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DISCLAIMER: These pages are presented solely as a source of INFORMATION and ENTERTAINMENT and to provide stern warnings against use where appropriate. No claims are made for the efficacy of any herb nor for any historical herbal treatment. In no way can the information provided here take the place of the standard, legal, medical practice of any country. Additionally, some of these plants are extremely toxic and should be used only by licensed professionals who have the means to process them properly into appropriate pharmaceuticals. One final note: many plants were used for a wide range of illnesses in the past, but be aware that many of the historical uses have proven to be ineffective for the problems to which they were applied.

a.k.a. American Bayberries, American vegetable wax, Arbre suif, Bayberry Bush, Candleberry, Myrica, Myricae cortex,
Myrtle, Tallow Shrub, Vegetable Tallow, Wachsgagle, Wax Berry, Wax Myrtle, Wax Tree

(Myrica cerifera)
Also see: English Bayberry


CONTRAINDICATED: NOT during severe inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract.

CONTAINS: Aromatic compounds (0.2-0.4% volatile oils, resin, palmitic, stearic, myristic and lauric saturated fatty acids), aromatic antibacterial agents, astringent compounds (tannic acid, gallic acid, myricitrin and other flavonoids), bitter compounds as triterpene saponins (myricadiol, taraxerol, taraxerone, urocadiol), 14.6% selen-11-en-4-ol, 5% alpha bisabolol.
Bark of stem and root = volatile oil, starch, lignin, gum, albumen, tannic acid, gallic acid, resins, a red dye, a saponin-like acid, three triterpenes (myricadiol, taraxerol and taraxerone), a flavonoid glycoside (myricitrin).
Wax = glycerides of stearic, palmitic, and myristic acids, and a small amount of oleaic acid.
Also contains: alpha-amyrin (anti-tumor), beta-amyrin, anthocyanidin, cannabiscitrin, lupeol (anti-tumor), myoinositol, myricetin, myricitrin, taraxerol.
Water in fresh plant = 78.2%. Water in air-dried plant = 13.8%
Starch = 6%
Glucose = 9%
Based on zero moisture per 100 grams = 15.1 mg aluminum, 6% ash, 1120 mg calcium, 0.15 mg chromium, 0.35 mg cobalt, 11.1%, 4.7 mg iron, 49 mg magnesium, 0.64 mg manganese, 2.8 mg niacin, trace mg phosphorus, 196 mg potassium, 6.2% protein, trace mg riboflavin, 0.35 mg selenium, trace mg silicon, 76 mg sodium, trace mg thiamine, 2.2 mg tin, trace I.U. vitamin A, 65.6 mg vitamin C, trace mg zinc.

A shrub native to the eastern United States, naturalized in Europe, and found growing in thickets near swamps and marshes and in sandy soil, near pine barrens. Also found on the shores of Lake Erie. Grows from 3 to 8 feet. Leaves alternate, lanceolate, with slightly downy underside, shiny or resinous, and dotted on both sides, and fragrant when rubbed; one to four inches long, narrow and delicately toothed. Flowers are unisex without a calyx or corolla; insignificant, yellow, no petals or sepals, grow in scaly catkins; male and female flowers appear on different plants before leaves are fully expanded; female catkins are globular, while male are elongated; blooms March-April. Fruit appears in small groups of globular berries with numerous black grains encrusted with a greenish-white wax; also described as a 'nutlet' (the term is more properly applied to English Bayberry); berries consist of a hard stone enclosing a two-lobed and two-seeded kernal. Bark is smooth and gray; covered with a thin, mottled layer; the cork beneath is smooth and of a red-brown color; fracture is reddish, granular and slightly fibrous; odor is aromatic; taste is astringent, bitter, very acrid. Collected in autumn, the root bark is separated from the fresh root by pounding, then thoroughly dried and powdered.
Wax was first used medicinally by Alexandre in 1722. It is gleaned from the berries by boiling in water; it floats to the top, then is left to cool ('concrete'); for a purer product it is melted again, then strained (wax melts at 116-120ºF, or 47 to 49ºC). Wax is harder and more brittle than beeswax as are the candles made from it. However, they are aromatic and smokeless after snuffing. Four/fifths of the wax is soluble in hot alcohol. Boiling ether will dissolve more than 1/4 of its weight. 4 lbs of berries will yield one pound of wax. Was once used for surgeon's soap plasters, as a softening shaving lather, and as a sealing wax.
The term Bayberry is also associated with Pimenta acris of the West Indies and South America from which Bay Rum and Oil of Bay (berry) is derived.
The name Myrica is taken from the Greek, meaning 'tamarisk', and cerifera from Latin, meaning 'wax-bearing'.
Was once used to attract money by carrying a piece of the bark or the dried berries as an amulet, or by tucking a dried leaf into the wallet or purse; also by burning bayberry wax candles and meditating on images of money. (Hmm, wonder if it works?).
Astrologically, its ruling planet is Mercury.

