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Though birch essential oil is non-toxic in standard aromatherapeutic dosages (highly diluted), it is a powerful oil that must always be diluted. It contains methyl salicylate, the active ingredient in aspiri. Do not take birch essential oil internally.
Sweet birch oil should not be used near open wounds or mucous membranes. Because the smell is sweet and resembles wintergreen-type candies, it is especially important to keep this, like all essential oils, out of reach of children.
Both birch bark and wintergreen were popular herbal teas among Native American and European settlers in the 1700s. Today birch bark is used as a fragrance component in men's perfumes, and more extensively as a flavoring agent in chewing gum, toothpaste and especially in root bear.
Birch oil production is in decline as most industries have replaced the natural oil with commercial syntetics. The wintergreen plant, also known as eastern teaberry, produces an essential oil with naturally occurring methyl salicylates and has a very similar smell and traditional use to birch oil.
Betula lenta is also known as black birch or spice birch. As well as supplying essential oil, this tree can also be tapped and a strong syrup can be collected similar to maple syrup, although it is much stronger and similar to molasses.