View Full Version : Birchbark Smells like Peppermint?

Dan Kirkland
03-20-2012, 02:31 PM
I was out hiking today and I came across what I was almost 100% sure was a silver birch, I wanted to try to make fire using the bark as I've seen on here, but I noticed that the dry dead bark had an interesting smell to it.

I found the same kind of tree except it was alive, I cut a small piece of bark and sure enough, it really smells like VERY good peppermint!

Is this really a birch tree? Or is it some other kind of tree? I didn't bring my camera but the bark looks right, I'm really curious if anyone else has noticed this or if it's some other kind of tree.

03-20-2012, 02:35 PM
Not really peppermint...more Wintergreen but yes it does have that sent and taste. Below is not my quote... I'm not that smart on these things... :38:

Various other members of the Gaultheria genus also contain this flavorful aromatic oil. So does the eastern North American tree Betula lenta, known variously as sweet birch, black birch, cherry birch, sugar birch, spice birch, and wintergreen tree. You can chew the twigs of this birch to release the gratifying flavor; sort of like an all-natural chewing gum.

03-20-2012, 02:35 PM
You mean spearamint gum/wintergreen not peppermint. Yes Birch trees, if you scrape some bark off a green twig will smell like spearamint gum. Nice to chew on walking a trail.

03-20-2012, 02:37 PM
Sweeney we were both on this one lol.

03-20-2012, 02:40 PM
They were one of the first wild edibles I learned. Other than black caps...

03-20-2012, 02:41 PM
They were one of the first wild edibles I learned. Other than black caps...

Fresh young leaves are easy on the pallet as well. Like a soft lettuce.

03-20-2012, 02:47 PM
I know in my area black birch twigs cut from the ends are a refreshing trail chew, beats a tooth pick or match stick! Never tried white birch

Dan Kirkland
03-20-2012, 03:08 PM
Can you make something like an aromatic candle with it? Maybe use it as a wick? Or will that cause the "minty" smell to dissipate?

03-20-2012, 04:56 PM
you sure it wasn't Teaberry? It smells like wintergreen too.

03-20-2012, 05:23 PM
I wish we had birch trees here.

03-20-2012, 05:38 PM
Greetings All,

In North America we have two birches that are relatively famous for their essential oil; the black birch, Betula lenta, that has dark grey (hence black) bark, and the Allegheny birch, Betula allegheniensis, that can have either white (sometimes a bit on the yellowish side) or black bark [two phases like a screech owl].

Taste and smell are our two most individualized senses, so it is natural for folks not to agree on what something smells or tastes like. But in the case of these two birches, the consensus is that they smell/taste of wintergreen (oil). They can both be used as tea or flavoring because of the minuscule amounts we need for that effect.

The caution comes from the use of concentrated products using wintergreen oils. The main component of wintergreen oil is a compound called methyl salicilate. Although this compound can stand in for aspirin, it is toxic in major doses, especially for children. The effects usually start with hyperventiliation (because of neurostimulation of the breathing center) and can progress to hallucinations, delirium, convulsions and worse. (Part of the problem results from the loss of electrolytes from the kidneys.)

I would stress that there is no way a person can cause disaster by any of the conventional uses of natural wintergreen oil as flavoring for candy or tea or food unless someone gets ridiculously obsessive with the intensity. The up side is that you could have your headache treated in this way by a reasonable quantity.

When I am confronted by a birch tree I don't exactly recognize I often crush a twig tip to sample for the wintergreen smell; if it has it--it is one of the above species.

Thank you for reading.