PROPAGATE: By fresh seed; start in moist peaty earth in spring or fall; cut back hard after planting, then leave alone.
NEEDS: Soil pH 5.0-6.0, well drained to wet, acid, sandy; full sun to partial shade.
HARVEST: Bark; bark of root (latter part of fall); berries; wax. Root bark is separated with a hammer, stripped into small pieces, then dried and powdered. Wax is collected by boiling berries in water; melted wax floats on the surface and is allowed to cool till solid; to purify wax it is melted in a double boiler, then strained.
SOLVENT: Boiling water extracts astringent properties; alcohol extracts stimulating properties.
English Bayberry (Myrica gale)
Edible Bayberry (Myrica rubra) [yang mei]
Myrica magi: Contains a glucoside (myricitrin) which resembles quercitrin.
Myrica cordifolia: Native to the Cape of Good Hope; yields a wax which is claimed to have been eaten by the Hottentots of that region.
Myrica pennsylvanica syn. M. cerifera latifolia: Roots have emetic properties. Found growing from Nova Scotia to Great Lakes and Indiana. Similar plants with similar medicinal properties are found growing in eastern coastal regions of Vera Cruz and Yucatan and has been mentioned in Mexican herb lore.
Myrica californica: Used for gastrointestinal disorders and infections.
Also a Brazilian species which yields a waxy-resinous substance called 'tabocas combicurdo' which is used as a stimulant.


