opinions differ. Probably it derives from the ancient
Sanskrit word ‚burga’ which means ‚a tree whose bark is for writing on’. Another opinion derives it
from the Gallic word ‚betu’ which translates as ‘heart” via the Latin ‚betula, betulla’ (bitumen).
As written by Pliny, the Gauls produced a form of bitumen from the juice of the birch tree. The
English word ‚birch’ appears in a similar form in all Germanic languages and is thought to be related
to the Sanskrit root ‚bharg’ (to shine, to be bright) (Herb CD, 2001; 2003). The Anglo-Saxon name for
the birch was beorc or birce, it was probably derived from a word for ‚white’ or ‚shining’ (Bunney,
1993). From its uses in boat-building and roofing it is also connected with the beorgan (to protect or
shelter) (Grieve, 1998).
The birch formed a part of traditional May Day celebrations in Germany and was thought to have the
power to ward off witches. Among the Druids birch branches were in use for the initiation of
ceremonies (Herb CD, 2001).
II.4.1.2. Traditional use in Middle Ages and later
Hildegard von Bingen (1098-1179) was familar with the bark for wounds (Herb CD, 2001).
Petrus Andreas Matthiolus (1501-1577) recommended fresh birch juice extracted from the bark for
healing of wounds and baths of the same fort treating mange (Herb CD, 2001). The sap taken fresh or
preserved with alcohol is a diuretic and anti-inflammatory (Conway, 2002). In ethnomedicine it is
popular for treatment of renal and bladder diseases, rheumatism, gout, etc (Hoppe, 1975). Nowadays
the sap is used for example in the following preparations: Kneipp pressed juice, Schöneberger pressed
juice, Uro-Fink®-teabag, Renal Tea 2000 powder, Nieron®-tee N powder, and Cystinol (Schilcher
and Wülkner, 1992).
Adam(us) Lonicerus (1528-1586) and Bock mentioned the good effect of the birch bark for stones,
jaundice, stomachache and also skin blotches (Herb CD, 2001; 2003).
The famous English doctor, apothecary and astrologer Nicolas Culpeper (1616-1654) wrote his book
‘Culpeper’s Complete Herbal and English Physician Enlarged’ where he offers remedies for all ills
known to 17th century society. About birch Culpeper mentioned: ‘The juice of the leaves, while they
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are young, or the distilled water of them, or the water that comes from the tree being bored with an
auger, and distilled afterwards; any of these being drank for some days together, is available to break
the stone in the kidneys and bladder, and is good also to wash sore mouths.’
Albrecht von Haller (1708-1777) described a diaphoretic and diuretic action of the juice and
recommended it for complaints connected with heaviness of the humours and blockages of the
arteries’ (Herb CD, 2001; 2003).
Georg Dragendorff who worked in 1864-1894 at the University of Tartu (Estonia) says the bark is
given in malarial fevers, in dropsy, gout, disease of the lungs; also in abscesses, and in skin diseases
and itch, and where there is excessive sweating of the feet. The juice or sap from the tree is used in
kidney and bladder trouble (The American Materia Medica, 1919).
II.4.1.3. Traditional use in ethnomedicine
In traditional herbal medicine of China the birch is used for headaches, rheumatic pain and
inflammation (Li, 2002).
The shamans of Chippewa Indians used the enema to promote a laxative effect in people suffering
from constipation or to stop watery stools in their patients suffering from diarrhoea. 1-1/2 tablespoons
of birch bark were boiled in 1-1/2 pints of water for 15 minutes; the lukewarm liquid was administered
through the rectum to promote active bowel movement (Heinerman, 1996). The American Indians
steeped the leaves of the black birch in hot water and drank the tea to relieve headaches and ease
rheumatism. Some tribes of Indians used the tea from birch leaves and dried bark for fevers, kidney
stones, and abdominal cramps caused by gas in the digestive system. Poultices of boiled bark helped to
treat burns, wounds, and bruises. Indians also gargled with birch tea to freshen their mouths and drunk
it to stimulate urination, sometimes the birch tea was used by women during painful menstruation
(Kowalchik and Hylton, 1998).
