Disclaimer: I am not a chemist, scientist, researcher, or by any means an expert when it comes to antiseptics and their effectiveness against viruses, bacteria or anything else. The effectiveness of Birch tar oil against coronavirus is being studied by a Canadian team working on coronavirus research and vaccination. I have sent them a sample of oil which they are testing, I will update this article as I hear back from them. This article and information within is educational and you use this information at your own risk, neither myself or OtzisPouch will be held responsible for how you use it, and or any adverse effects or damages.
The current state of affairs with COVID-19 has shown us just how fast a global crisis can happen, and the effects it can have and will continue to have for years to come. Medical supplies are depleted very quickly as are common items that can be used to help protect you and yours from the virus. Lysol, hand sanitizer etc, etc, are gone from the shelves and hard to get and will be for some time to come.
Some of you may know about Birch tar oil, it has been created and used in many different ways starting back in the days of the Neanderthals where they created Birch tar pitch which is the Birch tar oil refined down into a glue state. It makes an extremely strong, flexible, and impact resistant glue that does not get brittle at cold temperatures. The famous Otzi The Iceman’s axe-head was affixed using Birch tar pitch.
Birch tar oil in its oil form has long been used as a leather and wood treatment and waterproofer, and it is excels at it, Russia leather both old version and new use this in the currying process. It enhances and protects the leather making it more durable and resistant against bugs, insects, mold, fungus, rot, and bacteria, as well as salt water damage.
Birch Tar Oil Is A Powerful Antiseptic
Birch tar oil gets much of its appearance and some of its odor from the fact that it has a good amount of Cresol (para-cresol & o-cresol) in it. When you combine Cresol and potassium soap you get lysol (lysolum) which is used for the disinfection of instruments and medical equipment (in a concentration of 3%–5%), hands (in a concentration of 1%–2%), and floors, walls, and furniture (in a 5%–10% concentration). Bathrooms are disinfected with a 10% solution. Cresol is the active ingredient that kills all those little baddies, it is an excellent antiseptic all by itself and kills a vast array of viruses, bacteria, obviously if they use it to clean medical equipment! At the concentration of Cresols that unrectified Birch tar oil has it also becomes an antifungal.
If that is not enough Birch tar oil also contains Phenol and many of its derivatives that are also very effective at killing many viruses such as the African Swine Virus (AFV).
“Phenol has good penetrating power into organic matter and is mainly used for the disinfection of equipment or organic materials that are to be destroyed (e.g. infected food and excreta) .”
As a bonus Birch tar oil also contains a substantial amount of terpenoid derivatives which are antiviral and antibacterial and of great interest as a potential agent against Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) Pathogens.
As you can see Birch tar oil is a complex and powerful Antiseptic, if you are interested in digging into all the details and study data etc they are included at the bottom of this article. Inevitably at this time I am sure people are asking “can this kill coronavirus?”. I am absolutely sure that it will, coronavirus is not a strong virus when it comes to having protection against antiseptics. It is a fat enevloped virus and easily killed with substances that attack and destroy that envelope which Birch tar oil has many compounds that will attack and destroy not only that envelope but the virus.
Caution: Its effectiveness against coronavirus is not scientifically proven at this time. I have though sent samples off for testing to one of the Canadian research and development teams working on defense and vaccination for coronavirus. Once I hear back from them I will update this article.
Common Uses & Notes
- Treatment of lice, fleas, scabies, & mites
- Disinfecting wounds, has been shown to accelerate cell regeneration and quicker healing of wound
- Treat infection of wound
- Treatment and improved healing of burns
- Treatment of skin conditions such as eczema, ringworm, toenail fungus, and many more
- Cleaning and disinfecting of shop areas, leather and tack such as saddles and harnesses
- Used to create soap beneficial for a wide variety of skin problems
- Has keratoplastic properties which works by causing the skin to shed dead cells from its top layer and slow down the growth of skin cells. This effect decreases scaling and dryness. Useful to treat the itching, scaling, and flaking due to skin conditions such as psoriasis or seborrheic dermatitis.
- Not for human consumption do not ingest
- Keep out of eyes
Warning: Birch tar oil should only be used topically and for spot treatments, not large areas of skin all at once as does have Cresols in it. Which not only makes it unsuitable for ingesting but also for topical application on large areas. If you are looking for Birch tar oil as a treatment that can be ingested you should use the rectified version. Rectified version is where regular Birch tar oil is steam distilled which removes the Cresol, in that state is an approved substance for ingestion in Canada and can be bought over the counter, often it is combined with castor oil.
