Herb: Beech

Latin name: Fagus sylvatica

Family: Fagaceae (Beech Family)

Medicinal use of Beech:

The bark is antacid, antipyretic, antiseptic, antitussive, expectorant, odontalgic. A tar (or creosote), obtained by dry distillation of the branches, is stimulating and antiseptic. It is used internally as a stimulating expectorant and externally as an application to various skin diseases. The pure creosote has been used to give relief from toothache, but it should not be used without expert guidance. The plant is used in Bach flower remedies - the keywords for prescribing it are "Intolerance", "Criticism" and "Passing judgements".

Description of the plant:


30 m
(98 feet)

to May

Habitat of the herb:

Grows in woodlands where it is often the dominant species, especially on chalky and soft limestone soils, though sometimes also on well-drained loams and sands.

Edible parts of Beech:

Young leaves - raw. A very nice mild flavour, they go well in a mixed salad. However, the leaves quickly become tough so only the youngest should be used. New growth is usually produced for 2 periods of 3 weeks each year, one in spring and one in mid-summer. Seed - raw or cooked. A pleasant sweet flavour, though rather small and fiddly. The seed can also be dried and ground into a powder and then used with cereal flours when making bread, cakes etc. The seed is rich in oil. The seed should not be eaten in large quantities because it contains a deleterious principle. The seed contains 17 - 20% of an edible semi-drying oil. This stores well without going rancid and is said to be equal in delicacy to olive oil. It is used as a dressing for salads and also for cooking. The seed residue is poisonous. The roasted seed is used as a coffee substitute.

Other uses of the herb:

A semi-drying oil is obtained from the seed, it is used as a fuel for lighting, as a lubricant, for polishing wood etc. The seed residue is poisonous. The leaf buds harvested in the winter and dried on the twigs are used as toothpicks. The leaves are gathered in autumn and used as a stuffing material for mattresses etc. Wood - hard, heavy, strong, very durable. It is not suitable for outdoor use and is often attacked by a small beetle. It has a wide range of applications, including furniture, flooring, turnery etc. It makes a very good fuel, burning with a lot of heat, and yields a charcoal known as "Carbo Ligni Pulveratus". The wood has often been used as a source of creosote, tar, methyl alcohol. acetic acid.

Propagation of Beech:

Seed - the seed has a short viability and is best sown as soon as it is ripe in the autumn in a cold frame. Protect the seed from mice. Germination takes place in the spring. When they are large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and grow them on in the greenhouse for at least their first winter. Plant them out into their permanent positions in late spring or early summer, after the last expected frosts. The seedlings are slow growing for the first few years and are very susceptible to damage by late frosts. The seed can also be sown in an outdoor seedbed in the autumn. The seedlings can be left in the open ground for three years before transplanting, but do best if put into their final positions as soon as possible and given some protection from spring frosts.

Cultivation of the herb:

Grows in woodlands where it is often the dominant species, especially on chalky and soft limestone soils, though sometimes also on well-drained loams and sands.

Known hazards of Fagus sylvatica:

Large quantities of the seed may be toxic.

Plant information taken from the Plants For A Future.