|Bayberry Quick Facts|
|Scientific Name:||Myrica cerifera|
|Origin||Low-elevation tropical, subtropical, and warm-temperate regions of the Americas|
|Colors||Green when young turning to blue-grey|
|Shapes||Small, light green, dry drupes which are covered with a conspicuous layer of pale blue wax, giving them a "warty" appearance.|
|Taste||Astringent, bitter, and very acrid|
|Health benefits||Good for Digestion & Treat infections|
Bayberry is a large, irregularly-shaped, dense-branching, nitrogen-fixing, suckering, fast-growing, evergreen shrub that typically grows to 9 meters (30 feet) in height. The plant is found growing in sandy swamps, thickets, marshes and wet woodlands, river margins, sand dunes, pine barrens, hillsides, and upland forests. 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. The plant’s roots have nodes containing nitrogen-fixing bacteria which form a symbiotic relationship with the plant allowing it to grow in very nutrient-poor soil.
Leaves are oblong to lance-shaped, 1-4 inches long, reduced at the tip of the branches, often sparingly toothed, dark green and shiny above, paler and sometimes hairy beneath; leathery, evergreen, with waxy globules and have a rather fragrant odor when crushed.
Flower & Fruit
Flowers are unisexual, dioecious, and borne on catkin like axillary spikes. Flowering normally takes place from March to May. Fruits are small, light green, dry drupes which are covered with a conspicuous layer of pale blue wax, giving them a “warty” appearance. Each axillary spike bears 1 to 12 berries, which may persist over winter. They are green when young turning to blue-grey as they ripe. Traditionally, the herb also has been used as part of the folk medicine. During the 19th century, physicians used to treat cold, cough and flu symptoms using the bark of the bayberry. Hot tea made using powdered bark of bayberry was the most common form of treatment for cold and fever during those days. The root bark of the herb is collected during the fall and is then cleaned, separated, dried and powdered.
The early American colonists discovered the bayberry tree growing throughout the East, but they used it to make fragrant candles rather than medicines. In folk medicine, bayberry was used internally as a tea for its tonic and stimulant properties, and in the treatment of diarrhea, fever and dysentery.
Nineteenth century physicians recommended a hot tea of powdered bayberry tree bark at the first sign of a cold, cough, or flu. Powdered root bark was an ingredient in what was known as “composition powder”, widely used for laryngitis, colds, flu, sinusitis and asthma. Though still available, it is however no longer in common use.
Health benefits of Bayberry
The health benefits of bayberry are primarily due to its astringent effects. These uses include the support of the digestive system and respiratory system as well as healthy inflammation management and menstrual health support. This herb has been popular for generations and can be used internal & externally. Listed below are few of the health benefits of Bayberry
1. For Sinus Relief
Bayberry is quiet beneficial for the treatment of sinus problem. The herb helps in relieving some of the symptoms related with sinus like cold, flu, cough and over-reactive mucous membrane. Traditionally, the bayberry bark root is dried and used as a nasal astringent to shrink and contract the tissues in the sinus cavity and thus, to dry the secretions.
The sinus cavity in humans is located behind our eyes & nose. The cavity is nothing but an empty area for filtering air during breathing. During Sinus problems the cavity becomes inflamed & swollen, and this leads to excess mucous production. Sinus infection can cause tremendous pain and congestion all over the human face, neck and head.
Thus, bayberry as an herb can be used to treat sinus problems as it helps in shrinking the mucous membranes and does not allow fresh mucous formation. It is said that the herb effectively stimulates our circulatory system and forces the body to expel the mucous from the sinus cavity. Some also use the bayberry bark directly to the skin to relive sinus pain and congestion. Powdered bark root of this herbal shrub was and still is used to treat cold, flu, asthma and laryngitis.
2. For Mouth & Gums
Bayberry is used traditionally in the treatment of mouth and gums related problems. People use it as a gargle to treat sore throat and gum related problems like sensitive and bleeding gums. Today, many use bayberry bark root powder as toothpaste by mixing it along with cinnamon powder, echinacea root and salt.
3. For Ulcers & Skin Infections
Herb is used externally to treat several skin related problems like itching, hard to heal ulcers, skin infections, hemorrhoids, sores, dandruff and wounds. Herb also helps in treating hair loss problems by removing dandruff from the scalp.
4. Treat infections
Root bark of bayberry contains a very high concentration of tannins, which are constituents that promote the tightening of mucous membranes and help to protect against infection. Bayberry has been used traditionally as an anti-diarrheal medicine as it reduces the leaking of fluid into the digestive tract, and thus helps to prevent watery stools.
