Common names: Bayberry,Candleberry, Wax Myrtle, Waxberry.

Similar species: M. californica, Myrica gale,Myrica ocuba,Myrica jalapensis

Plant description: Bayberry is a reasonably tall, branching, shrub or tree, attaining a height between 0.3 and 6 meters. The bark is light grey to brown, and in some species often covered with lichen and moss. The trunks divide into spreading branches that are green and hairy when young, but eventually take on the same hue and texture as the main trunk when mature. The leaves are alternate, glabrous, cuneate to lanceolate, acute, petiolate, the margin entire or sometimes slightly dentate, 3-8 cm in length. Bayberry is dioecious, the inconspicuous flowers appearing in springtime before the leaves have fully expanded. On male plants the flowers grow from the branches between the leaves in oblong, cylindrical catkins. The female flowers are much smaller, with an ovate-shaped ovary and 2 filiform styles. By about Septermber the flowers give way to clusters of small round drupes, which appear first as green but eventually become covered in bluish-white waxy granules. In general Bayberry is characterized by a distinctively spicy aroma.

Habitat, ecology and distribution: Various Bayberry species are found all over the drier regions of continental United States, especially in the Florida panhandle westward to Texas, but has been found as far north as Maine and the Great Lakes region. Its southern extent includes Mexico, Central America and the West Indies, including Cuba. It prefers in dry forests and sandy areas, and is often found in open fields reclaiming abandoned areas, and thus is considered by some to be an invasive weed.

Part used: Bark,leaves.

History: Bayberry has a long history of use in North America, utilized by many First Nations in much the same way as it has come to be used today by Western herbalists. Its introduction into Western herbal materia medica however is once again largely credited to Samuel Thomson, who used it as his No. 3 remedy in his patented system of healing. Apart from its medicinal uses the mature Bayberry fruit was used as a source of wax, often for making candles, as its names ‘Waxberry’ or ‘Candleberry’ suggest. The wax is removed from the berries by boiling them in water, the wax floating to the surface. Grieve states that four pounds of berries yields about one pound of wax (1971).

Constituents: Bayberry contains a variety of flavonoids among which myricitrin is generally considered, as well tannins (upwards of 3.9% in the bark), terpenoids (myricadiol, taraxerol, taxaxerone), wax (containing palmitic, myristic and lauric acid esters), gums, resins, albumen and starch (Felter and Lloyd 1893; Newall et al 1996, 41; Duke 1992).

Medical Research:
Cardiovascular: In a chromogenic bioassay the methylene chloride and methanol extracts Myrica cerifera demonstrated a significant antithrombin activity (Chistokhodova et al 2002).
Antioxidant: Myrica nagi was shown to possess a chemopreventive effect on cumene hydroperoxide-induced cutaneous oxidative stress and toxicity in mice. Pre-application of Myrica nagi prior to that of cumene hydroperoxide resulted in significant inhibition of oxidative stress and toxicity in a dose-dependent manner, with depleted levels of glutathione recovered to a significant level (Alam et al 2000). The flavonoid myrigalone isolated from the fruit exudate of Myrica gale was shown to exhibit an antioxidant effect on Cu(2+)-induced oxidation of low density lipoprotein from cholesterol fed rabbits (Mathiesen et al 1996).
Hepatoprotective: A diethyl ether extract of the fruit exudate of Myrica gale and the C-methylated dihydrochalcones isolated from it were found to exhibit antioxidant and free-radical scavenging effects in isolated rat hepatocytes and liver mitochondria incubated with tertbutyl hydroperoxide (Mathiesen 1995). A methanol extract from the bark of Myrica rubra demonstrated protective effects on liver injuries induced by carbon tetrachloride (CCl4) and alpha-naphthylisothiocyanate in rats (Ohta 1992).
Antiinflammatory: Myrica salicifolia root extract was found to have analgesic and antipyretic activity in mice (Njung’e et al 2002).
Prostate: An aqueous ethanol extract of Myrica rubra showed in vitro testosterone 5alpha-reductase inhibitory activity and in vivo anti-androgenic activity animal experiments. Three constituents, yricanone, myricanol, and myricetin were identified as the main active principles (Matsuda et al 2001).

