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Uses of tree saps in northern and eastern parts of Europe


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In this article we review the use of tree saps in northern and eastern Europe. Published accounts by travellers, ethnologists and ethnobotanists were searched for historical and contemporary details. Field observations made by the authors have also been used. The presented data shows that the use of tree sap has occurred in most north and eastern European countries. It can be assumed that tree saps were most used where there were extensive stands of birch or maple trees, as these two genera generally produce the largest amount of sap. The taxa most commonly used have been Betula pendula, B. pubescens, and Acer platanoides, but scattered data on the use of several other taxa are presented. Tree sap was used as a fresh drink, but also as an ingredient in food and beverages. It was also fermented to make light alcoholic products like ale and wine. Other folk uses of tree saps vary from supplementary nutrition in the form of sugar, minerals and vitamins, to cosmetic applications for skin and hair and folk medicinal use. Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania are the only countries where the gathering and use of sap (mainly birch sap) has remained an important activity until recently, due to the existence of large birch forests, low population density and the incorporation of sap into the former Soviet economic system. It is evident that gathering sap from birch and other trees was more widespread in earlier times. There are records indicating extensive use of tree saps from Scandinavia, Poland, Slovakia and Romania, but it is primarily of a historical character. The extraction of tree sap in these countries is nowadays viewed as a curiosity carried out only by a few individuals. However, tree saps have been regaining popularity in urban settings through niche trading.
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Tree sap has traditionally been a source of nutrients in the
spring in the boreal and hemiboreal regions of the northern
hemisphere. e famous Arab traveller Ahmad ibn Fadlān
observed as early as 921 that the Turkish-speaking Bolgars
along the Volga River used fermented birch sap. e Ger-
man scholar Conrad of Megenberg (14th century) men-
tions its use as a refreshing drink. e Persian geographer
Rashīd al-Dīn also describes in his “Jāmi῾ al-tawārīkh” from
the early 14th century that the Uriankhai people in Siberia
cut birch trunks and gathered the sap, which was drunk
instead of water. Italian botanist Pietro Andrea Mattioli
praised its medicinal properties in 1561. According to him
it could be used for treating stones in the kidney and the
bladder, but also to cure ulcers [15]. In his thesis “Dis-
putatio physico-medica votiva” written in 1631 in Tartu,
the physician Johannes Raicus praised birch sap and suggested
its use in medicine, comparing its healing properties with those
of mineral water [6].
In this article we review the use of tree saps in northern and eastern Europe. Published accounts by travellers, ethnologists
and ethnobotanists were searched for historical and contemporary details. Field observations made by the authors have also been
used. e presented data shows that the use of tree sap has occurred in most north and eastern European countries. It can be
assumed that tree saps were most used where there were extensive stands of birch or maple trees, as these two genera generally
produce the largest amount of sap. e taxa most commonly used have been Betula pendula, B. pubescens, and Acer platanoides,
but scattered data on the use of several other taxa are presented.
Tree sap was used as a fresh drink, but also as an ingredient in food and beverages. It was also fermented to make light alcoholic
products like ale and wine. Other folk uses of tree saps vary from supplementary nutrition in the form of sugar, minerals and
vitamins, to cosmetic applications for skin and hair and folk medicinal use.
Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania are the only countries where the gathering and use of sap (mainly birch
sap) has remained an important activity until recently, due to the existence of large birch forests, low population density and the
incorporation of sap into the former Soviet economic system.
It is evident that gathering sap from birch and other trees was more widespread in earlier times. ere are records indicat-
ing extensive use of tree saps from Scandinavia, Poland, Slovakia and Romania, but it is primarily of a historical character. e
extraction of tree sap in these countries is nowadays viewed as a curiosity carried out only by a few individuals. However, tree
saps have been regaining popularity in urban settings through niche trading.
Keywords: sap collection, fermented beverages, non-timber forest products, ethnobotany, forestry, food culture
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INVITED REVIEW Received: 2012.07.22 Accepted: 2012.08.26 Published electronically: 2012.12.31 Acta Soc Bot Pol 81(4):343–357 DOI: 10.5586/asbp.2012.036
Uses of tree saps in northern and eastern parts of Europe
Ingvar Svanberg1, Renata Sõukand2*, Łukasz Łuczaj3, Raivo Kalle4, Olga Zyryanova5, Andrea Dénes6, Nóra Papp7,
Aneli Nedelcheva8, Daiva Šeškauskaitė9, Iwona Kołodziejska-Degórska10,11, Valeria Kolosova12
1 Uppsala Centre for Russian and Eurasian Studies, Uppsala University, Box 514, 751 20 Uppsala, Sweden
2 Estonian Literary Museum, Vanemuise 42, 51003 Tartu, Estonia
3 Department of Botany and Biotechnology of Economic Plants, University of Rzeszów, Werynia 502, 36–100 Kolbuszowa, Poland
4 Institute of Veterinary Medicine and Animal Sciences, Estonian University of Life Sciences, Kreutzwaldi 62, 51014 Tartu, Estonia
5 V. N. Sukachev Institute of Forest, Russian Academy of Sciences, Academgorodok 50, 660036 Krasnoyarsk, Russia
6 Natural History Department, Janus Pannonius Museum, Box 158, 7601 Pécs, Hungary
7 Department of Pharmacognosy, University of Pécs, Rókus 2, 7624 Pécs, Hungary
8 Department of Botany, Soa University “St. Kliment Ohridski”, Dragan Tzankov 8, 1164 Soa, Bulgaria
9 Kaunas Forestry and Environmental Engineering University of Applied Sciences, Liepu 1, Girionys, LT 53101 Kaunas, Lithuania
10 Warsaw University Botanic Garden, Aleje Ujazdowskie 4, 00–478 Warsaw, Poland
11 Institute for Interdisciplinary Research “Artes Liberales”, University of Warsaw, Nowy Świat 69, 00–046 Warsaw, Poland
12 Institute for Linguistic Studies, Russian Academy of Sciences, Tuchkov pereulok 9, 199053 Saint-Petersburg, Russia
* Corresponding author. Email:
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© The Author(s) 2012 Published by Polish Botanical Society
Svanberg et al. / Tree saps
It was common practice to tap the liquid from various kinds
of trees to obtain a beverage in times of want. e sweet taste
of the sap was a welcome change aer the long winter in social
contexts where sugar was rare. A deciency of food in early
spring was customary in northern Europe until the end of the
19th century, and in eastern Europe until the 1960s. Tree sap
has been used for several purposes other than just a source of
sugar. Actually, many dierent products are made out of it,
such as fermented beverages, beer, wine, and syrup. Swedish
ethnologist Gösta Berg even suggested that tree sap was also
probably the most used and one of the most eective medicines
against scurvy in earlier times [1].
Internationally, the best known product made of tree sap is
the Canadian maple syrup that led to the maple leaf becom-
ing the symbol of the country. Sap from the sugar maple tree
(Acer saccharum Marshall) and some related species was being
processed among indigenous peoples of North America long
before Europeans arrived on the continent [79]. In northern
and eastern Europe maple sap is less frequently gathered,
although it is utilised in some regions. Nevertheless, maple
sap is valued for its sweet taste, as it contains more sugar than
birch sap. Other tree taxa have also been utilised in eastern and
northern Europe as sources of sap [1,10].
Birch sap has been considered one of the most protable
non-timber forest products [11,12]. Experiments conducted in
Estonia in the 1970s showed that the prot gained from the sap
was six times the prot gained from timber [13]. A birch tree
can produce 36 l of sap in nine days [14]. In Alaska over 1000
gallons (3785 l) of birch syrup are made every year. e qual-
ity of the product is regulated by Alaska Birch Syrup-makers
Association and although the production of birch syrup is ve
times more costly than maple syrup, it has its own market due
to its specic taste [15].
ere has been little scientic investigation and current re-
search into the technology of production of tree sap in Europe,
and only a few of these studies have been published in English,
mainly concerning Finland [1627]. e content of sugar in
the European species of birches can reach 0.8% of their weight
[25]. e only part of Eurasia where birch sap was industrially
gathered was in the Soviet Union. Hence, most of the research
on technology, productivity and resources has been published
in Russian. In the former Soviet Union, research on birch sap
indicates that it can be used against anaemia, cancer, tuber-
culosis, kidney and liver stones, gout, arthritis, rheumatism,
cold and skin diseases. It also has diuretic properties, can be
used as worm powder and prevents tooth troubles [2833].
“Biomos, a medicine, based on birch sap, has been found to
heal wounds and burns and work as an antiphlogistic and
antisclerotic substance [34]. In veterinary medicine birch sap
cures some cattle diseases and increases milk production [35],
while in bee farming it is used as extra feed for the bees [36].
ere is a rather limited number of modern ethnological or
ethnobotanical reports on the use of birch sap for food outside
the former Soviet Union [2,10]. Although tree saps have been
mostly used as a simple beverage, they also have medicinal
and cosmetic functions [14,37,38] as well as folk veterinary
applications [39]. Recent research on the use of birch sap for
cosmetic purposes has shown promising results [40].
e purpose of this paper is to give an overview of the use of
tree saps in northern and eastern Europe (including northern
Eurasia). Relying on ethnographic data, travellers' accounts
and contemporary ethnobotanical eldworks, we discuss the
means of collection, preservation, food and non-food use of
saps of dierent species, covering especially the genera Betula
and Acer.
