Naturally flavored waters are so hot, there’s a new trendy flavor every couple of months. What began with coconut has gone on to include maple then aloe vera waters, because of the natural refreshment from plants and their ability to hydrate and detoxify.
Now, there’s a newcomer having its moment in Europe: birch water.
A natural beverage drunk for centuries, it’s actually birch sap, which is extracted from the tree between the months of March and April. It’s then pasteurized to preserve it for sale all year long.
Until recently, birch water was only consumed for a couple of weeks following its harvest, as a “detox” plan to enter spring revived and refreshed.
“Birch sap has been used as a kind of medicinal drink for centuries,” says Alice Mackintosh, a nutrition consultant based in London.
A traditional beverage in Russia, Baltic and Scandinavian countries, as well as France, Scotland and parts of northern China — everywhere you can find the tree, basically — birch water is used in folk medicine to help revitalize the body and cure kidney, lung and stomach diseases.
It’s also a source of minerals like potassium, calcium and magnesium. In addition, it contains saponin, which Mackintosh says has been shown to reduce cholesterol and has an anti-inflammatory effects. “It does have some nutritional benefits, but it’s definitely not the answer to everyone’s issues, even though, like coconut water, it’s marketed that way,” she cautions. “There need to be more serious studies to show any real effect.”
There’s no harm in drinking birch water now and then as a supplement, but you won’t see any benefits if your diet isn’t healthy, too. And if you feel like you need a cleanse, Mackintosh advises sticking to the vitamin- and mineral-packed powerhouse of a green juice with kale, celery, avocado and cucumber.
Birch water is the new super drink, but birch juice has been used in the cosmetics and the wellness industry for some time. Natural cosmetic brand Weleda has a dedicated line because of birch water’s detoxifying properties. With a juice to add to your water and drink throughout the day, an exfoliating shower gel and a massage oil, this line claims to help cleanse your system and refine your skin, including reducing cellulite.