FORGET coconut water.

Birch sap, a drink that is extracted from silver birch trees, is set to be the new health drink and reports suggest it can combat everything from headaches and flu to high cholesterol, kidney stones, eczema and even dandruff.

It is already popular as a herbal remedy in Russia, Eastern Europe, Scandinavia and parts of northern China and is usually tapped from tree trunks in early spring.

And although the craze is only beginning to take off in the UK gardeners at Arley Hall have been harvesting it for the past year.

At this time of year the gardening can often be found enjoying a ‘birch sap break’ twice a day while others might be sipping tea.

Head gardener Gordon Baillie said: "I picked it up from a series Ray Mears did on the telly.

"It was one of the survival shows so he set up his little camp at night and then in the morning he had a mug full of birch sap.

"I’m always interested in things like that. I make nettle soup and it will be the time of the year for that soon."

Birch sap is said to have an array of health benefits. A 100ml glass has just 18 calories and contains antioxidant vitamin C as well as smaller doses of rehydrating potassium and immune system-boosting zinc.

Gordon, who used to be Sting’s personal gardener in Wiltshire for nine years, added: "There’s more interest in natural products these days.

"The tree itself is bringing up the water from deep in the soil so it’s being filtered by the tree and will be very pure. It will also be bringing up nutrients that are deep within the earth itself.

"Sugars and vitamin C are the main hit and the taste has a very slight hint of mushroom."

Some of Arley’s silver birch trees have been ‘tapped’ so that the sap can be extracted and it is bottled in the gardening shed.

This is done by drilling about an inch into the tree and fitting plastic tubing tightly in the hole before leaving the sap to collect in a demijohn.

- Birch sap is coming towards the end of its season but if you would like to try some or talk about other garden goodness at Arley Hall like nettle soup call Andrew Moores on 07714 007902.