Birch sap treatment: benefits, contraindications, dangers

Birch sap treatment: benefits, contraindications, dangers

Consumed for centuries in certain regions of the world – notably in Eastern Europe, Russia, Scandinavia and the Baltic countries – birch sap has begun to become popular in recent years in Western Europe and particularly in Europe, in because of its supposed health benefits. But as natural as it is, birch sap is a food supplement which presents contraindications, drug interactions and potentially harmful side effects for certain categories of people. Alexia Authenac, naturopath, talks to us about the effects of birch sap and its precautions for use.

What is birch sap – juice or water – used for and what are its properties, virtues and benefits?

Rich in water, vitamins (vitamin C and vitamin B) and minerals (potassium, magnesium, calcium), betulic acid and flavonoids, birch sap – also known under the names birch juice or birch water. birch – is a hydrating and refreshing drink, the success of which is mainly based on its alleged detoxifying and anti-inflammatory properties. It is in fact renowned for its diuretic, draining and slightly laxative actions. “Birch sap would act by stimulating our emunctory organs (kidneys, liver, skin, etc.), which cleanse our body, promoting the elimination of organic waste and toxins accumulated in our tissues.” indicates Alexia Authenac, naturopath.

This detox action of birch sap has, however, not been corroborated by any serious scientific study, and the medical community tends to question the notion of “detox cure” which would be a purely marketing concept. The Directorate General for Competition, Consumer Affairs and Fraud Control (DGCCRF) regularly warns of false health claims made by certain consumer products such as herbal teas, juices or vitamins with so-called “detox” properties.

On the other hand, birch juice is traditionally offered as a natural diuretic, to increase the volume of urine and contribute to the treatment of urinary infections. It is also used to help eliminate urinary stones in the kidneys or bladder.

Other supposed properties of birch water are:

  • Its action on the immune systemwhich would be due to its vitamin and antioxidant content;
  • Its effect on skin health, which could be due to the presence of antioxidants, which would act by protecting the skin against damage caused by free radicals. It is particularly known for its usefulness in the treatment of certain skin conditions such as acne, eczema or psoriasis.

How to consume birch sap?

As its name suggests, birch sap or juice is a liquid from the tree of the same name. “It is collected during a specific time of year, usually late winter and early spring, when sap rises in the trees to feed the growing buds” indicates the naturopath.

The process of collecting birch sap is done by drilling a small hole in the trunk of the tree to collect the sap that flows naturally. This collection method is traditional and respectful of the tree, as it does not damage the root system or the growth of the tree. The birch sap is then filtered to remove impurities and can be consumed fresh from a producer, or bottled in an organic store or drugstore.

What are the contraindications to this treatment?

Birch sap is not recommended for everyone, and there are even certain contraindications to its consumption as a treatment.

  • Allergies : People who are allergic to birch pollen or other tree-related allergens are more likely to develop an allergic reaction to birch sap. Symptoms of an allergic reaction may include rash, itching, difficulty breathing, or swelling of the face, mouth, or throat;
  • Kidney problems: Due to its diuretic properties, excessive consumption of birch sap may increase the excretion of water and some electrolytes through the kidneys. People with kidney problems or taking medications that affect kidney function (diuretics) should avoid consuming large amounts of birch sap;
  • Diabetes : Birch sap contains natural sugars, including xylitol, which can increase blood sugar levels. People with diabetes or blood sugar regulation problems should monitor their intake of birch sap and its effect on their blood sugar levels;
  • People prone to transit disorders: Birch sap may have laxative properties, which may be poorly tolerated in certain people with fragile intestines. People suffering from gastrointestinal problems such as irritable bowel syndrome or Crohn’s disease should consult their doctor before starting a course of treatment.

Generally speaking, medical advice is always recommended to avoid the dangers associated with birch sap.

What dosage?

Due to its diuretic and laxative action, and its potential side effects, birch sap must be taken with caution, increasing the dosage gradually. “The sap should be taken in the morning on an empty stomach. I recommend starting the treatment with 1/2 glass of juice the first day, then increasing by half a glass per day, until you reach 3 whole glasses to be taken in a single dose in the morning.” summarizes the naturopath. If it is well tolerated, and in the absence of side effects, the treatment can be followed for 3 weeks.

Warning: What possible side effects on the intestines?

Birch sap is sometimes associated with side effects on the intestines, especially when consumed in large quantities. When taken as a course of treatment, it can cause gastrointestinal irritation, leading to symptoms such as bloating, abdominal cramping, nausea, or mild diarrhea. These side effects are usually temporary and disappear once birch sap consumption is reduced or stopped.

When to start the birch sap treatment?

As nature is well done, the birch sap cure is generally recommended at the arrival of spring, when it is naturally produced by the tree. This is the period when detox and depurative treatments are recommended, after the excesses of winter.” indicates Alexia Authenac.

Does birch sap make you urinate?

Birch sap is renowned for its diuretic properties: it therefore causes an increase in urinary excretion. “This is why it is recommended to drink plenty of water during the treatment, in order to properly eliminate toxins!” insists the naturopath, who recommends at least 1.5 liters of water per day of treatment.

Is it authorized for pregnant women?

Although there is no evidence that moderate consumption of birch juice is dangerous for pregnant women, taking a course of treatment is not recommended throughout pregnancy and breastfeeding. “It is generally not recommended to start a detox treatment when you are expecting a baby or breastfeeding.” confirms the specialist.