How To Make Birch Tar Oil
First of all please be responsible, the last thing I want to come from this article is a bunch of people running around stripping Birch bark off trees and killing them. It is easy to damage or kill a Birch tree by removing the bark, you should only be removing the bark from dead trees! Second of all many of the methods you see on the net for making Birch tar oil are not suitable for creating the oil while retaining most of its antiseptic qualities as the distilled oil is further refined by heat during the process. It takes a substantial amount of bark, a one gallon paint can yields about 1 fluid ounce or 30ml, less after water and wood alcohol is removed.
Things You Will Need
- Boxcutter or utility knife
- Spot to have a fire and enough wood to keep a hot fire burning for 1.5 to 2 hours
- Steel paint can (clean)
- Couple chunks threaded steel piping (3/4 to one inch works)
- 45 elbow for steel piping
- JB Weld (Extreme heat)
- 4 Firebricks
- Tool to punch or cut holes in paint can (nail works fine for top lid)
- A good part of your day
Get Some White Birch Bark
Again please only harvest from dead trees, it is very easy to kill live trees by removing bark. If you do not have White Birch bark in your area or do not want to go through the hassle of distilling the oil I have some for sale here.
Easy way to harvest the bark from the dead tree is take a utility knife or boxcutter and make two cuts around the circumference of the log about 1.5 inch less then the height of your steel paint can. For me that is 5 inches apart. Make a cut crosswise to connect the two cuts and start peeling off the bark, something to use as a wedge will help in peeling it off and pry it away from the inner bark if needed. You want only the outer bark, not the inner corky type bark.
Prep Your Cans
Punch a hole in center of the lid, a standard regular size nail (as an example I used a 10d framing nail). Cut a hole in bottom of can just slightly larger then your steel pipe diameter, from the inside push down on the bottom of can and force it out. The idea here is you want all liquid to run to the center of the can and in the hole out the pipe. Insert pipe so lip of pipe is flush or just slightly above inside bottom of can and seal it in place with your JB Weld Extreme heat. Place your firebricks in your firepit so they are level and stable, set your can on top of them. Your piping should clear the ground and run out to your soup can, I would recommend at least two feet distance from the firepit, you may need to bury soup can to accommodate the angle of pipe.
There are a few reasons I do it this way:
1.) The usual way to create Birch tar oil is simpler, simply dig a hole put your soup can in it and set paint can on top, bury and make a fire. But this way results in heat transfer from the ground and contact between the cans. Birch oil tar has a low boiling point and usually will start boiling before your are done distilling which leaves you with Birch tar instead of Birch tar oil. You don’t want that as the more the tar oil boils and refines the more antiseptic properties and strength you are losing.
2.) Less chance of starting your oil on fire and losing it. The oil itself as well as the smoke and vapors it gives off are very flammable and it is easy to start the oil in the bottom can on fire even if covered.
Last step is to cover the fire bricks, steel pipe and bottom 1 to 2 inches of can with dirt, this stabilizes things and helps keep the pipe from getting too hot.
Caution: Once distillation starts the paint can will vent smoke and vapors which you do not want to breathe in so do your best not to do so. As mentioned above what is vented is flammable and there is a good chance at some point your fire will ignite it. Don’t worry too much about that, I usually just let it burn but it is easily put out by disturbing the stream with a swipe of the hat.
This form of distillation is known as dry distillation, downward distillation, or destructive distillation. Build a hot fire around the can keeping the wood 2-3 inches away, it is ok to have flames licking the sides of the can. The process will usually take 1.5 to two hours, you will notice the can will vent much less smoke once the process is complete.
Birch Tar Oil Refinement
Once complete you should have a very thin consistency version of Birch tar oil in your soup can. This will still need to be refined a bit to remove more of the wood alcohol, for this part I use a hotplate outside. The Birch tar oil at this point is extremely flammable so I prefer not to refine it on fire but it can be done if you are careful and keep the can away from any actual flame. Slowly heat the Birch tar oil until it starts to boil slightly, keep it at this stage for 2-3 minutes, it doesn’t take long. Again do not breathe smoke it gives off, it is not good for you. Let the oil cool completely, if you have done it right it should be just slightly thicker then water. It is possible you still have some water in it at this point, if you let it settle in a clear jar you will see it separate and can use a syringe to remove the water layer.
DO NOT refine this stuff indoors, the smoke is toxic and it is very flammable.
You should now have a multipurpose and powerful antiseptic Birch tar oil that can be used for a wide variety of purposes.
Characteristics of Selected Active Substances used in Disinfectants and their Virucidal Activity Against ASFV 
Virox Disinfectant Chemistry