Northern Europe
Tapping birch sap has a long tradition in Denmark. It is
mentioned by botanist Simon Paulli in 1648. Later authors
write that it was used not only as a beverage, but also, by adding
yeast and malt, made a refreshing ale.
Birch sap has also been used for medicinal purposes [41]. It
was included in the “Danish pharmacopeia” in 1772. Birch sap
was recommended against hepatitis, rash, intestinal worms and
scurvy [42]. Birch sap was also added when making cheese in
order to protect it from vermin [43].
A perfume factory in Denmark bought 600 l of birch sap
annually in the mid-1950s and used it for making hair-water.
It was also used as emergency food in times of food shortages.
e sap was also used when making bread [42]. A wine made
of birch sap was made by adding yeast to it in earlier days [44].
Birch sap has been tapped and used in some parts of Nor-
way. In the medieval “Flatey book” (“Flateyjarbók”), completed
in 1394, there is a description of how King Sverre and his men
“spent two nights in the wilderness and had no food but sap
they could suck from the trees” [2]. Norwegian writer Peder
Claussøn Friis described in the 1590s from Finnmark that sap
was tapped and used by herdsmen and woodcutters [45]. ere
are many descriptions in the topographical literature from 18th
and 19th century about the use of birch sap for food in various
parts of Norway. It was also used by the higher classes [2].
Children, especially, have gathered and appreciated birch
sap, but adults have drunk it too. Most of the sap produced
has been used as a fresh drink, but in some areas they added
yeast, and in more recent times also sugar, in order to produce
a kind of wine. e sap was also used when making coee. For
children it was a kind of sweet [46].
Tapping of sap from the birch tree in the spring used to be
very common in Sweden. Cartographer Olaus Magnus made
a brief note in 1555 that Scandinavians were tapping birch
for sap and using it as a fresh drink [2]. It is also mentioned
in a medicinal handbook from 1578. Two species of birch are
common all over Sweden: silver birch Betula pendula Roth. and
downy birch. Betula pubescens Ehrh. Particularly the former
has been used. In some parts of southern Sweden the Norway
maple (Acer platanoides L.) has also been utilized for this
purpose. Ethnographical records from various provinces give
detailed information on the gathering and manufacturing of
the sap into drinks or its use as an ingredient in various food-
stus. A pine-wood pipe was used for the collection [4749].
Disputes about the right to tap birch sap from trees were taken
to court as early as the 17th century [2].
Birch sap has been seen as a good food ingredient and used
for gruel (made of birch sap and barley meal), in coee, and
in some areas (such as northern Dalecarlia) made into ale by
mixing with malt and yeast [1,47,48]. From Småland there
is a description from 1749 saying that the birch sap ale was
sometimes avoured with bog myrtle (Myrica gale L.) [50]. At
© The Author(s) 2012 Published by Polish Botanical Society
Svanberg et al. / Tree saps
the end of the 19th century and beginning of the 20th century
birch sap was mostly gathered and consumed by children
[2,51]. Information concerning sap can also be obtained from
literature. Poets like Carl Michael Bellman (18th century,
“birch sap is my life and liquor is my health”) and Erik Axel
Karlfeldt (late 19th century, “the sap of the birches is spraying
from drilled bark”) mention the use of birch sap as a drink
[1]. Birch sap was obviously not only used by the peasantry,
but also by the aristocracy and bourgeoisie, something that is
also proved by recipes in older cook-books. For instance urban
taverns provided wine made of birch sap in the late 18th and
early 19th century. Many recipes mention additives such as bog
cranberry (Vaccinium oxycoccus L.) juice, barberry (Berberis
vulgaris L.) juice, lemon (Citrus × limon) juice and also, if
these were not available, gooseberry (Ribes uva-crispa L.) wine
(Tab. 1). ese recipes probably have a German origin [2].
Besides beverages, vinegar was also made of birch sap [52].
According to a Swedish translation of Wolfgangi Hildebrand's
“Magia naturalis” from 1654, some birch juice should be added
to cheese to protect it from worms [53].
In some parts of Sweden it was considered as famine food
in the springtime. Historian Pehr Arvid Säve [54] writes that
poor people on the island of Gotland used to gather birch sap
and use it as a beverage. A birch tree could produce around 2
l a day for two weeks on Gotland. During the last real famine
in Sweden, in 1867, tree-sap was widely used in the southern-
most part of Sweden, for bread, gruel and as a mealtime drink.
Birch was therefore referred to as the “poor-man's cow”, ac-
cording to one record from southern Sweden [10].
Birch sap has also been used among the Saami in Sweden,
especially among the Forest Saami in Västerbotten. It was used
when making gruel. e Saami also used the sap and inner
bark from pine (Pinus sylvestris L.) and spruce [Picea abies (L.)
Karst.], particularly the former. It was gathered in early spring.
It was dried into our which was eaten with milk and fat [55].
Maple sap was occasionally gathered as well, for instance in
Öland, where it was still collected in the 1930s [2].
As in many other northern and central European countries,
there is a renewed interest in using birch sap also in Sweden.
Small-scale production of bottled sap exists. Every year courses
are run in order to develop an interest for this non-timber
wood product.
Birch-wine is also mentioned in several 18th and 19th cen-
tury texts [5660]. Wine from birch sap is nowadays made by
some home producers, but also by small companies working
with local products and gastronomic food. Most famous is the
“Grythyttan Björkvin, a rather expensive sparkling birch-wine,
developed from an old recipe from 1785. It is produced by a
small company in Jämtland and sold by the government owned
chain of liquor stores (Systembolaget).
In Finland and Carelia birch sap was tapped o in the spring
and used as a refreshing drink [61,62]. e Saami in Finland
also made a refreshing beverage of birch sap [63,64]. e silver
birch (B. pendula), especially, has been harvested. Tapping birch
trunks has a long tradition and was regarded as an important
commodity in early modern times. Various techniques were
used to collect the sap [65]. In eastern and northern Finland sap
was also gathered from the birch tree stumps by making a pit in
it. ere is a dissertation from Turku in 1759 describing in detail
the use of birch sap in Finland. It was obviously widely used
both by the peasantry and the nobility. Sap was not only used
as a fresh drink but also as beer. It was naturally fermented and
could be used during the summer. e dissertation describes
how the sap was used for manufacturing syrup, sugar and
other goods. It also gives a recipe for birch sap-wine avoured
with cloves and lemon peel [66]. When Swedish historian Nils
Reinhold Broocman visited the Governor of Villmanstrand
(Lappeenranta) on the shore of the Lake Saimaa in 1754 he was
served sparkling wine made of birch sap [2].
Birch trees were regarded as private property and individual
trees were even given names (similar to names of cattle) in
the area of Vyborg in south-eastern part of the country. e
month when the birch gives sap is known as “mahlan aju” or
“mahlakuu” in the Finnish folk calendar. is name for the
month of April is used in dictionaries by the priest Christfrid
Ganander in the late 18th century and by philologist Elias
Lönnrot in the mid-19th century, but has also been recorded
later [67].
In south-western Finland a kind of ale was made of birch
sap mixed with our and malt [68]. e Dutch diplomat An-
thonis Goeteeris noticed as early as 1616 that birch sap was
Additives Regions used (time)
Anethum graveolens L. (stems) BE
Avena sativa L. (sprouting grain) LT
Berberis vulgaris L. (fruit juice) SE
Carum carvi L. (dried fruits) EE (all the time)
Citrus × limon (juice) BE, SE, UA (commonly nowadays)
Citrus × limon (peels) EE (last 80 years), FI (18th century)
Fabaceae (beans) RU
Hordeum vulgare L. (roasted grains) UA (now and in the past)
Juniperus communis L. (twigs) EE (all the time)
Malus sp. (dried fruits) UA (now and in the past)
Myrica gale L. (herb) SE (18th century)
Prunus sp. (cherry fruits) BE
Pyrus sp. (dried fruits) UA (now and in the past)
Quercus robur L. (bark) BE
Ribes nigrum L. (twigs) EE (all the time), LT (new)
Ribes uva-crispa L. (wine) SE
Syzygium aromaticum (L.) Merrill &
Perry (ower buds/clove)
FI (18th century)
Vaccinium myrtillus L. (juice) BE
Vaccinium oxycoccus L. (fruit juice) SE
Viti s sp. (rasins) EE (last 50 years), UA (commonly
(Rye) bred BE, EE, LT, RU, (PL – rarely)
Grains (barley, oats), our (barley,
oats, rye)
EE (until mid-20th cent), FI
(modern), LT
Maltose SE, FI, RU
Sugar BE, EE (recent), NO, UA
Wax RU
Yea s t DK, SE, NO
BA – Bosnia and Herzegovina; BE – Belarus; BG – Bulgaria; CZ
– Czech Republic; DK – Denmark; EE – Estonia; FI – Finland; GE –
Germany; HU – Hungary; LA – Latvia; LT – Lithuania; NO – Norway;
PL – Poland; RO – Romania; RU – Russian Federation; SE – Sweden;
SK – Slovakia; SI – Slovenia; UA – Ukraine; UK – Scotland and
Tab. 1 Additives for the fermentation of tree saps.