Generally, in folk medicine, the leaves are used as a blood purifier and for gout and rheumatism.
Externally the leaves are used for hair loss and dandruff (PDR, 1998).
In Russian folk medicine the birch is a popular remedy for a wide range of complaints (Herb CD,
2001). For example, the bath of leaves was in use for rheumatism, arthritis, gout and other pains
(Lavrjonov and Lavrjonov, 1999; 2003). The usage of B. pendula and B. pubescens is similar
(Yakovlev and Blinova, 1999).
In Estonian ethnomedicine the birch leaves are a popular remedy for increasing diuresis. Birch tar was
skin irritant and is used externally for skin diseases, such as scabies. The water-ethanolic extract of
bugs is used externally as an antiarthritic remedy and internally as antispasmolytic and for improving
digestive disorders. Birch juice and sometimes also some other parts of tree were quite popular as
home cosmetics mainly for improving beauty as a product for hair care and against dandruff
(Tammeorg et al 1984; Herba 2006).
II.4.1.4. Traditional use in Modern Times
Today traditionally 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 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. The oil is adstringent and is mainly
employed for its curative effects in skin affections, especially eczema, but is also used for some
internal diseases. The inner bark is bitter and adstringent and has been used in intermittent fevers.
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The vernal sap is diuretic. Moxa is made from the yellow, fungous excrescences of the wood, which
sometimes swell out from the fissures (Grieve, 1998).
King's American Dispensatory (1898) gives the following description of the Black birch (Betula
lenta): Gently stimulant, diaphoretic, and astringent. Used in warm infusion wherever a stimulating
diaphoretic is required; also in diarrhoea, dysentery, cholera infantum, etc. In decoction or syrup it
forms an excellent tonic to restore the tone of the bowels after an attack of dysentery. Said to have
been used in gravel and female obstructions. Oil of birch will produce a drunken stupor, vomiting, and
death. It has been used in gonorrhoea, rheumatism, and chronic skin diseases. Dose, 5 to 10 drops.
As written in The British Pharmaceutical Codex (1911), the birch tar oil resembles oil of cade in its
properties, and is used for external application in the form of ointment (10 per cent.) or soap (10 per
cent) for eczema, psoriasis, and other skin affections. Mixed with essential oils it is used to keep away
mosquitoes.
According to The Dispensatory of the United States of America (1918) the birch leaves have been
employed in the form of infusion, in gout, rheumatism, and dropsy.
Nowadays the birch leaves are used for bacterial and inflammatory diseases of the urinary tract and for
kidney gravel. They are also used in adjunct therapy for increasing the amount of urine and for
rheumatic ailments. Leaves are used externally for hair loss, dandruff, etc. Birch leaf is also employed
as an astringent and it is used as a mouthwash. The bark can be macerated in oil and applied to
rheumatic joints. Due to the complex composition, it is understandable why birch leaves are more
accurately described as an antidyscratic agent rather than a mere aquaretic (PDR, Muravjova et al,
2002; Herb CD, 2000; Bown, 1996; Muravjova, 1991; Ladynina and Morozova, 1987; Kuznetsova
and Pybatshuk 1984; Weiss and Fintelmann, 2000; Evans, 2000; Chevallier, 1996; Bruneton 1999;
Sokolov and Zamotaev 1988; Gehrmann et al, 2005; Hammermann et al, 1983; Turova, 1974;
Yakovlev and Blinova, 1996).
Usually daily doses of 2-3 g leaves are used for making of a tea. One teaspoons of drug corresponds to
1.3 g dried leaves (Braun and Frohne, 1987). As mentioned in DAB 10, 150 ml of boiled water are
added to 1 teaspoon of drug, allowed to stand for at least 10 minutes and strained (Braun and Frohne,
1987).
Often birch leaves are used in combinations with other drugs, for example in mixtures as follows:
Rp.
