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Myrtle is found throughout the Mediterranean, as well as in some tropical and sub-tropical regions. The leaves are used predominantly, but the whole plant can be utilized for different applications involving myrtle’s pleasant scent.
In Jewish liturgy Myrtle is one of the four sacred plants of Sukkot, the Feast of the Tabernacles.
Myrtle essential oil is the traditional emblem of love.
Myrtle as an Herb for Medicinal Uses
The medicinal parts are the leaves (dried and as a source of oil), twigs and the fresh, flowering branches. The berries have a sweet-spicy taste.
Myrtle leaf is used to treat bronchitis, bruises, bad breath, wounds, colds, sinusitis, and coughs. In India it is seen as a treatment for cerebral infections, most notably epilepsy. It has also been used at various times as an astringent, an antiseptic and a decongestant.
As an essential oil, myrtle is used to treat acne, asthma, bronchitis, catarrhal conditions, chronic coughs, colds, flu, hemorrhoids, infectious diseases, insomnia, oily skin, and open pores.
In folk medicine, myrtle oil is used internally for acute and chronic infections of the respiratory tract such as bronchitis, whooping cough, tuberculosis of the lung, as well as for bladder conditions, diarrhea, hemorrhoids, prostatitis and worm infestation. It is sometimes used as a substitute for Buchu. External applications include ear infections, tired limbs, and leukorrhea.
Myrtle Oil Infusion: Prepare an infusion by mixing 15 to 30 g of the herb with 1 liter water and leave to draw for 15 minutes. Three cups of an infusion may be taken each day. Washes may be used several times daily.
Myrtle Leaf Infusion: Prepare an infusion by mixing 15 to 30 g of the herb with 1 liter water and leave to draw for 15 minutes. A wash is prepared by adding 30 g of leaves to 1 liter of water and letting it stand. The average daily dosage of powder from the leaves is 5 g taken before meals.
Culinary Uses of Myrtle
On the islands of Sardinia and Corsica it is used to produce a liqueur called Mirto.
Myrtle berries are sweet, with a juniper and rosemary-like flavor.
In the Mediterranean, the berries were initially used to flavor wine but are now more commonly used in desserts, liqueurs, and sweet dishes.
The leaves are used in stews, roast meats, stuffings, salads, and meat ragouts. The leaves are used to wrap wild game or roast pork before cooking.
Italians, especially Sardinians, use myrtle branches in the same way allspice branches are used in the Caribbean. They wrap meat, other game meats, birds, and poultry with myrtle branches and then roast, broil, or smoke them. The leaves are also stuffed in the meats and are removed before serving. The burning myrtle wood and leaves provide a fragrant note to the meat.
Australians add it to roast poultry, seafood, salad dressings, many sauces, and curries, and infuse it in vinegar.
There is little documented evidence to show that Myrtle is dangerous, but caution should always be taken if trying a new herb.
No internal administration of the drug should take place in the presence of inflammatory illnesses of the gastrointestinal area or of the biliary ducts, or in the case of severe liver diseases.
Preparations containing the oil should not be applied to the faces of infants or small children because of the possibility of triggering glottal spasm, bronchial spasm, asthma-like attacks or even respiratory failure.
It is recommended that pregnant women should avoid myrtle.
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