© The Author(s) 2012 Published by Polish Botanical Society
Svanberg et al. / Tree saps
used for brewing beer in Finland [53]. A recipe of traditional
birch sap beer from northern Carelia is given by Räsänen [69].
A questionnaire about the use of birch sap was sent out in
1963 and the answers show that it was still tapped in the central
and south-western part of the country [65]. A renewed fashion
for tapping birch sap has been seen since the 1980s. Currently
there is an increasing interest in birch sap as a non-timber
forest product, both from researchers and new product devel-
opers. Birch water and syrup made of birch sap is available in
well-equipped Finnish stores.
Norway maple (A. platanoides) grows only in the southern-
most part of Finland, and it was therefore more seldom used
In Estonia, birch and Norway maple sap has been widely
collected for as long as can be remembered. April was known
as “mahlakuu” (“sap month”) in some parts of Estonia. is
name was recorded in 1660 by linguist Heinrich Göseken , who
wrote “Aprilis Maala kuu / â uxu betularum arborum, qve in
illo mense uunt” [70].
In his travelogue from 1615 Adolph Nickolaus von Stein-
kallenfels describes the gathering of birch sap in Estonia [71].
Linguist August Wilhelm Hupel describes, in 1777, that birch
sap was used for making a fresh beverage, but also for making
wine and vinegar [72]. Birch sap was not only gathered by
ethnic Estonian peasants, but also by Swedish-speaking coast-
dwellers [73,74]. e Setu people in south-eastern Estonia also
gathered birch sap [2]. In the South Estonian dialect there is a
special word for sap-tapping: “tikkama” [75,76].
Norway maple (A. platanoides) is less common in Estonia
and people did not dare to spoil their yard trees except on the
islands of the Baltic Sea, where maple sap is considered “the
right sap, while birch sap is not appreciated. However, there are
records that boys used to tap maple sap illegally from trunks in
manor parks in mainland Estonia [74]. e maple tapping time
period was before the snow melted, while birch sap was foraged
aer the snow was gone. Among common people B. pendula
has been the preferred sap-tree, although it gives less sap that
B. pubescens, as it was believed that its sap is sweeter. However,
the experiment showed that B. pendula gives 158–282 l in
20–27 days and contains less sugar than B. pubescens, which
gives 67–151 l in 31–38 days and Acer platanoides 19–32 l in
32–38 days [77]. It was also believed that a tree growing on a
hill had sweeter sap (Fig. 1). Sap was collected using a wooden
or metal spout in a drilled hole, but also by striking a scythe in
the trunk. A collecting container was placed under the drop-
ping spout and changed as it lled up [78].
Starting from 1972, centralized collection of birch sap was
organized through state forest enterprises (Fig. 2). e plans
for collecting were xed, the quality standards for chemical and
physical qualities were established, the techniques of collection
changed, and opened containers were replaced by relatively
hermetic collecting [79]. Two food-factories stocked up and
processed sap, adding bog cranberry (Vaccinium oxycoccos L.)
or quince [Chaenomeles spp.] juice, as well as sugar, and sold
it in the shops [12,80]. In addition, the birch sap was used to
produce shampoo. Over 30 tons of birch sap were collected in
1976 for that purpose [12]. In modern Estonia a few men of en-
terprise have found use for larger amounts of semi-industrially
gathered birch sap in the form of the birch vodka “Kaseviin
and birch wine; also fresh birch sap is sold locally or exported
to Italy [81].
With the fall of the Soviet Union, collecting birch (and less
frequently Norway maple) sap still remained an important
activity for rural people. In spring every year newspapers
re-introduce the techniques of collecting and using birch sap.
e majority of the population know the taste of birch sap.
Historically, most of the maple and a lot of birch sap was used
fresh, for drinking and making food (instead of water for tea,
soups, and porridges) [82]. When there was a shortage of sugar,
particularly during wartime, the tree sap was used to make
syrup for sweetening food [12,77]. For some families making
syrup is still a kind of ritual entertainment.
The main means of preserving birch sap was through
alcoholic fermentation. Besides the plain sour drink that was
kept for months in the cellar and used during hay-making,
dierent drinks were produced, like kvass (light ale), beer, and
mead. For the fermentation, dierent additives were used, like
twigs of black currant (Ribes nigrum L.) and juniper (Juniperus
communis L.), caraway fruits (Carum carvi L.); and later also
Fig. 1 Birch sap is preferably collected on the hills, often near
homesteads. Kambja, Tartu County, Estonia, in 2012. Photograph:
Raivo Kalle.
Fig. 2 Collecting of birch sap for the food industry in the early
1990s, the last years of Soviet regime, Tiksoja, Tartu County, Estonia.
Photograph: Lembit Michelson (EFA.204.0-169211).
© The Author(s) 2012 Published by Polish Botanical Society
Svanberg et al. / Tree saps
raisins and lemon peels. Sometimes, grains or avour were
added aer fermentation, to produce specic kvass [12,83].
Although detailed recipes on how to make wine and sparkling
wine from birch sap were published as early as the end of the
18th century [72,84], there is no trace of their imitation in
ethnographic data. When in the beginning of the 20th century
so drinks became available in shops, the consumption of
fresh birch sap dropped considerably [82]. In the 1970s (and
even later), birch-sap was processed and was used not only at
hay-making time in summer [13,85]. Fermented birch sap is
still perceived as a hay-time drink, but many rural households,
also without cattle, prepare birch-sap for beverages. Nowadays
the fresh birch sap is stored in freezers and is used for instance
in the sauna.
e cosmetic use of birch sap was widespread in Estonia. In
the 19th century it was believed that one who washes his or her
face with the rst drops of birch sap will get rid of freckles and
their face will stay pale all the summer. Fair skin was valued
among the peasantry, as well as among the landowners. It was
also said that if one washes the eyes with the rst drops of
birch or maple sap it will keep them clean and healthy. Sore
eyes were treated with birch and maple sap compresses. ere
are a few reports of using birch sap for treating specic skin
diseases [86].
ere are also a few reports on the use of other tree species
for tapping sap. Folklorist Oskar Loorits [87] has a mid-20th
century record of using thicker rowan trees (Sorbus aucuparia
L.), a few other authors [12,82] mention the tapping of its sap.
Ethnographer Aliis Moora [82] also reports the tapping of
linden (Tilia cordata L.). Recent eld work report the modern
use of sycamore maple (A. pseudoplatanus) on Hiiuma Island.
e latter taxon is probably more widely used than was earlier
reported, since this maple is widespread in Estonian urban
As in the other Baltic countries there is a long tradition of
drinking birch sap in spring and making beverages from it to
be consumed in the months of summer heat. e month of
April is known as “sulu mēnesis” in Latvian and “kõļimkū
in Livonian, both meaning “birch sap month, indicating that
sap was gathered at that time [88]. Latvian ethnologist August
Bielenstein [89] gave a detailed description of the traditional
gathering and manufacturing of birch sap among the Latvians
(Fig. 3).
Also the Livonian people of northern Latvia had a name
for April meaning “birch sap month. ey tapped the birch in
spring-time and the sap was fermented in a large vessel [90].
Tapping birch sap has been a common by-product in the
Latvian forests up until the present day [91]. In the Soviet pe-
riod Latvia was one of four grand industrial collectors of birch
sap in the Union [12]. Birch sap is important in contemporary
Latvian culture. Wine and other products made of birch sap
are available in stores. Birch sap from Latvia is exported frozen
and available in many countries.
Birch sap was gathered in large quantities in the 1830s and
1840s by the Lithuanians. It was used both fresh and fermented
[92]. In some parts of Lithuania, birch and Norway maple sap
was fermented into a kind of refreshing beer (similarly as in
Belarus and Ukraine), at least up until the mid-20th century
In modern Lithuania, sap is gathered from Norway maple
(A. platanoides) or birch (B. pendula, rarely also B. pubescens).
Usually, old and thick trees are used for extracting the sap, and
every year the same trees are used. e most common proce-
dure is to drill a hole into a tree trunk at a height of about 50
cm. A small wooden gutter (nowadays metal or plastic tube) is
inserted into the hole and the sap leaks into a bucket beneath.
Maple sap starts owing in early spring, around March. It is
easily checked by breaking o a small twig; if the breakage be-
comes wet and even starts to trickle it is time to start. e time
is described traditionally “aer snowmelt but still with frozen
ground“. e maple gives 3 to 5 l per day. e sap ow depends
on weather conditions and lasts from few days up to 3 weeks.