5. For Digestion
Due to its astringent and emetic properties of Bayberry it is used for treating digestion problems like indigestion, diarrhea, chronic gastritis, irritable bowel syndrome and bowel inflammation. As mentioned earlier, physicians in the 19th century used to make tea from this herb and treat problems related to digestion, especially diarrhea.
6. Urinary Tract Treatment
Bayberry supports the urinary system, bladder and kidney function, and can help lessen such symptoms as cramping, inflammation, irritation, and discomfort. It is excellent for kidney stones and gallbladder problems. It may optionally be used as a homeopathic component or an adjunct component.
Bayberry may be an effective treatment for diarrhea. Research have suggested that bayberry improves symptoms faster than antibiotics due to its astringent properties, but that antibiotics may be more effective at killing bacteria in the intestines. Because of the serious consequences associated with bacterial diarrhea, if bayberry is used to ease symptoms, it is best to take the herb along with standard antibiotic therapy. However, taking bayberry with antibiotics may reduce the effectiveness of antibiotics. Talk to your doctor before combining the two.
8. For Female Problems
It is also said that the bark root powder of Bayberry can also be used to treat problems in females, such as heavy menstrual bleeding and vaginal discharge. It is usually used as a douche to treat vaginal discharge in women.
9. For Fever & Infections
Herb was used to treat fever and infections especially related to the nasal passage in the past. It is said that the root of the herb has anti-biotic properties due to myricitrin, the chemical present in it. This herb was used by Choctaw Indians to treat fever.
Ayurvedic Health benefits of Bayberry
- Sunburn: Prepare a tea made from the leaves of Bayberry. Have 2-3 times a day.
- Diarrhea: Make a decoction with leaves of Bayberry. Drink a cup of it once a day.
- Mumps: Prepare a decoction of the leaves of Bayberry. Gargle with it two-three times a day.
- Diarrhea: Prepare a decoction of Caraway, Agrimony and Bayberry. Take it twice a day.
- Bronchitis: Drink the decoction of dried ginger and bayberry.
- Hoarseness: Boil Bayberry and dry ginger together. Gargle with this decoction twice a day.
- Throat Disorder: Prepare a decoction of Bayberry and ginger. Take it twice a day. It is helpful in Throat Inflammation.
- Tonsillitis: Prepare a decoction of Bayberry and ginger. Drink lukewarm.
- Swine Flu: Prepare a decoction by adding equal amount of Bayberry bark, grated ginger root in equal quality. Add half amount of Cayenne powder to it. Take one glass two times a day.
- Diptheria: Mix one tbsp each of following herbs together. Mullein, Raspberry leaves, Agrimony, Bayberry, Cayenne, Myrrh. Prepare a decoction. Have one glass two times a day.
- Diarrhea: Prepare a decoction of dried ginger and bayberry. Drink twice a 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.
- Hemorrhage (uterus, bowels, and lungs), leucorrhea: Use the infusion or decoction alone, or in combination with suitable stimulants (cayenne, ginger, etc.).
- Colds, flu, fever, etc.: Use bayberry in combination with diaphoretics (yarrows, catnip, peppermint, sage, etc.); it is very effective here.
- Frog, thrush, trench mouth: Spray mouth and throat with tea in atomizer. If too young or throat too sore to gargle, and then drink 1 or 2 tablespoons each hour until relief.
- Sore throat: Gargle the throat thoroughly with the decoction until it is clean, and then drink a pint lukewarm to cleanse stomach.
- Alopecia (loss of hair), dandruff: Use a strong decoction and rub in well at night; wash off in the morning, brush the hair thoroughly and apply again (using a few drops of lavender oil with the solution that is rubbed in gives a more effective synergistic action). This will quickly stop falling hair and remove dandruff.
Traditional uses and benefits of Bayberry
- It is used internally in the treatment of diarrhea, irritable bowel syndrome, jaundice, fevers, colds, influenza, catarrh, excessive menstruation, vaginal discharge etc.
- Externally, it is applied to indolent ulcers, sore throats, spongy gums, sores, itching skin conditions, dandruff etc.
- It is regarded as a sure cure for dysentery and is also used to treat internal ulcers.
- A tea made from the leaves is used in the treatment of fevers and externally as a wash for itchy skin.
- Bayberry tea has been used as a tonic, stimulant, and diarrhea treatment.
- Plant parts are also used to heal wounds.
- Bayberry has been used as a gargle.
- Bayberry wax is used to make fragrant candles.
- Decoction is good as a gargle and injection in chronic inflammation of the throat, leucorrhoea, uterine hemorrhage, etc.
- It is an excellent wash for the gums.
- The powder is strongly sternutatory and excites coughing.