Toxicity: Bayberry is considered to be an aero-allergenic plant. The propensity for Bayberry pollen to stimulate an allergic reaction in nasal and bronchial challenges was found to be 92% in study subjects with allergic rhinitis and positive skin tests to bayberry pollen extract, and 57% in study subjects with extrinsic asthma and positive skin tests to bayberry pollen. Specific IgE antibodies were present in the sera of 8 of 13 (62%) subjects with positive challenges and absent in 15 of 18 (83%) subjects with negative challenges (Jacinto 1992). In individuals identified as having an allergy to Bayberry pollen, internal use is best avoided. Newall report one study of an aqueous extract of Bayberry administered subcutaneously in rats for up to 75 weeks that produced tumors. The same extract in a later study for 78 weeks however showed no tumor-promoting activity (1996, 41).

Herbal action: astringent,stimulant, diaphoretic, antipyretic

Indications: fever, respiratory and gastrointestinal catarrh, rhinitis, chronic sinusitis, tonsillitis , pharyngitis, gastritis, subacute or chronic gastric ulcer, flatulent dyspepsia, atonic diarrhea, dysentery, irritable bowel, cardiovascular edema, atherosclerosis with dry membranes, senility, periodontitis, pyorrhea, aphthous stomatitis, sore throat

Contraindications and cautions: The terpenoid myricadiol has been shown to exhibit a mineralcorticoid-like activity, and thus Bayberry may me contraindicated in hypertension, edema, and pregnancy (Newall et al 1996, 41). In large doses Bayberry is contraindicated in acute gastrointestinal inflammation.

Medicinal uses: According to Thomson, Bayberry figured as an important remedy to remove the ‘canker,’ a condition that represented the physical symptoms of coldness in the body. “Canker and putrefaction are caused by cold, or want of heat, for whenever any part of the body is so affected with the cold so as to overpower the natural heat, putrefaction commences; and if not strong enough to overcome its progress, it will communicate with the blood, when death will end the contest between heat and cold, or the powers of life and death by deciding in favor of the latter” (Thomson 507, 1841). While Thomson relied upon Lobelia and Cayenne to a great extent, he found that once he had used Lobelia to stimulate the fires of the body and Cayenne to hold it, he needed something else to continue the work of removing the canker, without necessarily promoting emesis. For this purpose he employed the pungent and astringent Bayberry, stating that “this valuable article may be taken separately, or compounded with other substances, and is the best remedy for canker that I have ever found” (Thomson 1841).

Bayberry bark is both astringent and stimulant, highly valued in debilitated and catarrhal conditions of the mucous membranes. In small drop doses Bayberry tincture is said to have a stimulant effect upon the autonomic nervous system, “…aiding the processes of digestion, blood making, and nutrition,” indicated in chronic gastritis, chronic diarrhea, mucus colitis and dysentery (Felter and Lloyd 1893). In larger doses Bayberry has a decided stimulant effect upon gastric and respiratory function, best used to combat nascent fevers, colds, sore throats, flus and infectious disease. Cook states that a Dr. J. W. Martin, had used Bayberry in several cases of goiter, “…the thyroid enlargement steadily giving way before its influence, and in two cases disappearing entirely (1869, 573). Bayberry is recommended by Cook in any kind of hemorrhage, from the lungs or gastrointestinal tract, or in menorrhagia (1869, 572). Bayberry can be used to stimulate sluggish uterine contractions during labour while at the same preventing or arresting post-partum hemorrhaging (Cook 1869, 572). Felter and Lloyd state that Bayberry is specifically indicated where venous action is enfeebled, with a full and oppressed pulse (1893). Used topically as an aqueous preparation Bayberry is an exceptional useful remedy in the treatment of indolent ulcers, nasal polyps, ringworm, gum disease, leucorrhea and anal fistula.

Pharmacy and dosage:

• Fresh Plant Tincture:1:2, 95% alcohol, 3-60 gtt
Dry Plant Tincture: 1:5,60% alcohol, 3-60 gtt
Hot Infusion: bark powder, 1:20, 30-120 mL
Decoction: crude bark, 1:20, 30-120 mL
Powder: 0.5-3 g