Other names: Wax Myrtle – Bayberry Wild Cinnamon, Cerothamnus arborescens, Cerothamnus cerifer, Morella cerifera, Myrica mexicana, Myrica pumila,
Habitat:Native to North America. Thickets on sandy soil near swamps and marshes, also on dry arid hills in which situation it is often only a few centimetres tall.
Description of Bayberry:
The only species of a useful family that is regarded as official, Myrica cerifera grows in thickets near swamps and marshes in the sand-belt near the Atlantic coast and on the shores of Lake Erie. Its height is from 1-2 metres, its leaves lanceolate, shining or resinous, dotted on both sides, its flowers unisexual without calyx or corolla, and its fruit small groups of globular berries, having numerous black grains crusted with greenish-white wax. These are persistent for two or three years. The leaves are very fragrant when rubbed.
Bayberry bark as found in commerce is in curved pieces from 2.5cm 18cm long, covered with a thin, mottled layer, the cork beneath being smooth and red-brown. The fracture is reddish, granular, and slightly fibrous. The odour is aromatic, and the taste astringent, bitter, and very acrid. It should be separated from the fresh root by pounding, in late autumn, thoroughly dried, and when powdered, kept in darkened, well-closed vessels.
Myrica cerifera seed – best sown as soon as it is ripe in the autumn in a cold frame. Stored seed germinates more freely if given a 3 month cold stratification and then sown in a cold frame. Germination is usually good. Prick out the seedlings into individual pots when they are large enough to handle and grow on in a cold frame for the first winter. Plant out in late spring or early summer. Cuttings of half-ripe wood, 5 – 8cm with a heel, July/August in a frame. Pot up and overwinter in a cold frame then plant out in late spring or early summer. Fair to good percentage. Layering in spring.
Cultivation of the herb:
Bogs and low wet sites of coastal woodlands.
Culinary uses of Bayberry:
Edible Parts: Fruit.
Edible Uses: Condiment; Tea.
Fruit – raw or cooked. The fruit is about 3mm in diameter with a large seed. There is very little edible flesh and the quality is poor. Leaves and berries are used as a food flavouring. They make an aromatic, attractive and agreeable substitute for bay leaves, and can be used in flavouring soups, stews etc. The dried leaves are brewed into a robust tea.
Part Used: Bark of root
Actions: Astringent, circulatory stimulant, diaphoretic.
A valuable astringent in diarrhoea and colitis. As a gargle it helps sore throats and as a douche it helps in leucorrhoea. It has been used in the treatment of colds, the flu and other acute feverish conditions.
As a digestive astringent it may be used with Comfrey root and Agrimony. Please note however that comfrey is a very strong herb and many herbalist recommend that it is not used internally
Preparations & Dosage of Bayberry :
Decoction: put 1 teaspoonful of the bark into a cup of cold water and bring to the boil. Leave for 10-15 minutes. This should be drunk three times a day.
Tincture: take 1-2 ml of the tincture three times a day.
Dye, Hedge, Hedge, Wax, Wood.
A wax covering on the fruit contains palmitic acid and is extracted by scalding the fruit with boiling water and immersing them for a few minutes, the wax floats to the surface and is then skimmed off. The fruit is then boiled in water to extract the wax from the pulp and once more the wax is skimmed off. It is then strained through a muslin cloth and can be used to make aromatic candles, sealing wax etc.. Candles made from this wax are quite brittle but are less greasy in warm weather. They are slightly aromatic, with a pleasant balsamic odour and do not smoke when put out, making them much more pleasant to use that wax or tallow candles. The wax is also used in making soaps.. About 1 kilo of wax can be obtained from 4 kilos of berries. A blue dye is obtained from the fruit. The plant can be grown as an informal hedge., succeeding in windy sites. Wood – light, soft, brittle, fine-grained. The wood weighs 35lb per cubic foot. It is of no commercial value.
Esoteric uses of Bayberry:
Good fortune, luck, healing, and stress relief. Burn a white candle sprinkled with bayberry bark for good fortune and money.
Southern Bayberry’s fruits are a traditional source of the wax; Bayberry Oil for those old-fashioned Christmas decorations called bayberry candles. The wax was extracted by boiling the berries, and skimming off the floating hydrocarbons. The fats were then boiled again and then strained. After that the liquid was usable in candle making, whether through dipping or moulding. Southern Bayberry is not the only plant usable for making bayberry candles, however. Its close relatives are also usable.
Southern Bayberry and its relatives have largely been supplanted in candle making by substitutes made from paraffin. The substitute candles have artificial colours and scents that create candles that look and smell similar to natural ones.
The whole complex of primary plant constituents and a characteristic array of secondary plant constituents are present. Pharmacologically important constituents include: triterpenes, flavonoids, tannins, resins and gums