While early sap is clear, at the end it becomes dreggy and tends
to ferment sooner. Due to the sweet taste, the small amount
and the fact that this is the very rst fresh food received from
plants in the year, maple sap is consumed immediately and is
not conserved. When maple sap is nished, one can proceed
with birch sap. Again, readiness can be tested by breaking a
twig or looking at a fresh tree stump. Birches are much more
generous: 10 to15 l out of one hole per day is the revenue for a
relatively old (ca. 60 years) birch tree. e bough is cut, or twig
broken, and a jar attached. As birches are very common, large
amounts of sap were/are extracted and preserved. Additional
ingredients may dier: grains of barley or oats, peas, rye our, a
chunk of bread. Especially oats soon sprout shoots and the ger-
minated grains form a solid cover. Aer a few months – usually
during hay-making – this cover is removed and the fermented
sap is consumed. It is commonly believed to have revitalizing
properties. Ethnologist Vacys Milius [94] mentions the use of
twigs of black currant, Ribes nigrum L., for sap conservation.
He believes this is a rather recent innovation. Birch sap has also
been used for washing hair [95].
Scotland and England
e sap of trees has also been collected in Scotland. Several
species have been utilized for this, such as birch (B. pendula),
ash (Fraxinus excelsior L.), eld maple (Acer campestre L.) and
sycamore (A. pseudoplatanus). e harvesting of birch sap took
place in March. e tap was usually made of a hollow elder
Fig. 3 Way of tapping sap from Birch in Latvia in the late 19th
century. From Bielenstein [89].
© The Author(s) 2012 Published by Polish Botanical Society
Svanberg et al. / Tree saps
twig or a grooved peg. A good tree could produce as much as
two gallons (approx. 7.5 l) in a single season [96].
e sap was used as a fresh beverage, and sometimes it was
made into wine. English gardener Moses Cook gave, in 1675,
a quaint recipe for making wine of birch sap [88]. Birch sap
was considered to have medicinal qualities. According to Scot-
tish folk medicine it was used in preventing baldness. Queen
Victoria is said to have drunk large quantities of birch sap
when she was at Balmoral Castle, in order to halt the thinning
of her hair [97]. In the Scottish Highlands ash sap was given
to newborn children as their rst nourishment and in Ireland
and England to treat earache [98].
Birch trees were traditionally still tapped in the Highlands
as late as the late 1940s, as a rule, the sap was boiled down to
make a sweetmeat [8]. However, birch tapping appears, as in
other parts of northern Europe, to be making a comeback in
Scotland [97].
We also have a few notes from various parts of England
where birch sap used to be tapped, for instance from Mont-
gomeryshire, Hampshire and Yorkshire. e trees were tapped
in February or early March [2].
In Lincolnshire and the Highlands birch sap wine was made
and used as a tonic and for treating rheumatism. e trees were
tapped for a few days only in order to not exhaust the tree [99].
Central Europe
Czech Republic
e month of March is called in Czech “březen” – “the
month of birches”. Tapping sap from birch, maple and beech
(Fagus sylvatica L.) is described from the Bohemian Forest.
e best sap came from the birch, though. In some areas of
Bohemia young girls and boys used to gather on 23 March in
order to tap birch sap. is was celebrated by eating food and
dancing around a birch. e girls consumed the birch sap in
order to be healthy and, as grown-up women, fertile [4,100].
Disabled persons went in secret to a birch-tree on the rst
day of March to cut the bark and to put a piece of linen with
a drop of blood into the incision. If the bark inosculated, the
impairment was said to be healed. e sap harvested on that
day was also assumed to have healing power: it was drunk for
good health, against infertility, etc. [101]. Girls washed them-
selves with birch sap to be beautiful and not to have freckles.
Some of them also drank it to be healthy and to have many
children in marriage [102].
Birch sap has been used as medicine among the Germans,
especially against lung diseases and gout. Physician Hierono-
mys Bock describes, in his “Kreuterbuch” (1551), its medicinal
use. In the 1880s birch sap was still harvested in the Harz
Mountains and in the uringian Forest [2]. It was also still
used as a cosmetic in the early 20th century [103]. Birch sap
was still gathered in East Germany in the 1980s (Fig. 4).
According to a plethora of ethnographic sources, the use of
birch sap (mainly from B. pendula, more rarely from B. pubes-
cens), was widespread in the 19th century. It was usually drunk
fresh, extracted by drilling a hole and making a little trough
or pipe from wood, or by breaking a branch. In the mid-20th
century this use was (nearly) obsolete in most parts of Poland
or practiced mainly as boys' spring entertainment [104108].
e use of birch sap was most intense and widespread in east-
ern parts of the country (e.g. Podlasie and Mazovia regions).
Processing of birch sap was carried out relatively rarely but is
documented in a few regions at the turn of the 19th and 20th
century. For example, in the Kozienice Forest (central Poland)
it was boiled with rye our and milk [109]; in the Kurpie region
(north-east Poland) birch syrup was produced by boiling o
the water from the sap, and used as food sweetener [110]. Birch
sap has never been sold in Poland on a large scale; it is only
available in health food shops, as a kind of curiosity.
Norway maple (A. platanoides) sap was extracted very rarely
in Poland, mainly in its eastern part, and, aer 1945, in the
territories of west and north-eastern Poland, where the settlers
from the present Lithuania and Belarus were moved. It was
usually drunk fresh, although the inhabitants of the village of
Wrzosy (north-east Poland, Polish immigrants from Lithuania)
made a fermented drink out of it [93,105,107]. Sycamore (A.
pseudoplatanus) sap was also occasionally drunk, only fresh,
mainly in SE Poland [105,107].
Very rarely a few other species of trees were used to obtain
sap, drunk in the fresh state, these were mainly hornbeam
(Carpinus betulus L.), linden (Tilia spp.), sour cherry (Prunus
cerasus L.) and wild bird cherry (P. avium L.) [104,107].
Birch (B. pendula) and maple sap were commonly drunk
fresh by Slovaks (mainly boys) in 19th century Slovakia
[111113]. Only the Latin name of eld maple (A. campestre)
is mentioned in ethnographic sources [111,112], but sycamore
(A. pseudoplatanus) was probably commonly used as well.
Fig. 4 Tapping birch sap in Colditz, near Leipzig, in East Germany in
April 1985. Photograph: Wolfgang Kluge. Source: http://de.wikipedia.
© The Author(s) 2012 Published by Polish Botanical Society
Svanberg et al. / Tree saps
Attempts were made at the beginning of the 19th century to
make sugar from maple species (following the North American
example) on an industrial scale in the present territory of
Slovakia, but later they were abandoned [114].
Eastern Europe
In Belarusian, March is called “сакавiк” [sakavik], “the
month of sap. Some historical data on the use of tree sap in
Belarus are present in Rostański's ethnobotanical question-
naire of 1883. A few of his respondents reported that the use
of both Betula spp. and Acer platanoides sap was very common
there. One of the ways of utilizing the fermented birch and
Norway maple sap was boiling it into soup with young shoots
of Aegopodium podagraria [107]. ere is also 19th century
information that sap from European aspen (Populus tremula
L.) was gathered by the Belarusian peasantry [104].
Although it was a popular beverage, it was supposed that
one may fall ill with fever having drunk sweet birch sap. In the
Brest Region people believed that someone who drank birch
sap would have lice [115].
In 1972 Belorussia was the third biggest birch sap producer
in the Soviet Union, lagging behind only Ukraine and Rus-
sia [12]. ere it was suggested that sap can be tapped from
mature birch forests for three years before clear cutting, with
an estimated yield of 40000 l/ha [116]. Nowadays in the Eu-
ropean part of the former Soviet Union birch sap is oen sold
with lemon juice added. Although this practice is of relatively
modern origin it was already reported in Rostański's eth-
nobotanical questionnaire of 1883 in the Belarusian Polesia
region (lemon juice and sugar was added and the bottle was
closed for 2–4 weeks) [107]. In the times of the Soviet Union
a recipe of Belarussian origin was published, it described
making kvass with a long storage time: birch sap was closed in
a vessel with rye bread, oak bark (Quercus robur L.), cherries
(Prunus sp.) and dill stems (Anethum graveolens L.), with no
yeast added [117].
In modern Belarus birch sap collecting is regulated by state
rules, and all industrially produced sap has been collected
by producers authorised by the state. In 2011 over 25000
tons of birch sap was collected, according to a report by the
Belarus authorities [118]. Part of it is industrially processed
and exported in carton packages with dierent additives (e.g.
Vaccinium myrtillus L.) to many European countries (e.g.
Germany, France and Baltic States).
Belarusian citizens have the “right to collect birch sap for
their own use in the places, allocated for this purposes by the
legal entities conducting forestry. It's necessary to apply to the
forestry organisation at the place of domicile. […] Birch sap
may be collected in specially protected areas provided it is
allowed by the protection and use mode for these territories”
Russian Federation
e English botanist John Tradescant the elder who trav-
elled to Arctic Russia in 1618 observed in the vicinity of
Arkhangelsk that the peasantry gathered birch sap and used it
as a fresh drink [2]. Early information about sap production
and utilization can also be found in a Russian manuscript from
1768. People have traditionally used the sap as a fresh drink as
well as for making wine, vinegar, syrup, kvass and confection-
ery [120,121]. Russian ethnographer Dmitri Zelenin [122] de-
scribes the various ways birch sap was utilized by the Russians.