Prickly ash is similar to the action of bayberry.
Bitter, astringent, aromatic, subnarcotic, anodyne, vulnerary; stimulates circulation; diaphoretic; antibacterial (flavonoids and tannins); expectorant; emetic in large doses; tonic (said to raise vitality and resistence to diseases).
Has been used in the form of powder, pills, or lozenges made with sugar and mucilage.
Said to promote glandular activity and restore mucous activity to normal activity.
Bark of the root has been used in the forms of a tea, douche, and in capsules. Was official in the >National Formulary (NF) 1916-36 as astringent and tonic.
The inner bark was once pounded soft and used for scrofulous swellings and sores (a tea of the leaves was also used).
Fruit is pectoral, carminative, stomachic and has been consumed with wine to prevent nausea which accompanies intoxication; has also been used for diarrhea and dyspepsia; a tincture of the berries was once combined with cow parsnip for violent flatulent colics and cramps; leaves and berries have been combined and macerated to produce an oil which is used as a liniment for rheumatism and arthritis.
Leaves are aromatic and stimulant.
Seed has been used for perspiring feet.
Myricadiol is reported to influence sodium and potassium in the same manner as steroidal priniples of the adrenal cortex. In the lab myricitrin has been shown to stimulate the flow of bile as well as being toxic to bacteria, paramecia, and sperm.
Wax is mildly astringent and was once used as a plaster on wounds and to treat diarrhea and dysentary by mixing the powdered wax with syrup; 1 tsp was taken and repeated frequently until relief was obtained.
All parts have been used in the past for cholera, heart ailments, palsy, hysteria, scarlet fever, tuberculosis (was once believed to prevent TB and scrofula), colic, and stomach diseases.
Powder is acrid and styptic; a dose of 1 tsp will cause a sensation of heat in the stomach followed by vomiting and purging and sometimes an increase in urination.
Taking milk with bayberry will help offset the effect of the tannin. Despite anti-tumor compounds in the plant, bayberry tannin is potentially carcinogenic; rats injected with bark extract produced a significant number of cancerous growths during a one-and-a-half year period of experiments. NOT recommended for long term use.
Has been used for fevers, colds/flu, excess mucous, diarrhea, mucous colitis, and colitis; also once used for jaundice, asthma, bronchitis, epilepsy, scurvy, syphilis, thrush, thyroid, and scrofula.
Presence of tannins make it useful for scrofulous skin conditions and inflammations of the mouth and digestive tract; presence of flavonoids make it useful against various infections.
Bark acts like a sialagogue when chewed, and is used for toothache and tender, spongy or bleeding gums; powder applied directly to gums for pyorrhea.
Bark has been used in poultice form for jaundice.
Wax is astringent and slightly narcotic and was used for severe dysentary and internal ulcerations; also, the water used to boil the wax was saved, then boiled and used for dysentary; the tea has been used as an enema for dysentary and diarrhea.
has been used in cases of excessive menstruation and vaginal discharge (both systemically and as a douche); combined with raspberry (Rubus idaeus) for uterine hemorrhage (5 to 10 drops tincture of bayberry, with 10 to 40 drops tincture of raspberry); tea has been used as a douche for leucorrhea (once a day) and uterine hemorrhage; combined with cayenne for controlling heavy and painful periods. Said to reduce toxic waste accumulations and growths in the female genito-urinary tract.
Considered a strengthening hormone balancer especially for female organs. Once used for prolapsed uterus and childbirthing.
Bark has been used in decoction form as gargle for sore throats, chronic inflammation of the throat, and bleeding gums (as a wash); also for cankers in throat and mouth.
Has been used externally as a wash and poultice for cuts, bruises, buboes, insect bites, ulcers, indolent ulcers, scrofulous ulcers, sores, gangrenous sores, cancerous sores, carbuncles, boils, itching, dandruff and hair loss. Should be combined with slippery elm in poultices. Powdered bark was also applied directly to infection. One source states the poultice is best combined with bloodroot when applying to cuts, bruises, and scratches. Another source suggest a strong decoction injected into the opening of an ulcer.
Has been used for all kinds of hemorrhages. Also used to treat polyps.
Powder causes violent sneezing and watering of the eyes and was used as a snuff for sinusitis, nasal polyps, and adenoid problems; or else 5 ml of the tincture was combined with 20 ml of an emulsifying ointment and used as a sinus massage.
A tea has been used as a wash for tired, red, or strained eyes. Wash = 1 part goldenseal, 1 part eyebright, 1 part bayberry bark, 1 part red raspberry leave; herbs are mixed, then a tea is made with 1 tsp of the herbs in 1 cup of water; allow to cool, then regrigerate; should be made fresh weekly.
Was once used for goiter (10 gr powder 3 times daily).
2 to 3 drops of eucalyptus oil has been added to bayberry ointment and used as an antiseptic and antispasmodic.
Has been combined with elderberry and peppermint for fevers and feverish conditions.
Has been combined with assisting herbs such as cayenne, ginger and cloves to stimulate circulation; combined with cayenne alone for internal hemorrhage and excessive menstruation and also to improve arterial and capillary circulation and to tone tissues.
Used in Folk Medicine in the belief it has a beneficial effect on the uterus during pregnancy.
For chills 1 tsp has been steeped in 1 pint boiling water for 30 minutes, then a pinch of cayenne added and taken 1/2 cup warm every hour until chills abate. (This is one of those cases where either the cayenne alone would do the job, or plain hot liquid and a warm enviroment, plus time would take care of the problem).
Has been combined with ginger to combat cholera. The same formula in large doses was also used as an emetic. Its emetic nature caused it to be once used in cases of poisoning (especially narcotic poisoning and mercurial cachexia) (NOTE: Cachexia is an emaciated or 'wasting' condition).
Infusion or decoction was rubbed into the skin to reduce varicose veins (or as a fomentation at night) and hemorrhoids (was an old time remedy for hemorrhoids).
A key herb in the Thompsonian system of medicine, being the main astringent herb used for stomach or bowel disruptions, and especially after fevers. Samuel Thompson's composition teas were meant to cleanse the body of toxins, all being diaphoretic, diuretic and laxative. Relying on its expectorant properties, nineteenth century physicians would prescribe a hot tea from the powdered bark at the first sign of a cold, cough, or flu. Was combined with yarrow, catnip, sage or mint for colds. Was also considered errhine, narcotic, anodyne, astringent, emetic and was used for dysentary.
The following formula was used to regulate and tone bowels, and for hemorrhoids = 2 parts cascara sagrada, 1 part bayberry bark, 1 part rhubarb root, 1 part goldenseal, 1 part raspberry leaves, 1 part lobelia, 1 part ginger root; combine the powdered herbs and fill gelatin capsules (alternatively: 1 part slippery elm powder was added and made into small pills). Another remedy for hemorrhoids was = 2 parts witch hazel leaves, 1 part bayberry bark, 1 part goldenseal; combine herbs and use 1 oz. per pint to water to make a strong tea; add 1 pint of glycerine; insert into rectum with dropper 3 times daily (can also be used to make a bolus).
Anciently, was used for headaches (remedy was to crush fresh leaves and mix with sour wine and use as compress); the leaves were crushed for boils; the juice used for earaches; mixed with vinegar was used for nosebleed; the oil was believed to give strength to the hair; Old recipe from the Dominion Herbal College for colds, flu, colic, cramps and stomach pains was: 4 oz. bayberry, 2 oz ginger, 1 oz white pine, 1 dram cloves, 1 dram cayenne; combine and powder; use 1 tsp in 1 cup hot water; allow to stand till herbs settle, then drink the clear liquid.
Traditional formulas include combinations with ginseng or eyebright or ginger.
Old compound recipe for coldness of the extremities, chills and flu = 1 oz bayberry bark, 1/4 oz wild ginger, 1/2 oz cayenne; combine the powders and use 1 tsp with 1 point of boiling water (sweetened with honey) to steep ten minutes; taken by mouthful amounts throughout the day.
Old recipe which was used in the early stages of acute diseases to stimulate the immune system = 2 parts ginger root, 1 part bayberry bark, 1 part white pine, 1/8 part cloves, 1/8 part cayenne, 1/4 part licorice; powders were combined, then 1 tsp steeped in 1 cup of boiling water for 15 minutes (covered), then the liquid poured off from the sediment and drunk.
Old recipe to raise body heat, equalize circulation, remove congestions, ease stomach and bowel cramps, as a cold remedy, and at the beginning of fevers, flus, hoarseness, and colic = 4 oz powdered bayberry bark, 2 oz powdered African ginger, 1 oz powdered hemlock spruce, 1 dram powdred cloves, 1 dram powdred cayenne; combine powders and pass through a fine sieve twice; dose is 1 tsp per 1 cup boiling water, sweetened; cover and steep 3 minutes; drink clear liquid only; was used 1 week for circulation problems; for pain in the lumbar region, 1 to 2 oz of powdred white poplar was added.
Another old formula to stimulate the nerves = 4 parts prickly ash bark, 1 part Irish moss, 1 part bayberry bark; herbs were combined, then 3 oz added per each quart of distilled water; was allowed to stand for 2 hours (stirred occasionally), then brought to a boil for 30 minutes; strained while hot, then 1 cup blackstrap molasses and 1 cup vegetable glycerine was added to the liquid; it was then boiled slowly for 5 minutes, sitrred constantly, then allowed to cool before being bottled and capped.
An old recipe for coughs and sore throats = equal parts of powders of slippery elm, bayberry bark, comfrey root, and mullein were combined, then placed in capsules; they were taken every 2 hours with 1 tsp of garlic oil and 5 to 10 drops echinacea tincture. (NOTE: Comfrey is not now considered safe to take internally).
Stem bark is used in Chinese medicine as a wash for arsenic poisoning, skin diseases, wounds, and ulcers.
Has been combined with lavender for use on the hair.
Early American settlers used the powdered bark like toothpaste and to cure gingivitis. Was also combined with other herbs and spices as a toothpowder.
Tea once used as a stomachic and vermifuge.
Once used (1822) for typhoid dysentary.
Was used by Native Americans for dysentary, diarrhea, fevers, uterine hemorrhage and as a toothache remedy; Choctaws took a decoction of the stems and leaves for fever; Houma indians boiled the leaves as tea to use as a vermifuge; Creeks and Seminoles used bayberry as a charm to exorcise dead spirits and to prevent disease.

