7 January 2022 / Laura Garvin Gomez
Birch Tar Essential Oil: History, Uses and Benefits
Smoky birch tar has wonderful benefits for skin and can help to treat infections.
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With its unique, smoky scent, birch tar has been linked to both North American and Scandinavian traditional medicine.
Birch tar was often used as a remedy to tone skin and promote circulation throughout the body. It was also occasionally chewed as a method for improving oral health.
Despite its many benefits – several of which have only been uncovered in recent years – it is still one of the lesser-known essential oils, and its properties towards wellness and aromatherapy are very much ongoing.
Those who do use birch tar oil, however, swear by its strong antiseptic and antibacterial properties, its mollusc-repelling qualities, and its positive effect on the skin.
What is Birch Tar Essential Oil?
Also known by the botanical name Betula Alba, birch tar is a naturally smoky, earthy essential oil that is not too dissimilar in scent to a woody campfire. Some have also noted leather-like notes in the oil.
Birch tar is steam distilled from the gathered and crushed bark and twigs of the European birch tree, which is native to Northern Europe. Sometimes called white birch oil or sweet birch, birch tar’s richness makes it a great base note for a number of blends and perfumes.
This dark and viscous oil is known to combine extremely well with other earthy oils like cedarwood, as well as herbaceous oils like eucalyptus.
What are the benefits of Birch Tar Essential Oil?
Though research into birch tar’s health benefits is still ongoing, this oil is certainly not short of impactful qualities for the general maintenance of the body.
Some of birch tar oil’s most powerful properties include:
- Slug, snail, and mollusc repellent
- Promoting healthy urination
- Toning skin
Is birch tar essential oil antimicrobial?
The antimicrobial properties of birch tar are what made it so popular in traditional medicine, and these original applications are certainly not without their merit today.
Due to a large number of phenol derivatives and terpenoid derivatives in the oil, birch tar has strong antiseptic qualities that allow it to prevent the growth of disease-causing organisms.
Furthermore, the presence of components like salicylic acid and methyl salicylate – well-known germicides and bactericides – can help protect the skin from fungal and bacterial infections.
For this reason, many people have found birch tar essential oil to be incredibly useful for treating skin diseases such as eczema and ringworm. In fact, it is not uncommon for birch tar to be used as a primary ingredient in over-the-counter skin creams and lotions.
These antimicrobial properties can also lend themselves to oral health, helping to alleviate and prevent toothache as well as gum infections by killing off the bacteria in your mouth cavity.
In spite of these potentially impactful oral effects, however, it is important to note that it is much safer not to take birch tar internally due to its rich and potent nature.
Birch tar oil should instead be diluted with a carrier oil and only applied topically to affected areas of the skin, so long as none of those areas are open wounds.
Can birch tar oil repel slugs and snails?
Birch tar is said to be incredibly effective at getting rid of slugs, snails, and other molluscs.
A study from 2010 showed that birch tar oil could repel slugs and snails from fences and plant pots, and had especially long-lasting effects when mixed with Vaseline. These pest-repelling effects are most likely due to birch tar’s strong and distinctive scent.
Using a little birch tar oil in your garden or home can help to keep it free from slugs and snails without producing toxic effects on the surrounding environment.
Does birch tar essential oil promote healthy urination?
Some people believe that the presence of two components in birch tar - botulinal and butylene - allows the oil to stimulate the bladder and facilitate frequent, healthy urination.
Many people believe stimulation of this kind is good for circulation, and it is a well-established fact that frequent, healthy urination prevents bacteria and helps to clear toxins from the body.
Urination in particular can help clear the presence of uric acid in the blood – a toxin that can lead to bone or joint damage as well as kidney disease if not dealt with.
Birch tar can also help clear the body of toxins through perspiration and has occasionally been used as a remedy for alleviating fevers.
Using birch tar oil to tone skin
Alongside its strengths in soothing skin diseases like eczema, birch tar essential oil also carries a number of benefits for average daily skin health.
Birch tar oil is most often used in skincare products as a result of its astringent properties. This means that it is able to tighten the skin and reduce the appearance of wrinkles.
The addition of a few drops of birch tar oil to a carrier oil or face cream can help the skin to appear younger and brighter.
Some sources have also pointed to the impact of birch tar oil on the health and growth of hair, though research on this is still ongoing.
How to use Birch Tar Essential Oil
If you’re a fan of the deep forest, or simply prefer the mysterious charm of a smoky, earthy essential oil, diffusing some birch tar around your home may be just the remedy you’re seeking.
Birch tar has also recently been highlighted in aromatherapy circles for its potential expectorant properties - so adding a few drops to your diffuser or oil burner while you’re suffering from a cold may help clear your respiratory tract and facilitate easier breathing.
Birch tar oil is most famous for its useful applications to the skin – and for good reason.
Its powerful astringent and antiseptic properties can help to keep skin looking clear and youthful, as well as prevent bacteria from causing outbreaks and inflammation on its surface,
Combine some birch tar with a carrier oil, like argan or rosehip, and use the mixture as a daily cleanser, or to help spot-treat skin conditions such as eczema or psoriasis.
The strong pest-repellent properties of birch tar work against molluscs like snails or slugs to help keep your homes and gardens clear.
Add 7-10 drops of birch tar essential oil to a spray bottle with water and an emulsifier. Spray over affected areas and repeat as needed.
Alternatively, you can combine the oil with Vaseline and use it to cover these areas.
Candles, soaps, and homemade perfumes
The rich, woody aromas of birch tar make the oil a fantastic base for other, lighter scents such as tea tree or peppermint.
Blending these essential oils together and using them as a base for candles, soaps, or homemade perfumes can be a fun and innovative way to scent your spaces in a way that suits you.
We recommend following a tested recipe or guide before getting started on any aromatherapy projects. You can check out our beginner’s guides in our Make At Home section here.
History of Birch Tar Essential Oil
The roots of birch tar go as far back as the Palaeolithic and Mesolithic eras, with the dry, distilled tar of the birch tree being used as an adhesive for thousands – if not millions – of years.
It was later used as one of the first examples of chewing gum by Scandinavian societies as a way to promote better oral health.
The associations between birch tar and leather then commenced in seventeenth and eighteenth-century Russia, where the oil was used to varnish the leader and make it water-resistant before export.
Since then, birch tar has mostly held its prominence in the perfume industry as a leather-like base aroma.
The history and applications of birch tar oil are still quite mysterious – fitting for this exotic, smoky-scented oil.
Research is still ongoing, and fans of birch tar oil have been increasingly insistent in the last few years that birch tar’s antimicrobial properties should be fully explored.
It’s highly possible that we see birch tar assume a greater role in the world of aromatherapy in years to come.
|100% Pure Birch Tar Essential Oil|
|Botanical Name||Betula Alba|
|Benefits & Uses||Antimicrobial, Insect Repellent, Cleansing|
|Suitable for Diffusers?||Yes, this birch tar essential oil is perfect for diffusers.|
|Suitable for Candles and Soaps?||Yes, this birch tar essential oil is perfect for candle and soap making.|
|Extraction Method||Steam Distillation|
|Bottle Type||Tamper proof and UV resistant|