It was drunk fresh, but also fermented by adding malt, wax,
beans or rye bread. Also Norway maple sap (A. platanoides)
was gathered. In the 1890s, the peasants in the Vologda area
still gathered sap from the Scots pine (P. sylvestris) [104].
In the Perm region birch sap was consumed as a bev-
erage and used externally against sores on the shanks. To
make ointment, one took two bottles of the sap and 0.06 l
of ethyl alcohol and evaporated it on a small re until the
liquid became syrup. The extract was spread on a cloth
and put on the sores. In the Transbaykal region the freshly
harvested birch sap was given to children with milk during the
teething period [123].
Not only the Russians but also many other ethnic groups
living within the territory of Russia used sap. Votes, Izhorians
and Vepsians, who lived in the Saint Petersburg Governorate
at the end of 18th century, used maple sap for making syrup.
Birch sap was drunk fresh to improve the health and made
into sparkling drinks and vinegar [124]. The Mordvinian
used the thickened sap as food. It was also used for medicinal
purposes [125]. It was also known as a beverage among Ob-
Ugrians [63]. Birch sap for washing faces was still used among
Estonian settlers in the Omsk region at the end of 20th century
[86]. Yukagirs living in eastern Siberia are known to have
utilized the sap of poplars (Populus sp.) and willows (Salix sp.)
[126]. e German botanist and explorer Johannes Gottlieb
Georgi [127] writes that the Bashkirs used birch sap water as
a refreshing spring beverage. Tofalars and Altays living in the
Altay area used thickened birch sap as a sweetener in tea [10].
Ethnographic data on the use of birch sap also exist from many
other ethnic groups in Siberia and Russian Far East, such as
Evenki, Itelmens and others [1,5,128].
In Soviet times natural and preserved birch sap, birch sap
with sugar, “Берёзка” (birch) and “Весенний” (vernal) drinks,
birch kvass and maple drinks were available on the retail
market while saps with herb and pine needle extracts were
widespread [129]. In perfumery and the cosmetics industry
birch sap was added to lotions and shampoos [22,35].
Industrial sap collecting in the Soviet Union started in
Kazan in the 1920s. In 1937 over 300 tons of birch sap were
collected for making wine and kvass in Sverdlovsk [35]. At the
end of the 1980s the annual sap production reached more than
70000 tons [129]. Four species of birch (Betula costata Trautv.,
B. pendula, B. platyphylla Sukaczev, B. pubescens) are used for
tapping sap in Russia [130]. Daily birch sap extraction ranges
from 0.9 up to 13.5 and equates in average 4–5 l per tree of B.
pendula, B. platyphylla and B. pubescens [121]. Korean birch (B.
costata) appears to be of the highest sap productivity (50–78 l
per day) as compared with the other birch species [131]. e
amount of sap produced depends on the size of the tree, so
values given by dierent authors may vary from a few to a
several dozen litres.
Aer the collapse of the Soviet Union the former birch
sap production was completely shut down [132]. However,
some regional authorities have recently undertaken eorts to
restart birch sap production. For example, the government of
the Khabarovsk region has developed such a program [133].
e technology of sap tapping and production specication
for “Натуральный березовый сок” (natural birch sap) and
“Дальневосточный березовый сок с сахаром” (far east birch
sap with sugar) have been developed [132,134].
© The Author(s) 2012 Published by Polish Botanical Society
Svanberg et al. / Tree saps
At the end of the 20th century, Russian researchers pro-
posed the use of coniferous cell sap [129] and phloem sap [135]
as prospective substances for medicine, cosmetics, agriculture,
household chemicals, etc. Such tree species as Pinus sylvestris
L., Picea abies (L.) Karst., Abies sibirica Ledeb., Tilia sp. and
Fraxinus sp. were considered to be the most productive for
sap tapping.
In Ukrainian the month of March is known as “березень”
[berezen'] – “the month of birches”. In Ukraine birch sap is
widely used and sold in shops. In 1972, while in the whole of
the Soviet Union around 25000 tons of birch sap was industri-
ally collected, the share of Ukraine was 20000 tons of birch sap
[12]. It is usually drunk fresh, pasteurized, oen with lemon
juice. Traditionally it was fermented in wooden barrels with
dried fruits (apples and pears) and/or roasted barley added to
it. It lasts as long as late summer, and was drunk as a refresh-
ing drink during hay-making and cereal harvest. Nowadays a
variety of additives are used, mainly lemon juice, raisins and/
or sugar. e use of birch sap decreased aer the Chernobyl
nuclear catastrophe localized in the main birch sap region of
Ukraine, and nowadays some people still tend to make the sap
themselves and not buy in the stores out of fear of drinking
radioactive sap [136].
Every year the beginning of the collecting season is an-
nounced by the media as important news. Short lms made
during sap collection and recipes for sap preparation and use
are quite popular on Ukrainian Internet sites. A large share
of commercial sap collection (made by forest enterprises) is
exported. e results of a recent study, 2012, on birch sap use in
some villages in the Vinnytsia Oblast of Ukraine, conducted by
ethnobotanist Iwona Kołodziejska-Degórska, show that both B.
pendula and B. pubescens are used, a variety of sap extraction
methods are used (e.g. pipes drilled into the tree, even made
from ball pen tubes; one or two cuts with a tube, a grass stalk or
a metal sheet bent into a V-shaped rut underneath etc.; Fig. 5,
Fig. 6). Most people collect only small amounts (up to 10 l)
into plastic bottles (Fig. 7) and use the sap mainly in the fresh
state, although the traditional methods of fermentation are still
known and used by some individuals and birch sap collection
remains an important annual activity. In spite of earlier reports
on non-food uses of birch sap in the region, such as medicinal
(treating skin diseases internally and externally), a source of
vitamins (especially for children), as a diuretic [137] and cos-
metic (to remove freckles [138]) none of research participants
reported them. For commercial collection of sap plastic bags
and glass 3 l jars are used.
Southeastern Europe
Bosnia, Carinthia and Slovenia
e use of birch, maple and European beech (F. sylvatica)
sap by herdsmen has been reported from Bosnia [4]. e
review of edible plants of Bosnia and Herzegovina mentions
only two species of trees whose sap is used: A. platanoides and
A. pseudoplatanus [139].
Nobleman Johann Weikhard von Valvasor describes in
his famous “Die Ehre deβ Hertzogthums Crain” [140] from
Carniola that a healthy beverage was made of the birch sap.
Birch sap was still gathered around Logatec in Inner Carniola
Fig. 5 All over Ukraine birch sap is collected into reused plastic bot-
tles, Vinnytsia Oblast, 2012. Photograph: Iwona Kołodziejska-Degórska.
Fig. 6 V-shaped metal spout used in Ukraine, Vinnytsia Oblast,
2012. Photograph: Iwona Kołodziejska-Degórska.
© The Author(s) 2012 Published by Polish Botanical Society
Svanberg et al. / Tree saps
in Slovenia in the mid-20th century [141]. ere are records of
tapping birch-sap from the Carinthian Slovenes in neighbour-
ing Austria from the end of 19th century [142].
In the literature there are some data on the use of sap from
Tatar maple (Acer tataricum L.). e sweet juice is used as food
reinforcement, especially for children and young people. Juice
owing from the stems of plants was collected, ltered and
compressed. e time of tapping, methods of processing and
applications are not specied [143]. Recent eld investigations
show that tree saps are generally used for medicinal purposes.
For instance, rubbing of the roots of the hair with birch (Betula
pendula) sap is believed to help hair growth.
e reason for the limited use of birch and maple in tra-
ditional food and folk medicine among Bulgarians is their
fragmented distribution throughout the country. However,
grapevines (Vitis vinifera L.) are sometimes tapped for their
sap. In the Rhodope Mountains on the eve of St. George (6th of
May) the grapevine plants are trimmed and sap is collected. In
the morning women smear their hair with this sap and throw
the rest in a eld of barley to grow their hair long as the cereal.
It was also believed that grape sap cured sore eyes. Sometimes
the sap is collected in glass bottles for medicine when needed
[144,145]. e sap is used against dry eyes, and also to remove
pigmentation and freckles. Grape vine sap is used against
gallstones and bladder stones, boiled in wine. In folk recipes
drops from cut branches are called “tears” of vine.
Purulent lichens are treated by brushing them with Cor-
nelian cherry (Cornus mas) sap [142]. e juice of the injured
stem of ash (Fraxinus ornus, Fraxinus excelsior) is used as a
laxative [143145].
Tapping trees for sap used to be common practice in all
forested parts of Hungary. In the north-eastern part of the
country, in the so-called “Nyírség” (meaning: “landscape with
birch forests”), which was rich in birch trees, collecting birch
sap (“birch-water”) had been an important way of making
money. Hawkers had taken it, in barrels, into the neighbouring
cities [146,147]. Birch-sap collection occured in other places
too, but no sources mention its collection in commercial
quantities [148158].
Most of the forests of Hungary are turkey oak and horn-
beam-oak forests – B. pendula is only a rare accompanying
species. Where birch occured, it was tapped in the spring.
e sap was drunk by herdsmen, forest-workers, only later by
children as a delicacy.
