- Family Myricaceae
- Myrica cerifera (Bayberry, Southern/American Bayberry, Wax Myrtle, Candleberry, Tallow Shrub, Vegetable Tallow, Waxberry, Myrica)
- Myrica gale (Sweet Gale, Bog Myrtle, Dutch Myrtle, Bayberry)
- The volatile oil is considered toxic, and mixing plant extracts with beer (as practised during the Middle Ages) is said to lead to manic episodes.
- Do not use during pregnancy.
Bayberry is an evergreen shrub or small tree growing to about thirty feet, producing narrow, glossy, aromatic leaves, small, yellow flowers in catkins and gray, waxy berries that contain numerous blacks seeds that have a crust of usable greenish-white wax. This wax helps keep the seeds suitable for germination for up to three years. Bayberry is found in the eastern and southern regions of Canada and the US, especially around Lake Erie, and as far west as Texas. The bark is collected in autumn or spring.
Sweet Gale is a deciduous shrub that grows to about ten or fifteen feet. Both the branches and the leaves have tiny, fragrant glands that produce an aroma when crushed. Sweet Gale is indigenous to the higher latitudes of the northern hemisphere.
European settlers in North America believed that bayberry plants had many medicinal benefits. A 1737 account stated that it could “expel wind and ease all manner of pains proceeding from cold, therefore are good in colic, palsies, convulsions, epilepsies, and many other disorders.”
The root bark was listed in the US National Formulary from 1916 to 1936.
Its nicknames came as a result of its wax being used to make candles or in place of tallow.
The Mohegans used the tea to treat kidney disorders. Other tribes used bayberry to treat influenza, scurvy, stomach cramps, and gynecological problems.
- vermifuge (bark)
- volatile oil
- triterpenes (including taraxerol, taraxerone, and myricadiol)
- vitamins and minerals(mainly selenium, calcium, chromium, iron, manganese, sodium, and vitamin C)
- Root bark and wax from the berries (Bayberry).
- Leaves, branches, and wax extracted from the flower catkins (Sweet Gale).
- While myricadiol has a mild effect on the potassium and sodium levels, myricitrin has antibiotic properties.
- Strong decoctions of the dried bark is used in Sweden to expel intestinal worms.
- Infusions are used as a mouthwash to strengthen spongy gums.
- Douche, from infusions, is used to treat excessive vaginal discharge.
- Gargles are used for sore throats.
- A paste of the powdered root bark can be applied to ulcers and skin sores.
- Bayberry is commonly used to increase circulation, stimulate perspiration, strengthen local resistance to infection, and to keep bacterial infections in check.
Infusions of the dried bark are used to treat colds, flu, coughs, and sore throats, and to dry mucous membranes. Its astringency helps such intestinal disorders as irritable bowel syndrome and mucous colitis.
Because of its antimicrobial properties, a wash made from the root bark is effective in treating skin infections, skin diseases, and ulcers.