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Tuesday, September 20, 2011

THE HORNBEAM - LITTLE-KNOWN, BUT COMMON, HEALTH BENEFITS AND USES


COMMON OR EUROPEAN HORNBEAM, CARPINUS BETULUS
The Common or European hornbeam is native to Europe including the British Isles, with a range from the Pyrenees through to Iran in Western Asia and north to Scandinavia. In Britain it is native to southern and eastern England although it has been planted a hedge in many other parts, as it seems to appreciate pruning. These trees are often confused with the common beech, which might be why a lot of Brits don’t recognize this tree as a native species. In fact they are members of the birch family of trees, the Betulaceae and grow in oak (Common English oak, Quercus robur and Holm oak) and beech forests. In autumn the leaves turn yellow or brilliant orange and are quite spectacular. The tree has catkins, (which appear on the trees listed above as well as on the Box Myrtle), which flower in April through to May and the fruit is the winged seeds or keys.
  Hornbeams are moderate growing trees which generally reach heights of 25 metres or 82 feet, although the largest on record comes from the Castle of Enghien in Belgium and this is a monster at 33 metres high. Next is one in Poland in the National Park of Bialowieza, and a slightly smaller one has been recorded in the Netherlands at Landgoed Oostbrock, De Bilt which is 32.20 metres tall.
hornbeam seeds
   The hornbeam is used in the Bach Flower remedies for people who procrastinate and are fatigued while the leaves are used as compresses to stop bleeding and heal wounds. The distilled water from the leaves is used as eye lotion. The leaves should be harvested in autumn and dried then ground to a powder to put on wounds. You can also make a tisane with the leaves, either fresh or dried, or a decoction for skin problems which uses 2 tsps of dried leaves, powdered, to 250 mls water, boiled for 10 minutes. Alternatively the powder can be fried in lard and left to cool to make an ointment for the skin, which should be applied in a thin layer twice a day. For itchy skin, the powdered leaves can be steeped in vinegar (50 grams per 500 mls vinegar) and left for 8 days at room temperature. These remedies are said to be good for promoting hair growth, and the vinegar recipe can be used as a gargle if you have a sore throat.
hornbeam catkins
  The tisane can staunch the blood flow in a particularly heavy period and help with stomach cramps, it is believed. It is also used for headaches and colds.
  The bark produces a yellow dye, and the wood is very hard, so generally only used for agricultural implements, mallets and before for butcher’s blocks. It is too hard to work with generally. ”Horn” means hard and the name presumably refers to the use of the wood for beams in buildings at some time in the past.
Hornbeam in autumn
  So next time you think you see a beech tree, have a closer look!

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