- Externally, the powdered bark is used as a stimulant to indolent ulcers, though in poultices it should be combined with elm.
- It is useful in diarrhea, jaundice, scrofula, etc.
- Externally, a decoction made from the herb was used to cover slow healing wounds, hemorrhoids and varicose veins.
- Once, large doses were used to induce vomiting as a treatment for poisoning.
- Wax also had its uses as a medicine and was used traditionally as a remedy for dysentery and to treat ulcers in the digestive system.
- Leaves boiled with tea are a medicinal remedy for stomach pains, gastritis, indigestion, and improper bowel syndrome.
- Root is useful to treat diarrhea, colitis, vaginal discharge and during fever.
- It is helpful in sore throat, common cold, and flu.
- It is effective for gum bleeding, gum sores, sensitive gums, and healthy & white teeth.
- Herb is used as an ointment for infections, wounds, redness, and itchiness of skin. It also cures dandruff and hair loss.
- The herb also aids in treating cholera, typhoid, nausea, bronchitis, and others.
- Leaves and berries are used as food flavoring.
- They make an aromatic, attractive and agreeable substitute for bay leaves, and can be used in flavoring soups, stews etc.
- Dried leaves are brewed into a robust tea.
- Bayberries can be ground to use as spice, or added to broths.
Formulas or Dosages
- Tea: Steep 1 tsp. in 1 pint of boiling water for 30 minutes. Use as a gargle for sore throat or for chills (drink 1/2 cup warm every hour until relief).
- Extract: Mix 10-20 drops in juice or water.
- Mouthwash: Gargle with liquid mixture made of extract or powder as needed.
- Powder: Mix 1/2 to 1 tsp. in 1 cup warm water.
- Tincture: 1/2 to 1 tsp. is taken in a small glass of water, 2 or 3 times daily.
- Externally: Rub liquid mixture on varicose veins or hemorrhoids as needed.
- Infusion: 1 tsp bark in 1 cup boiling water, steeped 10 minutes, sweetened, and taken 3 times daily
- Decoction: 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.
How to Make Bayberry Candles
Once you find a nice stand of bayberry bushes loaded with bayberries, simply strip the little berries off of their branches and into a bag, but be careful because spiders, wasps and other biting or stinging creepy-crawlies may be living among the berries. After you collect the quantity of berries that you need for the amount of bayberry wax that you want to make:
- Remove leaves, twigs or debris in the berries and pour them in a metal cooking pot.
- Cover the berries with two inches of water. Bring the water to a boil and continue to boil the berries for about 10 minutes. You will see an oil-like sheen form on the surface of the water then a foamy scum will begin to float on top. This is the bayberry wax melting off of the berries. Remove the pot from the heat and allow it to cool.
- Remove the wax that has floated to the top and hardened. Break it into pieces that will fit into a coffee can. Throw away the remaining twigs and berries in the pot.
- Place the coffee can filled with wax into a pan of water on the stove and heat it gradually at low temperature. As the melts down you can add more chunks. If you were not able to collect pounds of berries you may add some bee’s wax as an extender.
- When making bayberry candles, be sure to keep the candle small, like the size of a tea-light or votive, set a candle wick into molds and pour the melted wax into them. Allow candles to cool then remove from the molds. Light your homemade bayberry candles and enjoy!
- The wax is also used in making soaps.
- Blue dye is obtained from the fruit.
- Plant can be grown as an informal hedge.
- Herb is used for making candles, cosmetics and soaps.
- Bayberry bark has traditionally been used to tan leather and dye wool.
- Bayberry branches have been used in lieu of hops in the fermentation of gale beer, popular in northern England, and reported to have more than the usual “thirst quenching” ability.
- Wax coating on the fruit of several species, known as bayberry wax, has been used traditionally to make candles.
- Wax from the fruits is used in making fragrances and candles.
- There is a report that some of the constituents of the wax are carcinogenic.
- Vomiting in large doses.
- Constituent myricadiol may cause salt retention and potassium excretion.
- Avoid if high blood pressure or kidney disease.
- Tannin constituents may cause gastrointestinal irritation and liver damage.
- Plant should not be used during pregnancy and breast feeding.
- It may cause high blood pressure if taken in high doses.
- It may cause Nausea and vomiting.
- It is used in the treatment of narcotic poisoning.
- Bayberry pollen has been documented to cause allergic respiratory symptoms.
- It should not be given to infants and children.
- Bayberries are not suitable for those who are affected with edema. It may make it worse.
- It may have a harmful effect on liver and kidney.
- Bayberry may increase the risk of bleeding. Caution is advised in patients with bleeding disorders or taking agents that may increase the risk of bleeding.