Posted by: Hourglass PJ5 MAR 2014
The birch is my favourite tree, which is perhaps a strange choice given that it grows almost like a weed across northern Europe. But I associate the silver birch (Betula pendula) with much interesting travel across the Baltic States and Russia, where many people believe in the healing power of the birch, particularly for wounds.
Scientists in Germany have recently found out how betulin, the main ingredient in an extract of the outer white layer of the tree’s bark, helps to heal wounds. Discovered in 1788 by a German-Russian chemist, betulin has recently been associated with a number of beneficial effects such as reducing cholesterol and improving insulin sensitivity.
In the case of wounds, betulin increases the inflammatory reaction by activating proteins that extend the half-life of messenger RNA, so enabling more inflammatory substances to be produced. This activity helps to start to stabilise the wound.
Betulin then helps the skin cells to migrate and close the wound. It achieves this by activating proteins involved in the restructuring of the cells, causing keratinocytes, the most common type of cell in the epidermis, to migrate quickly into the wound and close it.