Fol. Betulae
Herb. Equiseti
Rad. Ononidis
Fol. Orthosiphonis
Fol. Uvae ursi (minutim conc.) ana ad 100,0
M.f. species
D.S. 1 tablespoon for 1 cup of hot water, allowed to stand some hours and stained (Braun and Frohne,
1987)
In the absence or lack of pharmacological or clinical data, in France the drug is traditionally used
orally to enhance urinary and digestive elimination functions, and to enhance the renal elimination of
water. The German Commission E attributes a diuretic effect to birch leaf; it is used in inflammation
and infection of the urinary tract, in urolithiasis and for the adjunctive treatment of rheumatic pain
(Bruneton, 1999).
The monograph of Betulae folium has been published in European Pharmacopoeia (2005). Birch leaf
is used in herbal medicine, particularly for urinary tract disorders. Birch leaf oil has also been used.
Birch tar oil and Sweet birch oil is also known in several pharmacopoeias (Martindale, 2007).
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II. 4.1.6. Traditional use of other herbal drugs of birch
The bark contains mainly 4-5% tannins and essential oil, it is known as an antipyretic (Hoppe, 1975).
Also betulin as the triterpene similar to lupeol, and the glycoside betuloside with aglycone betuligenol
are found from bark (Gessner, 1974). The content of betulin in the bark is between 10-14%, there are
also glycoside gaulterine, saponins, some essential oil (the principal component is methylic ester of
salicylic acid), etc (Lavrjonov and Lavrjonova, 1999).
Winternitz and Jenicke (both 20th Century) recommended the bark (containing betulin, a resinous
substance, and betulalbin) as a remedy for its diuretic effect and for its influence in dissolving kidney
stones. Winternitz made an infusion of the dried leaves in the preparation of one part to six or eight
parts of water by weight. This infusion is recommended for albuminuria. The quantity of the urine
would increase from six to ten times of its bulk. Jenicke used it in nephrolithiasis. In one case, a stone
had been discovered in the kidney by an X-ray. The urine was concentrated, sometimes bloody,
contained pus cells, and uric acid in large quantities with three and one-half per cent of albumin. This
tea reduced the quantity of albumin, relieved the pain, improved the general health of the patient so
that in twelve weeks' time he was entirely cured with the urine being normal. From time to time tiny
pieces of stone have passed from the kidney with the water (The American Materia Medica, 1919).
Scientists attribute the bark’s cancer-fighting properties to betulinic acid. As it was shown at the 86th
Annual Meeting of the American Association of Cancer Research in Toronto, the activity of the
betulinic acid against cancer is very remarkable. It was the most promising discovery among more
than 2,500 plant extracts studied by Pezzuto and his colleagues. Based on that evidence, birch bark tea
may be one of the more reasonable alternatives in treating existing melanoma (Heinerman, 1996).
The buds contain 4-6% of essential oil (Gessner, 1974), and as the drug of USSR. XI Pharmacopoeia
(Gemmae Betulae) they are used as diuretic (USSR Pharmacopoeia, 1986).
Oleum Betulae empyreumaticum rectificatum is the oil obtained by the dry distillation of the bark and
wood of Betula alba and rectified by steam distillation. It is used mainly as an external remedy in
cutaneous diseases. (A Manual of Organic Materia Medica and Pharmacognosy, 1917). The external
application of pix betulina is recommended in parasitic infestation of the skin with subsequent hair
loss, rheumatism and gout, dry eczema and dermatoses, psoriasis and other chronic skin diseases
(Muravjova et al, 2002; Ladynina and Morozova, 1987; Kuznetsova and Pybatshuk 1984; Sokolov and
Zamotaev 1988; Turova, 1974). The dry distillation of birch wood yields about 6% phenols (cresole,
quajacole, xylenole, coesole). In veterinary medicine the Oleum Betulae empyreumaticum rectificatum
in known as fermifuge (Gessner, 1974). Pix betulina (earlier Oleum Rusci) was used as an
antiparasitic against scabies (Gessner, 1974).
The tar belongs to the content of Unguentum contra scabiem and Unguentum Wilkinsonii. Tinctura
Cellichnol also contains the birch tar (Braun and Frohne, 1987).
