Bayberry

background

Myrica is a genus of about 35-50 species of small trees and shrubs in the family Myricaceae, order Fagales, found throughout most of the world. Occasionally, the genus is divided into two genera, Myrica and Morella, with the former restricted to only a few species and the remainder appearing under Morella. Common names include bayberry, bay-rum tree, bog-myrtle, candleberry, sweet gale, and wax-myrtle.
Several species of Myrica have been used in folk medicine in Asian, Native American, European, and African cultures. According to Daniel Moerman's Medicinal plants of Native America, the branches of sweet gale (Myrica gale) were used by the Bella Coola Indians of British Columbia to prepare decoctions for use as a diuretic or as a treatment for gonorrhea. Other Native American peoples have used bayberry for dysentery, diarrhea, fevers, gynecological conditions, bleeding in the uterus, and as a toothache remedy. Myrica cordifolia, native to South Africa, has been traditionally used as an astringent, food source, and for tanning hides. Another species indigneous to Africa, Myrica quercifolia, has also been prescribed by native herbalists to cure stomachaches.
The early American colonists did not initially use the herb medicinally, but rather made candles, soaps and cosmetics from the bayberry fruit.
Today, bayberry remains popular in Asian herbalist traditions. In Taiwan, bayberry is often recommended for stomach disorders and diarrhea, and in China, it is used as an astringent and pain reliever.
Human data on the therapeutic use of bayberry for any condition are currently lacking. However, a number of early studies suggest that Myrica may have beneficial effects, including anticancer, antioxidant, blood pressure-lowering, antifungal, and antibacterial activities.
Bayberry is not listed in the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS) list.

Related Terms

Anthocyanins, antioxidant, arbre à cire (French), arbre à suif (French), arrayán (Spanish), arrayán brabántico (Spanish), Asian bayberry, bay-rum tree, bog-myrtle, bois-sent-bon (French), box berry, box myrtle, Brabantimirtusz (Hungarian), C-methylated dihydrochalcone, candleberry, cera vegetal (Spanish), chalcone, Chinese-arbutus, Chinese bayberry, Chinese strawberry tree, cirier (French), Elvepost (Norwegian), Fenyérmirtusz (Hungarian), flavanone, flavonoid, flavonol, Gagel (Dutch, German), Gagelstrauch (German), galé odorant (French), glashout (Afrikaans), Harilik porss (Estonian), ilethi (Zulu), Illatos viaszbogyó (Hungarian), Japanese bayberry, kaphal (Nepali), Kynning (Norwegian), Lopperis (Norwegian), louro-bravo (Portuguese), Lusgras (Norwegian), meadow-fern, Mjaðarlyng (Icelandic), Moor-Gagelstrauch (German), Mose Pors (Danish), Morella (alternate genus), Morella cerifera L. Small, Morella cordifolia (L.) Killick, Morella esculenta (Buch.-Ham. ex D. Don) I. M. Turner, Morella nana (A. Chev.) J. Herb.), Morella rubra Lour., mountain peach, Myrica cerifera, Myrica cordifolia, Myrica esculenta, Myrica gale, Myrica integrifolia, Myrica nagi, Myrica nana, Myrica quercifolia, Myrica rubra, Myrica salicifolia, Myrica sapida, Myrica serrata, myricetin, myrique (French), myrique baumier (French), Nageia nagi (Thunb.) Kuntze, piment royal (French), Pors (Danish, nagi (Japanese), Norwegian, Swedish), Porsch (German), Pørse (Norwegian), Porst (German), Poss (Norwegian), Post (Norwegian), Postris (Norwegian), quercetin, red bayberry, Rosmarin (Norwegian), southern bayberry, southern wax-myrtle, Sumpfmyrte (German), Suomyrtit (Finnish), Suomyrtti (Finnish), sweet gale, tallow shrub, tannin, Vahaporss (Estonian), Viaszbogyó (Hungarian), Viaszcserje (Hungarian), Voks-Pors (Danish), Vokspors (Norwegian), Voskovník japonský (Czech), Voskovník obecný (Czech), Voskovník pensylvánský (Czech), Wachsbeerbaum (German), Wachsgagle (German), Wachsmyrte (German), wasbessie (Afrikaans), wasbessiebos (Afrikaans), wasbossie (Afrikaans), Wasgagel (Dutch), wax, wax myrtle, wax-myrtle, wax shrub, waxberry, Woskownica (Polish), yamamomo (Japanese), yangmei (Cantonese, Chinese), yun nan yang mei (Chinese).
Note: Due to the lack of primary research and the extensive and often interchangeable use of different varieties of bayberry, this monograph addresses the available data on a number of commonly used species of the genus Myrica.

evidence table

These uses have been tested in humans or animals. Safety and effectiveness have not always been proven. Some of these conditions are potentially serious, and should be evaluated by a qualified healthcare provider.