Myrtle is the nickname for a family of shrubs and trees collectively known as Myrtaceae.
They are almost entirely located in tropical regions, particularly in America and Australia. Myrtle can be found in the Mediterranean, North Africa, and Iran as well.
The Myrtle Tree
Myrtle is distinguished by evergreen leaves that contain aromatic volatile oils. Many varieties of myrtle produce flashy blossoms, gums, and resins. The tree produces black berries which, along with the leaves, are used particularly for aromatherapy.
Health Advantages of Myrtle
In as far back as ancient Greece, people cherished the application of myrtle. Greek athletes were said to have worn wreaths of evergreen myrtle leaves during the Olympics. Ancient civilizations believed that myrtle was a symbol of immortality, and they used it in love potions and as treatment for various ailments.
In the era of the Roman Empire, myrtle was used to treat urinary and respiratory ailments. Egyptians used the plant to treat nervous afflictions. French women drank tea made from crushed myrtle leaves, believing that it would help to preserve their youthful appearance and overall vigor. Some actually believed myrtle to hold a cure for cancer, but little evidence was found to prove the theory.
Myrtle has been conventionally used to treat coughs, bronchitis and other respiratory infections. The astringent properties of myrtle have also earned the reputation for promoting good digestion, treating urinary tract disorders, and preventing wound infections. Recent laboratory studies suggest that the herb contains anti-inflammatory substances, making it a viable astringent compound. This finding accounts for the plant's enduring popularity as a wound and cough treatment.
There are other health benefits of myrtle. It is believed to be anti-infective, and can be used as a tonic to hasten the healing process. Healers in Middle Eastern countries have traditionally used myrtle as a treatment for diabetes.
The 1980s saw scientists putting the myrtle herb under the microscope in an attempt to identify the active ingredients that lends it its various medicinal properties. Results of one study indicated that extract from the herb can decrease blood sugar in mice. This explains the association associating myrtle with diabetes. However, there is still no concrete proof that the herb is safe to use and effective for people who have the disease.
Myrtle extract is created from plant's leaves and seeds. Most tests have shown positive results if the plant extract is taken orally and in liquid form. A standard dose is usually around one to two milliliters of the essential oil daily. Be sure that you ask your doctor first before taking it.
Although uncommon, topical myrtle extract formulations can also be used. Again, be sure to use this herbal treatment only under your doctor's supervision.
There are two types of myrtle, and it's important that you do not confuse the two. Myrtus communis is known as "true" myrtle, and is the plant described here. The other variety, called "Madagascar Myrtle" (Eugenia jambolana), is a completely different plant and has entirely different effects on the body.
Myrtle is believed to work well with other herbs and nutritional supplements. However, it should not be used if you are taking insulin or oral sulfonylureas. The herb may increase the levels of blood glucose, and reduce the effects of your medications.