Steve Brill, also known as the ‘Wildman,’ who gives foraging tours of Central Park, recently took Chris Kilham with him.
Brill showed Kilham, the Medicine Hunter, the twig of the black birch, betula lenta, and asked Kilham to give it a try.
“It has these leaves with these teeth, (and) it has these cones,” Brill said. “You chew on the twig, and tell me what you taste.”
Kilham said the twig tasted like spearmint and reminded him of the compound methyl salicylate, which is used in muscles to relieve pain.
“And it relieves pain,” Brill said of the black birch. “The Native Americans discovered (this). It actually tastes like wintergreen. Oil of Wintergreen is the common name. And this is a classic compound from which aspirin was derived. They actually used the willow tree, not the black birch.”
Like low-dose aspirin, drinking black birch tea every day can lower your risk of a heart attack, but without the side effects of taking a pill.
Brill said he gave his daughter, Violet, some black birch to chew on when she was teething – and it not only helped with pain, but she loved the flavor.