!All others buy commercial preparations and follow directions carefully!
For severe conditions only a moderate infusion is taken, no more than 2/3 cup per day for no more than 3 days. For other conditions a weak infusion is taken, no more than 1/4 cup 3 times a day for no more than 4 days.
POWDER = 20 to 30 grains/ 1.5 to 3 gr per day/ 1/2 to 1 tsp in 1 cup warm water.
INFUSION = 1 tsp bark in 1 cup boiling water, steeped 10 minutes, sweetened, and taken 3 times daily; or, 1 oz herb to 1 pint water, steeped 10 minutes, then sweetened; one cup taken per dose, 3 times daily.
DECOCTION = 1 to 2 fl. oz, or, boil 1 tsp bark, leaves or wax in 1 cup water; take 1 to 2 cups daily; or, place 1 tsp bark in 1 cup cold water and bring to boil; leave 10 to 15 minutes; dose is 1 cup 3 times daily.
TINCTURE = 1 to 2 ml, 3 times daily, or, 10 to 30 drops, taken in water
EXTRACT = 2 grams dried and combined with 10 ml alcohol, 10 ml water; steep 2 weeks. Dose is 10 to 20 drops mixed in juice or water.
MYRICIN = 5 grains.
FRESH BARK = 1 to 3 tbsp per day
VAGINAL DOUCHE = Combine equal parts leaves of rosemary and bayberry; add 1 pinch of alum; steep 4 tbsp of the mixture in 2 cups boiling water for 10 minutes; strain; add warm water to make up full amount needed. Alternatively: Combine 1 part alum, 2 parts myrrh, 4 parts yarrow, 4 parts rosemary, 4 parts bayberry leaves; bring 1/3 cup of mix to a boil in 2 cups warm water; simmer for 10 minutes and strain; add warm water to make up full amount needed.
GARGLE = Steep 1 tsp in 1 pint boiling water for 30 minutes and use.
POULTICE = bruise bark; simmer in rain water; apply.
EXTERNAL = 1 part essential oil of bayberry to 4 parts carrier oil.