Besides B. pendula, the sap of Turkey oak (Quercus cer-
ris L.) [150,154,156,159,160], sycamore (A. pseudoplatanus)
[152,153], hornbeam (Carpinus betulus) [149], and wych
elm (Ulmus glabra Huds.) [160] was also collected [U. glabra,
being a rare species, may be false data, eld elm (Ulmus minor
Mill.) is more common]. In the oodplain of the river Drava
an Ulmus species – presumably European white elm (Ulmus
laevis Pall.), which is a common tree in today's oodplain
forests – mentioned as “híres szilfák” (“elm celebrities” [161])
was also tapped. Tapping was performed with axes or gimlets;
sap was blown or sucked out using reed, elder or nettle stems.
Where water-springs were rare, tree sap was the only drink
for herdsmen. e sap of Q. cerris was drunk from the early
spring until the beginning of frost. Herdsmen in Somogy
county built permanent taps into the oaks giving the best sap.
e best sap was like “good brown beer”, it even frothed. ese
oaks had been visited for up to 20 years. Taps made of elder
stems had grown into the tree-trunk over the years. Turkey
oak could also be tapped through the chill cracks; if tapping
was performed skilfully, sap spurted out [154,156]. Chill cracks
are long vertical cracks formed when superuous saps freeze
inside the tree in the freezing weather. ey oen occur in Q.
cerris growing in mesophilous sites too wet for this species.
Birch sap was drunk as a refreshment, and it was also
considered an appetizer. It was taken against stomach and
lung illnesses, women used it as a cosmetic, especially against
freckles. Vinegar and beer was brewed, wine was fermented
from sap [147]. Birch sap was also used for coagulating milk
Fig. 7 Bottles covered with birch bark are protected from the sun
and are more dicult to spot in the forest, Vinnytsia Oblast, 2012.
Photograph: Iwona Kołodziejska-Degórska.
Fig. 8 Collecting birch sap in a Romanian forest. Photograph: Nora
© The Author(s) 2012 Published by Polish Botanical Society
Svanberg et al. / Tree saps
Preservation method Purpose of use
Species Fresh Fermented Congested into syrup Pasteurized Freezing Food Medicinal use
Acer platanoides L. BA, BE, EE, FI, LT, PL, RO, RU, SE BE, EE, LT, PL EE, BA, BE, EE, PL, RU EE
Acer pseudoplatanus L. BA, EE, HU, PL, RO, SK BA, EE, PL,SK, RO HU
Acer campestre L. RO, SK   RO, SK
Acer tataricum L. BG   BG BG
Acer sp. UA UA   
Betula pendula Roth. and/or Betula
pubescens Ehrh.
B. platyphylla Sukaczev RU RU RU RU RU
B. costata Trau tv. RU RU RU RU RU
Pinus sylvestris L. SE, RU SE, RU RU
Picea abies (L.) Karst. SE, RU SE, RU RU
Sorbus aucuparia L. EE EE
Tili a spp. EE, PL, RU EE, PL, RU RU
Fraxinus ornus L. BG, BG
Fraxinus excelsior L. BG, UK UK BG, EE, UK
Fraxinus spp. RU   RU RU
Fagus sylvatica L. BA, CZ, RO BA, CZ
Carpinus betulus L. PL, HU, RO PL
Prunus cerasus L. PL   PL
Prunus avium L. PL   PL
Abies sibirica Ledeb. RU   
Populus spp. RU   
Populus tremula L. BE   
Salix spp. RU   
Vitis vinifera L. BG    BG
Cornus mas L. BG    BG
Ulmus glabra Huds.? HU
Ulmus minor Mill. HU
Ulmus laevis Pall. HU
Quercus cerris L. HU
Juglans regia L. RO
Tab. 2 e use of tree saps in the countries of northern and eastern Europe.
For abbreviations see Tab. 1.
© The Author(s) 2012 Published by Polish Botanical Society
Svanberg et al. / Tree saps
when making cheese [162]. Herdsmen preferred drinking sap
to water, because sap helps with the digestion of heavy food.
In veterinary practice it was used against bloating, dysentery
and as a diuretic [160]. Sap of A. pseudoplatanus was taken
against coughs [153].
Tapping of Q. cerris was last reported in Hungary in the
1960s [154], although it was forbidden by law then. Today, tree
sap collecting has become extinct.
Both maple and birch sap were occasionally used in Ro-
mania, both by Romanians and Transylvanian Hungarians
[163165]. Sap from A. pseudoplatanus and A. platanoides have
been tapped and used fresh by children [163,164], as well as A.
campestre [164]. In Transylvania the sap from B. pendula was
known as “virics” (“birch water”). It was extracted by various
methods, according to the reports from the 18th to the 20th
century. e tree-trunk was slit with an axe (Fig. 8) or a knife
at various heights and directions, or drilled to make a hole
[146,166,167]. Generally, a funnel made from birch bark, or
a stem of reed Phragmites australis (Cav.) Steud., elder Sam-
bucus nigra L. or hemlock, Conium maculatum L. collected in
the previous year [168], was applied to the section or a hole,
leaking the sap into a piece of pottery [164,169]. Birch sap was
given to weak children to strengthen them [163].
When local folk medicine was still practiced in Transylva-
nia, birch sap was sold in barrels in the local town markets,
and stored in cellars before use [168]. Virics was used against
jaundice and to remove kidney stones, and for coagulating
milk when making cheese [162,170]. It has been mentioned as
a treatment against cold [164,171], scab, eye disorders and as
a diuretic [163,172,173], but also against constipation, goitre,
headache and pneumonia. Blended with oil it could be used
to heal wounds [168]. Among the external applications, the
washing of moles and sunspots, the use as hair colouring with
sugar [168], and as a hair conditioner have been documented in
the country [174]. Moreover, birch sap has been consumed in
spring as a thirst-quenching drink [164,175], and as fermented
or boiled for making wine, beer, syrup or vinegar [146,176].
ese products were made in special buildings known as
“birch-water houses” among the Hungarian-speaking Szekély
[3]. e utilisation of birch sap is a disappearing practice in
contemporary Romania.
Tapping of hornbeam (C. betulus), beech (F. sylvatica) and
walnut (Juglans regia L.) is reported from Transsylvania [164].
Also grapevine (Vitis vinifera) sap is used among Venetian
diaspora and wider to treat eye inammations [177].
Discussion and conclusions
e presented data shows that tree saps have been harvested
in many European countries (Tab. 2 ). It can be assumed that
tree saps were most widely used where there were extensive
birch or maple stands, as these two genera produce the largest
amount of sap.
Two main uses of tree saps apply to most countries. e rst
one is nutritional. eir sugar content made tree saps a valuable
nutritional resource. is was utilized mainly in the form of
fresh and fermented beverages, as the extraction of condensed
sugar syrup from European tree species requires more energy
than in the case of the North American Acer saccharum. e
second was medicinal use (Tab. 3). Tree saps were believed to
contain some vital substances, hence, for example their use to
restore the growth of hair.
Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania are
the only countries where the use of tree sap (especially birch
sap) has remained an important activity. is is due to the
Betula sap Acer sap
Region Medicinal use Cosmetic use Medicinal use
BE lung diseases, gout
BG hair growth food suplement
CZ poor health, infertility for beauty, against freckles
EE (prevention of) eye diseases, skin diseases, source for
washing hair, against freckles and to bleach the skin (prevention of) eye diseases,
tuberculosis, lack of appetite
HU appetizer, stomach and lung diseases, against freckles cough
LT “revitialization washing hair
PL “revitalization”, kidney stones washing hair in order to strengthen it
RO kidney stones, jaundice, as milk-rennet, scab, diuretic,
conjunctivitis cold, pneumonia, constipation, struma,
wounds, headache, weakness in children
hair colouring, to remove sunspots and moles, as
hair conditioner
RU externally against sores, to help children during teething,
to improve health
washing face (EE immigrants)
SE scurvy, cholera
UA treating skin diseases (internal, external), source of
vitamins (especially for children), diuretic
to remove freckles
UK tonic, rheumatism, rst nourishment for new-born
prevention of baldness
Tab. 3 Medical/cosmetic applications of tree saps.
For abbreviations see Tab. 1.
© The Author(s) 2012 Published by Polish Botanical Society
Svanberg et al. / Tree saps
existence of large birch forests, low population density and
the incorporation of sap production into the former Soviet
economic system.
ere is also a large body of evidence for the extensive use
of tree saps from Scandinavia, Hungary, Poland and other
central European countries (e.g. Slovakia and Romania) but it
has mainly a historical character, as the extraction of tree sap
in these countries is nowadays viewed as a curiosity carried out
only by some individuals. However, in some regions tree sap is
slowly regaining its popularity in urban settings through niche
trading (delicatessen, health food shops, etc.).
Authors contribution (author initials): initiation and assem-
bling of the article (RS, ŁŁ, IS), “Introduction“ (IS, RS, ŁŁ, OZ),
tables (RS, AN, NP, ŁŁ, IS), Scandinavia (IS), Estonia (RK, RS,
IS), Latvia (IS, RK), Lithuania (DS, IS), British Isles (IS, RS),
Poland and Slovakia (ŁŁ), Czech Republic (IS, VK), Belarus
(ŁŁ, IS, RS, RK, VK), Russia (OZ, IS, RK, VK), Ukraine (ŁŁ,
IK-D), Romania (NP, ŁŁ, AD), Bosnia (IS, ŁŁ), Slovenia (IS),
Hungary (AD), Bulgaria (AN).
