Myrtle is a wonder herb derived from a family of shrubs and trees collectively known as Myrtaceae. These plants are almost entirely located in tropical regions including Australia and America. Myrtle can also be found growing in North Africa, Iran and in the Mediterranean.
Myrtle trees are distinguished by the evergreen leaves that contain those valuable and aromatic volatile oils. Many varieties of myrtle produce gums, resins and flashy blossoms. The myrtle tree also produces black berries which, along with the leaves, are used in aromatherapy applications.
Applications of myrtle for health benefits can be traced back to the time of ancient Greece. It is believed that the evergreen wreaths worn by Greek athletes during the Olympics were actually made of myrtle leaves. The Greeks believed that myrtle signified immortality, and so the plant derivatives were used it in many love potions, as well as in treatments for various ailments.
Myrtle was used to treat respiratory and urinary problems during the time of the Roman Empire. Ancient Egyptians used the herb to treat nervous afflictions. Historically, women in France would drink a tea brewed with crushed myrtle leaves to preserve their overall vigor and youthful appearance. There were even suggestions that myrtle may hold a key to the cure for cancer, although this has never been proven.
Conventionally, myrtle was used to treat coughs and various types of respiratory infections, such as bronchitis. Thanks to its astringent properties, it has also gained a reputation for promoting good digestion, treating urinary tract disorders, and prevention infections in wounds. According to recent laboratory studies, the herb contains substances that are anti-inflammatory, making it a good astringent compound. This likely accounts for the plant's enduring use for wounds and coughs.
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 taken from the seeds and leaves of the plant. Tests have shown positive results if the plant extract is taken orally in liquid form. A standard dose is one to two milliliters of the essential oil taken daily. It's important to note that you should always speak with your doctor before taking myrtle extract.
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. Take special care that you do not mix up the two. Myrtus communis, the "true" myrtle, is the plant described here. The other variety, called "Madagascar" myrtle (Eugenia jambolana) is a totally 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.