Used for catarrh, conjunctivitis, affections of the heart, insomnia, jaundice, leucorrhea, liver problems, pharynx problems, pain in tendo-achillis, sore throat, and urticaria.
DOSE = tincture to the 3rd potency.

Fruits are used much as juniper berries to flavor strong tasting meat dishes such as game.
Leaves were used by French settlers to season broth.

An infusion of the bark is used as a skin lotion (astringent), and in the bath.

The wax from the berries is collected and used to make candles and soap; 1 bushel of berries is reuired to make 4 lbs of wax.
Dried berries work well in dried herb and floral arrangements.
Swedish and Welsh used the bark to tan calf skins.
Bayberry wax often mixed with beeswax to make candles.
Wax used for blacking balls.

The bark is used by the Swedish and Welsh as a strong decoction to spread on baseboards in spring to kill insects and vermin.
Leaves used to prevent moth and other insect damage in woolen clothing.
The Potawatomi of North America had no medicinal uses for the plant, but placed it on the fire to make a mosquito repellant smudge.

Leaves produce a gray-green with an alum mordant.
Ojibwe boiled the seeds to produce a yellow dye.
Buds produce a yellow dye.
In the fall, the Ojibwe collected the tips of branches with abortive scale, or gall-like structure, and boiled them to produce a brown dye.

An old Christian tradition is to burn a bayberry wax candle on Christmas day until it burns itself out in order to bring good luck.
Once used as a substitute for hops in malt liquors.

aka Dutch Myrtle, English Bog Myrtle, Gale Palustris, Herba Myrti Rabanitini, Meadow Fern, Sweet Gale
(Myrica gale - Linn)

Found in Great Britain in the north and is abundant on the Scottish moors and bogs. A deciduous, bushy shrub to four feet with a resinous bay-like aroma. Wood and leaves are fragrant when bruised. Leaves oblanceolate, tapering at the base, toothed, widest at the apex; upper surface dark, glossy green, underside paler and slightly downy and possessing a few shining glands. The male plant produces flowers in May and June in crowded, stalkless catkins. Fruit catkins (female plants) are about the same size (but thicker) with closely set, resinous nutlets, the flowers being produced on the bare wood of one year's growth; dried leaves are fragrant, but very bitter to the taste and astringent; bears nutlets rather than berries. Plants are covered with a golden, aromatic dust which is used to repel insects.

PROPAGATE: By FRESH SEED in spring; by LAYERING in spring; by SUCKERS; by SEMI-RIPE CUTTINGS in summer.
NEEDS: Well-drained to wet, acid, sandy soil in sun or part shade.
HARVEST: Whole plant; leaves collected during growing season; bark and root in late autumn or early spring. All parts are dried for use. Fruits are gathered for the wax when ripe.
PART USED: Leaves, branches, fruit.
Myrica gale var. tormentosa


Bitter, astringent, antiseptic.
In China the leaves have been infused and used as a stomachic and cordial. In France they have been used as an emmenagogue and abortifacient.
Once used to treat poison ivy.

Branches were once used in Yorkshire as a substitue for hops and also used to produce 'Gale Beer'.
Dried berries were put into broth and used as a spice.
Leaves have been added to flavor soups and stews; also used to make tea.

The catkins, or cones, when boiled in water produce a scum beeswax which was used to make candles; also the fruit is used to make candlewax (see Bayberry above).

Leaves are dried and used to perfume linen.

Bark gathered in the fall will produce a yellow dye.

Swedish peoples used it in decoction to kill insects, vermin, and for itch.

Badge of the Campbells.
The bark was once used to tan calfskins.

©2000 & 2006 by Ernestina Parziale, CH