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... Опубликован ряд исследований, посвященных заготовке березового сока и влиянию внешних условий на сокопродуктивность [3,4,7,9,10,15,17,22]. Есть публикации о воздействии температуры и других факторов внешней среды на интенсивность соковыделения в условиях лесостепи [3,4,7,10,15]. ...
... Есть публикации о воздействии температуры и других факторов внешней среды на интенсивность соковыделения в условиях лесостепи [3,4,7,10,15]. В [4,12,16,17,19,22] рассмотрены свойства березового сока и его использование не только в качестве пищевого продукта, но и в медицинских целях и в косметических продуктах. ...
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The study showed a correlation between the intensity of sap release by birch trees and the trunk diameter, degree of crown development, and tree age. In addition to the characteristics of trees, sap release intensity also depended on weather conditions and tapping methods. The study object was a mature birch stand with blueberry ground cover (Kirishi forestry unit of the Leningrad region, Russia). The composition of the stand consisted of birch (65 %), spruce (21 %), aspen (8 %), alder (3 %), elm (2 %), and maple (1 %); the basal area was 0.6. The projective cover was 0.73. The average age, diameter and height were 76 yrs, 25.0 cm and 24.3 m, respectively. Tapping was carried out by the closed method. The tapping channels were 30–40 cm above the root neck. The intensity of sap release was found to depend on the number of channels and their location. The maximum intensity of sap release from one tapping channel was 285 mL/h, depending on the trunk diameter and tree age. The intensity of sap release varied throughout the day: it increased in the morning and early afternoon (until 1–2 pm), and decreased in the late afternoon. At night, sap release intensity was the lowest, or it stopped completely regardless of the tree's age, degree of crown development, and trunk diameter. At the average daily temperature between +3 and +6 °С in moky weather, each tree produced 0.54–1.37 L of sap per day, and at a higher temperature in sunny weather, 2.50–6.22 L per day. The higher the air and soil temperatures, the more intense the sap release. At the air temperature of –3.0 °С, the sap freezes. When the average daily air temperature stays above +10.0 °С for several days, the sap begins to ferment. For citation: Gryazkin A.V., Danilov D.A., Zaytsev D.A., Hoang Minh Anh, Thanh Tran Trung. Regulation of Sap Release when Tapping Betula pendula Roth. Lesnoy Zhurnal = Russian Forestry Journal, 2023, no. 4, pp. 180–189. (In Russ.).
... However, although the outset of spring bud burst is controlled by photoperiod and heat sum (Hänninen & Tanino, 2011;Hawkins & Dhar, 2012), birch trees' survival and adaptation to climate changes seems to be dependent by nitrogen soil availability (Possen et al., 2021). In Romania, the collection of birch sap in spring has become, in the past decades, a regular practice, mainly because of its benefits on different organs such as kidneys, liver, lungs, stomach or skin (Svanberg et al., 2012;Papp et al., 2014). Birch sap can be harvested from both rural and urban trees, without but it may have a different composition when those experience environmental stress (Grabek-Lejko et al., 2017). ...
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The collection of birch sap in spring has become, in the past decades, a regular practice in Romania, because of its multiple health benefits. Over the years, many collectors experienced unsatisfactory results in terms of the amount of sap harvested, usually attributed to the unpredictable spring weather of some years, with large variations from a day to another. The results of this study revealed that independently of weather conditions in spring, the best period of sap harvesting in NorthEast of Romania was between 25 th of March-5 th of April, when the air temperatures did not exceed 15 o C. Trees higher than 20 m were most productive. At the end of the growing season, tapped trees were smaller than those untapped. These results suggest that in time, the tapped trees are less productive due to loss of vigour rather than spring weather conditions.
... Супернапиток не заменяет препараты при тяжелых состояниях, но может использоваться в комплексе с поддерживающей терапией и для профилактики болезней ЖКТ. [4] 3. Защищает кости и организм от окислительного стресса В стакане диетического напитка содержится 130% суточной нормы марганца. Минерал играет огромную роль в поддержании здоровья костей, уменьшении потери костной массы. ...
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В статье рассмотрены основные свойства березового сока и его воздействие на организм человека. Проведен систематический обзор современной специализированной литературы и актуальных научных данных. Указан химический состав и пищевая ценность продукта, рассмотрено использование березового сока в различных видах медицины и эффективность его применения при различных заболеваниях. Отдельно проанализированы потенциально неблагоприятные эффекты березового сока на организм человека при определенных медицинских состояниях и заболеваниях. Расширенная HTML версия статьи приведена на сайте
... The birch juice is a traditional Eurasian (in particular northern Europe, western Asia, northern China and northern Japan) beverage that can be obtained from all varieties of birch (family Betulaceae) xylem sap [1]. Birch sap is usually harvested in the middle of March, after the Original Research Article: full paper (2023), «EUREKA: Physics and Engineering» Number 3 temperature reach 0 °C (preferably +5 °C) for several days in a row [2]. ...
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Birch juice is a drink made of birch sap of medium-sized wild trees at the springtime. It is popular especially in northern Europe and Asia on territories with occasionally waterlogged permeable soils. However, some of these areas coincide with highest tritium leakage ever recorded (Kyshtym, Chernobyl and Fukushima). Robust analyses on tritium levels (scintillation method) in the birch sap were carried out in location with a constant load of tritiated water between 2003 and 2016. Sampling the birch sap was carried out annually in season (usually from the final week of February to the first-week of April. Sampling of birch sap was usually has been carried out during the period when the daytime air temperature was within +(5–8) °C minimum for 3 days. During this period, began intensive sap flow. Data obtained is put in relation to air temperature and humidity in order to contribute to the understanding basic mechanisms of tritium intake via birch. Findings confirmed that tritium easily penetrates via water into any organism and it can accumulate there for much longer than its half-decay times. It was firstly revealed that it is possible to predict the concentration of this dangerous pollutant in the birch sap based on the temperature and humidity dynamics. And with continuous input of tritium into the environment, the concentration of tritium in free water increases polynomial. The specific tritium activity values due to the gradient of tritium concentration in the atmosphere-plant-ground system of the change in temperature and humidity. For the organization of monitoring and control, the possibility of radioecological safety for the affected areas was determined
... see Dogan et al. 2015); • alcoholic (fruits added to liqueurs, aromatized wines, cordials) and nonalcoholic beverages; syrups, kompot (preserved fruits in sweet water), tree saps (the fluid transported by xylem cells of a tree, mainly collected from birch and maple during early spring and then consumed fresh or preserved fermented, frozen, or pasteurized; specific to the Northern hemisphere, see also Svanberg et al. 2012); • herbal teas; • wood and other plant parts used in food smoking; ...
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In the past two decades, ethnobiologists have increasingly paid attention to the scouting and documentation of endangered corpora of local food elements and associated traditional knowledge. In this endeavor, food scouting encompasses the methodological tools used for mapping, inventorying, and documenting food and food-related resources. The growing body of research in this field is shedding light on the potentialities of these practices in obtaining baseline data regarding food heritage, which can, in turn, empower local communities in their dynamic understanding and safeguarding of this resource. While food scouting have been gaining an important role in current food and gastronomic ethnobiological research, as well as in other fields of study (e.g., geography and anthropology), little attention has been paid thus far to the methods and approaches underpinning these activities. To partially fill this gap, this contribution aims to tackle some methodological issues connected to the documentation of food and gastronomic elements embedded in local knowledge. Acknowledging the plethora of methods applicable in food scouting research, we describe three specific applications of food scouting to elicit data on local food diversity, highlighting their prospects and limitations. The first case addresses market surveys to obtain baseline data on the local food systems and their associated diversity, the second focuses on context-based freelisting methods for eliciting wild food plant uses, and the third discusses methods for scouting and inventorying artisanal food products. Acknowledging the contributions of Justin Nolan to the advancement of methods in the field of ethnobiology, we suggest that the methodological toolkit of food scouting should include ad hoc transdisciplinary platforms codesigned together with local food actors.
