• Outdoors Outdoors

Botanist reveals the incredible ancient plant that can help you while camping or hiking: 'I want to try this'

"It made my mouth feel so fresh!"

Sweet birch, incredible ancient plant that can help you while camping or hiking

Photo Credit: @wildherbacademy / Instagram

If you've ever wondered how people kept their teeth clean before modern dental care, the answer is simple: plants. 

Humans have been chewing and mashing on certain plants for centuries to keep their breath fresh and teeth healthy. One Instagrammer, April Punsalan (@wildherbacademy), has her own local natural remedy: sweet birch.

April shared in a recent Reel that she loves going outside to find "nature's toothbrush." In Southern Appalachia, Sweet Birch, Betula lenta, with its minty wintergreen taste, is a great way to freshen your breath. 

It's easy to overlook the plants around us, but they often have uses we may not know of. Humans have looked to plants for medicine for tens of thousands of years, and it is estimated that 40% of the medicine in our pharmacies comes from plant derivatives. 

As a natural source of wintergreen oil, sweet birch has a long history of uses, including Native Americans using it for its medicinal properties and later being used for processed medicines and candies. 

If you find yourself walking through the Appalachian Mountains, look for Sweet Birch, which can be identified by its "saw-toothed" leaves and its wintergreen smell. April notes the tree is "common at low elevations" and is a "great first wild herb to learn."

Sweet birch has been a common "toothbrush" in Appalachia as its minty taste and soft bark make it a great natural oral care tool. 

There are a variety of trees that can act as natural toothbrushes, and if you can find one in your backyard, even better. Natural toothbrushes can help you save money while reducing the need for chemical and plastic-laden commercial toothbrushes.

April's comments are filled with praise for showing off this wild herb. The excitement for wild plant foraging is palpable, as one commenter stated, "I want to try this." Another has already tried sweet birch, saying, "It made my mouth feel so fresh! I love learning how to use plants from you!"

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