"the white lady of the forest"
I first met Birch as a kid. I used to play outside with my sister and cousin every day. We’d love to play with each other and we’d love to play with nature. We’d make houses out of bushes and trees pretending we lived in them. We’d climb trees and try to hide in them or hang from them. The trees and bushes in our backyards were places for us to explore. I’d give them names or pretend they were other things like “my cool, private bedroom” (because I shared a room as a kid) or “our top secret girls clubhouse.” And of course, we’d pull off their branches or leaves or flowers or cones haphazardly without any regard.
There was this skinny, white tree that was one of my favorites. I liked its bark because “it looked like paper.” I remember ripping its bark off often and drawing on it. Sometimes I’d just peel over the bark from the tree “because it felt cool.” I have to admit, the-adult-tree-loving-yoga-teacher I am today kinda cringes at that “behavior.” But, I know, some of you reading this right now, if you had a Birch tree as a kid, probably did the same. If you’ve ever seen the tree in person, you understand why.
When I think of “ripping the Birch tree’s skin” off as a kid, my first thought is: man, I had no idea what I was doing and no regard for living things. But, then, I think about it again, and although there wasn’t much grace or selflessness back then in my action, there was awareness in an innocent way. You see, the bark is where potent medicine lives.
If you ever ripped off a tree’s skin (bark) as a child, this blog is dedicated to you.
[PSA: that tree ended up dying, so please teach kids to hug, not peel trees...ha :)
By spiritualists and shamans, Birch is known as the white lady of the woods because her bark is white. She is the sacred white lady of the forest, for sure, as she almost glows white. Birch’s ultimate medicine, her great gift to the world, is she brings you back to yourself. She reminds you of you. She takes you back to you. In a world where we are so heavily influenced by what seems like everything, this grounding medicine directs us back to our heart and soul reminding us of who we really are.
It is easy to lose yourself. We get lost in movies or television and think scenarios or situations that are not real, are real and important to our life. Have you ever thought about a movie or character and thought they were you or related yourself to them or talked about them like you actually knew them? We get swallowed up by the news and internet which can easily manipulate our truths and change our perspectives to be something that actually isn’t the core of who or what we believe. If we are being more mindful, we get lost in Self-Help-Books and try to follow the script, or we may find someone who we admire or a great teacher and try to be them. We get engulfed in socierty’s depiction of labels of what we should be based on sterotypes or our age or our job or our sex. We then create these stories based on other’s instead of our own. Sometimes it seems so darn hard to be ourselves because when we are clear-headed or brave enough to do it, someone, somewhere is judging us. Even if we are trying to do good in the world.
The other day I was crying in meditation feeling ripped in every direction. For some reason I felt the responsibility of the world on my shoulders. I felt not good enough yet demanded of. All this was a story that somehow crept into my subconscious that is far from my truth. Maybe other people thought this. Maybe it was a stereotype I was falling into. Maybe it was something I read or saw somewhere else or someone else. Maybe it was just a delusional moment of self-sabotaging behavior. I was crying because I felt lost: in that moment, I didn’t feel like me.
Birch is medicine to take when you feel like you are losing yourself. She will put you right back to you. In this personal story, she stopped my tears and reminded me that I am neither good enough or not good enough and that I am neither demanded of or not demanded of. All I am is am. I am that I am.
This is because Birch is deeply purifying, resilient, strong and full of vitality. She embodies all of these characteristics bringing you back to simple. Underneath it all, we are simple, divine beings with only one job: to be.
Birch is one of those trees that can grow in any condition. In the coldest of cold she can survive. She is native to cold Northern forests yet you can find her in sunny places where she is not native and she will do just fine. What I respect most about Birch is she is one of few trees who can grow in contaminated or polluted soils. Not only can she grow in these conditions, by her growing in these soils, she works to purify the land and eventually other trees and plants can grow there too. For this reason, she is symbolic of new beginnings and hope. Many Naitve Americans have used her in ceremony to call in fertility, and you can use her in this way too. Simply use a few drops of the oil with intention when you are looking to start something new or for a change. Remember, too, like many trees, the Birch tree’s leaves change colors and lose its leaves. Birch is one of the first to sprout leaves in the Spring. After the last frost, little green leaves will appear before all others in the forest as a sign of hope, What are you hoping for? Birch will provide this medicine for you.
Because she purifies the for Earth, imagine what she can do for you medicinally. She removes toxins from the body and purifies the blood. She will increase perspiration or urination to help you release toxins within. She is healing for the liver and kidneys. She reduces uric acid and rids gout. She is astringent. In her purification process, she helps things move along. For this reason, she is great for inflammation. She helps the body release areas that are over-inflammed. Chronic inflammation is a sign of not letting go: a traffic jam of emotions stuck in the body. Birch works as the crossing guard helping things to keep moving.
Because of Birch’s strength and vitality, she helps fight pain. She is particularly helpful for arthritis. Birch is known to live between 150-300 years (and will stand up to kids peeling at her skin the best she can!). As a result of this longevity she works to boost the immune system in humans. Her wood is used to build almost anything because it is so strong. Her energy is one of a strong foundation so Birch is known to provide this for you as well: on a physical note, she is particularly powerful in helping keep our bones (our body’s foundation) strong.
The other thing about Birch is she vibrates beauty. We’ve talked about her skin and how it is just irresistible to children’s picky little fingers and this because it is beautiful. As a result, she is wonderful medicine for our skin. Use for her rashes or imperfections and see her work her magic. Birch is known as the tree that is “forever young.” She matures quickly (within the first 20 years of her life) and looks the same even when she reaches 100, 200 or 300 years old. She is known to bring this youthful glow to humans as well: she helps reduce wrinkles and sagging skin.
Birch is also a skinny, slender tree. What we are is what we can teach others and as a result, Birch is great for weight loss.
Science has also found that Birch trees sleep! By studying Birch trees throughout the world, they have found that their branches drop about 10 centimeters for about two hours after sunset until around sunrise when their branches raise again. They relax, let their branches down as to “take a load off” and they can teach us the importance of rest and restoration.
More so, just in their existence, not even taken medicinally, Birch show how we are all the same: our experience of day and night and sleep and wakefulness is not strictly human. Trees do it too. We may not speak the same language or even look similar yet we all have very similar experiences here on Earth. This is comforting medicine that continues to bind and unify Earth and its creatures as one.
One last thing I find extremely meaningful about the Birch tree, is the sacred Chaga mushroom grows only on Birch trees. Chaga Mushrooms are a nutrient-dense “super food” that slow the aging process and fight cancer. This just proves the ripple of affect of our vibration and how we are a product of our environment (and why it is important to be a positive contribution to our environment). Birch all about vitality, strength and beauty and this gift is passed on to the mushrooms that grow on it.