This agent has been quite extensively used in Europe from the time of the Middle Ages. One of the old writers—Dragendorff—says the bark is given in malarial fevers, in dropsy, gout, disease of the lungs; also in abscesses, and in skin diseases and itch, and where there is excessive sweating of the feet. The juice or sap from the tree is used in kidney and bladder trouble.
The following facts were furnished me by Dr. Isenburg of Hamburg, Germany:
The bark contains betulin, a resinous substance, and betulalbin. The bark of the black variety contains glucosides, gaultherin, and an essential oil. Winternitz and Jenicke both recommend the remedy for its diuretic effect and for its influence in dissolving kidney stones.
Winternitz made an infusion of the dried leaves in the preparation of one part to six or eight parts of water by weight. Of this he would give from four to six ounces at a dose for albuminuria. He claimed that albumin epithelial scales and casts would disappear entirely. The quantity of the urine would increase to from six to ten times its bulk. Jenicke used it in nephrolithiasis. In one case, a stone had been discovered in the kidney by an X-ray. The urine was concentrated, sometimes bloody, contained pus cells, and uric acid in large quantities with three and one-half per cent of albumin.
This tea reduced the quantity of albumin, relieved the pain, improved the general health of the patient so that in twelve weeks' time he was entirely cured, the urine being normal. There has been passed from time to time with the water tiny pieces of stone from the kidney. We have had reports from a number of writers in this country concerning the action of this remedy in a similar manner, and all confirm the observations made by the German writers.
The American Materia Medica, Therapeutics and Pharmacognosy, 1919, was written by Finley Ellingwood, M.D.
It was scanned by Michael Moore for the Southwest School of Botanical Medicine.