A very interesting birch object is the chaga ( Inonotus obliquus) – a fungal growth ( Fungus betulinus )
that appears on the outer bark of birch. It was used traditionally in the folk medicines of many nations
(Tammeorg et al, 1984; Heinerman, 1996; Lavrjonov and Lavrjonov, 1999). The famous Russian
author Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn popularized the chaga in his novel Cancer Ward . Some clinical
investigations into chaga in Poland, former U.S.S.R. and U.S.A. showed that the decoction of chaga
made hard tumours softer, smaller and less painful, with patients sleeping, eating and feeling a lot
better than they did before (Heinerman, 1996).
Betula alba is used also in homeopathy, basically as a natural diuretic as well as against gastric
complaints, etc (Mihailov, 2002).
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II. 4.2.
Traditional use without pharmacy and medicine
The birch is also a very important tree without medicine and pharmacy. Its wood is soft and not very
durable but cheap, and the tree is able to thrive in any situation and soil, growing all over Europe. In
country districts the birch has very many uses. The lighter twigs are used for thatching and wattles.
The birch twigs are used in broom making and in the manufacture of cloth. The birch has 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 well-known odour of Russian leather is due to the use of this oil in
the process of dressing. The production of Birch Tar oil is a Russian industry of considerable
importance. It is also distilled in the Netherlands 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. A beer, wine, spirit and vinegar
are prepared from it in some parts of Europe (Grieve, 1998).
The leaves are used to make a yellow dye for fabric and wood (Vermeulen, 1999).
The shampoo containing birch extract is useful for treatment of dandruff and pruritus caused by dry
scalp (Miyamoto, 2006). The sap can be tapped and used for mainly cosmetic purposes, such as
against greasy hair, stem hair loss or to get rid of dandruff (Vermeulen, 1999).
An infusion of the leaves or a decoction of the bark is a skin-freshening lotion; an infusion of birch
acts as a tonic and refreshes the skin when added to the bath. In some areas of the south-eastern U.S.
people chew the twigs of B. lenta to clean their teeth. Persons who want to stop smoking should
consider chewing on a birch branch to relieve the oral fixation (Kowalchik and Hylton, 1998).
II.4.3.
SSESSOR S O VERALL C ONCLUSIONS ON TRADITIONAL USE
The therapeutic use of birch goes back to the ethnomedicine of many nations and to the ancient times.
Several organs and products of birch such as leaves, bugs, bark, juice, chaga, distilled oil, etc. have
been used throughout the centuries in different regions of the world. In former Soviet Union the most
popular herbal substance was Betulae gemma which was the official herbal drug in the U.S.S.R
Pharmacopeia. In other European regions mainly leaves were used traditionally as well as in modern
times.
II.5.
A SSESSOR S O VERALL C ONCLUSIONS
The therapeutic use of birch leaves as well as of the other parts and products of the birch tree goes
back to the ethnomedicine of the ancient times. The positive effects of Betulae folium to increase the
amount of urine to achieve flushing of the urinary tract as an adjuvant in minor urinary complaints
have long been recognised empirically. The use is made plausible by pharmacological data.
The chemical composition of flavonoids as main constituents of birch leaves has been investigated
quite extensively.
Neither a total extract of birch leaf nor various fractions produced any significant increase in diuretic
or saluretic effects after oral administration to rats. In vivo studies on the diuretic effect of birch leaf
have shown weakly positive results on rabbits and dogs but contradictory results in rodents. The
aquaretic effect of birch leaf extracts correlates with the amount of flavonoids.
© EMEA 2008
19/20
There are only some clinical trials published about clinical efficacy of birch leaf; there is a lack of
control groups, and the period of observation is too short. The clinical data are not sufficient to support
a well established use.
Due to the lack of toxicity data the use of birch leaf cannot be recommended during pregnancy, breast-
feeding or in children younger than 12 years of age.
In conclusion, preparations from Betulae folium can be regarded as traditional herbal medicinal
products.
© EMEA 2008
20/20


Source: European Medicines Agency



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