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Background: Bosnia and Herzegovina (BIH) belongs to the group of Western Balkan and Mediterranean countries. Its specific geographical position and numerous refugial habitats are responsible for today's remarkable plant biodiversity. The Biocultural diversity of this area originated in the Stone Age, additionally enriched by the influence of various conquerors: Slavic tribes, the appearance of the Franciscans, the Ottoman Empire, the arrival of Sephardic Jews, and the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy. Methods: The diachronic changes in the use of medicinal plants in BIH from the Middle Ages until today were studied. In this research, 1211 randomly selected respondents of different ages, genders, and levels of education participated. Frequency (FC) and the relative frequency of citation (RFC), therapeutic use, number of use reports (UR) and the family importance value (FIV) were used to evaluate the relevance of detected species and families. Results: In daily life practices, respondents utilize about 145 plant species for medicinal purposes, mainly as an infusion, herbal juice, tincture, syrup, and oil. The ethnobotanical bibliography for the region of BIH includes 43 references published so far. According to them, current healers and the local population no longer use about 21% or 60 plant species from 55 genera and 40 families. Also, the ways of application changed, while the ritual uses entirely vanished. Conclusions: Diachronic changes in traditional medicine in BIH resulted in a decrease in indigenous knowledge about autochthonous medicinal plant species. Native plant resource funds stay neglected while current local connoisseurs and people frequently utilize commonly known innovative medicinal plants. Keywords: Traditional knowledge, Medicinal plants, BIH
Suitability of silver birch bark as a natural source for dyeing cotton. The study was carried out on dyeing cotton fabric with silver birch bark extract without a mordant and with the use of mordants - oxalic acid and inorganic salts of aluminum, tin, iron and copper. The color of the fabric was determined in the CIE L*a*b* system. Pale orange to salmon shades were obtained. In the case of iron and copper, a significantly different color was obtained, dark grayish and rusty, respectively. Color fastness tests were carried out using hot water, mineral acid, mild and hot washing, dry cleaning and natural exposure to sunlight. Excellent resistance to dry cleaning and mild and hot washing was found, as well as good resistance to mineral acid. The dyed fabric had the weakest, although still quite good, resistance to sunlight.
This essay explores the author’s process of trying to understand how to responsibly forge a relationship with traditional song heritage given conditions of ethnocultural rupture. Weaving together Slovácko folk songs transcribed by the author’s great-grandfather, an archival recording of the author’s grandfather, audio/video documents of her own embodied performance, dreams, folk tales, and analysis, the piece meditates on the many facets of “living song” (živá píseň). The author explores her process of learning how to approach the life of song, and how songs might be cared for. The performance of practice-based research is posited as a means to confront and dismantle patriarchal white supremacy within one’s body and spirit, thereby making possible the recovery of exiled strands of self and the forging of ancestral connections.
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Centralization is one mechanism of authoritative control, where citizens receive operation guidelines from a single source. This can impact various spheres of life including local gastronomic knowledge, a cornerstone of biocultural diversity. We explored how to evaluate the effects of Soviet centralization on wild food plant local gastronomic knowledge. We considered four case studies of ethnic communities that are divided by political borders. In total, we conducted 581 semi-structured interviews. Our results suggest three main findings. The first regards the high similarity of use of wild food plants among the communities living in Russia and Finland. The second involves the higher proportion of simple preparations made with wild food plants in Soviet contexts, which is not evident in adjacent non-Soviet countries. The third concerns the low(er) number of distinct wild plant-based foods retained by non-Soviet countries and, in post-Soviet contexts, those that refer to past uses. We argue that the erosion of wild food plant-based local gastronomic knowledge guided by homogenization and repression poses a serious risk to local food security.
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Sensitive skin is described as an unpleasant sensory response to a stimulus that should not cause a sensation. Sensitive skin affects an increasing proportion of the population. Sixty-seven participants who tested positive to lactic acid sting test were recruited and randomized into two groups to observe the clinical efficacy and safety of a new birch juice spray for repairing sensitive skin. One group used test spray A, while the other group used spray B as a control. Both groups were sprayed six times daily for 28 days. Noninvasive testing instruments were used to measure stratum corneum hydration, sebum content, transepidermal water loss rates, skin blood perfusion and current perception threshold before and after using spray. Facial images were captured by VISIA-CR, and the image analysis program (Image‐Pro Plus) was used to analyze these to obtain the redness value of the facial skin. Moreover, lactic acid sting test scores and participants’ self-assessments were also performed at baseline, week 2 and week 4. Both sprays A and B significantly decreased the lactic acid sting test score, transepidermal water loss rates, skin blood perfusion, and redness, while increasing the stratum corneum hydration. Compared to spray B, spray A increased sensory nerve thresholds at 5 Hz and decreased the transepidermal water loss rates, skin blood perfusion, and lactic acid sting test score. Sprays containing birch juice improved cutaneous biophysical properties in participants with sensitive skin.
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This paper is an ethnobotanical review of wild edible plants gathered for consumption from the end of the 18th century to the present day, within the present borders of Poland. 42 ethnographic and botanical sources documenting the culinary use of wild plants were analyzed. The use of 112 species (3.7% of the flora) has been recorded. Only half of them have been used since the 1960s. Three species: Cirsium rivulare, Euphorbia peplus and Scirpus sylvaticus have never before been reported as edible by ethnobotanical literature. The list of wild edible plants which are still commonly gathered includes only two green vegetables (Rumex acetosa leaves for soups and Oxalis acetosella as children's snack), 15 folk species of fruits and seeds (Crataegus spp., Corylus avellana, Fagus sylvatica, Fragaria vesca, Malus domestica, Prunus spinosa, Pyrus spp., Rosa canina, Rubus idaeus, Rubus sect. Rubus, Sambucus nigra, Vaccinium myrtillus, V. oxycoccos, V. uliginosum, V. vitis-idaea) and four taxa used for seasoning or as preservatives (Armoracia rusticana root and leaves, Carum carvi seeds, Juniperus communis pseudo-fruits and Quercus spp. leaves). The use of other species is either forgotten or very rare. In the past, several species were used for food in times of scarcity, most commonly Chenopodium album, Urtica dioica, U. urens, Elymus repens, Oxalis acetosella and Cirsium spp., but now the use of wild plants is mainly restricted to raw consumption or making juices, jams, wines and other preserves. The history of the gradual disappearance of the original barszcz, Heracleum sphondylium soup, from Polish cuisine has been researched in detail and two, previously unpublished, instances of its use in the 20th century have been found in the Carpathians. An increase in the culinary use of some wild plants due to media publications can be observed. Poland can be characterized as a country where the traditions of culinary use of wild plants became impoverished very early, compared to some parts of southern Europe. The present use of wild plants, even among the oldest generation, has been almost entirely restricted to fruits.
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n 2008 - 2012 a short ethnobotanical questionnaire concerning some wild food plants (the use of birch sap, Allium ursinum, Heracleum sphondylium and plants added to green borsch) was sent via email to five hundred Ukrainian botanists. F if teen responses containing detailed answers were obtained. Birch sap is a commonly drunk beverage in Ukraine, however its use has diminished since the nuclear catastrophe in Chernobyl in 1986 . Traditionally , the sap is not only drunk fresh but also fermented and kept in a cool and dark place even until late summer. The fermentation was enhanced by dried apples and pears as well as roasted barley. Nowadays lemon juice and/or raisins are commonly added as well. Ramsons ( Allium ursinum ) are commonly used to make a s pring salad, with cream, mayonnaise and /or boiled eggs. However, it is rarely used in other forms (soup, lacto - fermented). The use of ramsons in Ukraine previously occurred only in some parts (Trans - Carpathia and Sumy region) , but it has recently bec o me po pular, so large amounts of the plant are sold in some towns (e.g. Lviv), and also imported from other parts of the former USSR. Green borsch is a traditional Ukrainian soup made with wild green s , predominantly with sorrel ( Rumex acetosa ). According to our questionnaire at least 21 species of wild plants are used in green borsch across the Ukraine. The most commonly used are Rumex spp. a nd Urtica dioica, and more rarely Chenopodium spp. , Atriplex spp., T araxacum officinale , Allium ursinum, Aegopodium podagraria and Ficaria verna . No information on the use of Heracleum for soup was received. The results of the questionnaire indicate that, although the use of wild plants as nutrition in towns is not widespread, in some rural areas detailed ethnobotanical studies may show a living tradition of using wild greens in nutrition.
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The aim of the work is to summarize the archival ethnobotanical studies concerning wild food plants carried out between 2006 and 2011, and to create a checklist of wild food plants used in Poland since the mid-19 th century. A history of studies concerning the use of wild food plants in Poland is included. The use of 159 taxa was recorded (green parts of plants – 92 taxa, fruits – 53, flowers – 23, and underground parts – 16). This constitutes around 5.5% of the flora.
The birchtree in the European folk medicine, documents since the middle ages. Le bouleau dans la médecine populaire européene, ses applications depuis le le moyen age.
The volatiles of birch syrup and ripening bananas are analyzed by static and dynamic headspace chromatography, respectively. The gaseous samples are introduced into the gas chromatographic (GC) system by on-column injection and band cryofocusing, using an appropriate coolant. Seven birch syrup volatiles are studied under different volumes of gaseous injections, ranging from 0.03 to 8.0 mL. The linearity between GC response and sample size is good, with correlation coefficients (r) ranging from 0.993 to 0.999. Duplicability of an internal standard (methyl pentanoate), used to monitor changes during sample preparation and GC injection of volatiles from ripening bananas, varies with an RSD of less than 10% during an eight-day period. Main guidelines for efficient and reproducible headspace on- column injections are given.
Flora Celtica: Plants and People in Scotland documents the continuously evolving relationship between the Scots and their environment from the Stone Age to the present day. Based on a mixture of detailed research and information provided by the public, it explores the remarkable diversity of ways that native plants have been, and continue to be, used in Scotland. The information is presented in clear and accessible format and is laced with quotations, illustrations, case studies and practical tips.