Reprinted with the kind permission of Dr. Mercola
Myrtle's leaves and fruits have been widely used as folk medicine for the treatment of digestive, pulmonary and skin problems in many parts of the world.1 Its essential oil, which possesses much of the healthful properties of the plant, is also popular among aromatherapy practitioners. Discover what you can gain from having a bottle of myrtle oil stocked in your home by reading the information below.
What Is Myrtle Oil?
The myrtle plant was first mentioned in history in ancient Greece.2 It was associated with Aphrodite, the goddess of love, and was offered to certain men and women as a symbol of honor. The Greeks also valued the plant because of its healing qualities.
Myrtle is an evergreen shrub that originated from Africa but has become a native plant in the Mediterranean region. Its small, dark green leaves, purple-black colored berries, and fragrant white flowers are all sources of myrtle oil. However, it's the leaves that produce the oil used in traditional medicine. The oil derived from berries is often used as a flavoring agent for beverages and alcoholic drinks.
Myrtle belongs to the same plant family as tea tree and eucalyptus, giving all three similar characteristics. In fact, myrtle's scent is reminiscent of eucalyptus oil.3 Myrtle is sometimes compared to frankincense oil because they possess a similar composition and scent.4
You may also see lemon myrtle essential oil on the market. While both myrtle oils have a number of related properties, they are two different plant oils. Common myrtle oil comes from Myrtus communis, while lemon myrtle oil comes from the Backhousia citriodora plant.
Uses of Myrtle Oil
Myrtle oil gained its popularity because of its antimicrobial, astringent, antiseptic, anti-inflammatory, expectorant, decongestant and stimulant properties. It also functions as an effective deodorizer.
Its medicinal functions have been noted as early as 600 B.C. According to the Bible, it was used in purification ceremonies. In other cultures, the essential oil of myrtle was used to help ease urinary infections, digestive issues and respiratory illnesses. Greek physicians used the plant oil for lung and bladder infections, while in Italy, the oil was an ingredient in children's cough syrup. The oil found in myrtle leaves was also used in skincare and as a remedy to regulate menstrual cycle.5
In Ayurvedic medicine, practitioners used myrtle oil to help treat cerebral infections, specifically epilepsy.6 Today, myrtle oil is commonly used by aromatherapists for skin health and respiratory ailments. Like eucalyptus, myrtle can be used to ward off mosquitoes and other insects and can be an air freshener.7
Composition of Myrtle Oil
Studies8,9 have noted that the main chemical components of myrtle oil are pinene, cineole 1,8 and linalool. Pinene is found in many plants and is used as a liniment for rheumatism in aromatherapy and as a tonic for the respiratory system.10 Cineole, also called eucalyptol, is prevalent in Eucalyptus oil, but is also found in many plants.
Due to its expectorant properties, cineole is often used in lozenges. Linalool possesses sedative properties and can be used as an anesthetic. Myrtle oil is also high in tannins, which are water-soluble polyphenols that appear in many plants.
Benefits of Myrtle Oil
Myrtle oil has been extensively researched for its potential benefits on hormone imbalances, specifically of the thyroid and ovaries.11 Myrtle possesses adaptogen properties, which may help regulate an underactive or overactive gland. This is why it is recommended for people suffering from hypothyroidism.12
In skincare, myrtle essential oil is valued for its astringent properties. It can help address oily skin, open pores, sagging skin, and acne. It is also used as a base to help treat hemorrhoids because of its high tannin content.
People dealing with respiratory problems, including asthma, cough, and bronchitis, may benefit from myrtle oil because of its expectorant properties. This means that it can help remove excess mucus from your respiratory tract. The oil is gentle enough and is particularly helpful for the elderly and children suffering from nighttime coughs.
Myrtle oil may also help inhibit infections due to its antimicrobial properties. In one study,13 it was shown that the oil could prevent the growth and development of five types of bacteria, including Escherichia coli, Staphylococcus aureus, Bacillus subtilis, Salmonella species, and Listeria species. Myrtle also functions as an antiseptic and can be applied on wounds.
Myrtle oil may also work for mental and emotional health, as it can help relieve nervousness and stress. As a sedative, it may provide relief from depression, tension, and distress, as well as inflammation and allergic reactions.
How to Make Myrtle Oil
Like many plant essential oils, myrtle oil is obtained by steam distilling the flowers, leaves and stem. However, you can make infused myrtle oil at home using myrtle leaves. Follow this guide from eHow.com.14
What You'll Need
• Measuring cup
• 3 to 4 cups of fresh or 1 cup of dried myrtle leaf
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• Extra-virgin olive oil or cold-pressed grape seed oil
• Large saucepan with ovenproof handles
• Coffee filters
• Dark bottle or jar (preferably glass jar)
- Measure 3 cups of fresh myrtle leaves. With a knife, chop the leaves into small pieces, about the size of a dime. Transfer the chopped leaves into a jar.
- Pour extra virgin oil into the jar until it sits approximately 1 inch above the chopped leaves. Place the contents of the jar into the large saucepan with ovenproof handles.
- Preheat oven to 200 degrees F, place the uncovered saucepan into the oven, and observe the mixture. When the oil starts to boil, lower the heat slightly until the oil sits at a temperature where it slowly boils.
- Use a wooden spoon to stir the mixture. Do this every 20 minutes. Simmer the oil until the leaves become crisp and "worn-out." This means that the leaves will be devoid of oil for infusion.
- Place a coffee filter into a strainer and place over the dark-colored jar. Pour the myrtle extract through the filter until no more oil comes out. Close the jar tightly and store it in a cool, dark, and dry area.
Hot Oil Infusion
Measure 3 cups of fresh myrtle leaves. With a knife, chop the leaves into small pieces, about the size of a dime. Transfer the chopped leaves into a jar.
Pour extra virgin oil into the jar until it sits approximately 1 inch above the chopped leaves. Place the contents of the jar into the large saucepan with ovenproof handles.
Preheat oven to 200 degrees F, place the uncovered saucepan into the oven and observe the mixture. When the oil starts to boil, lower the heat slightly until the oil sits at a temperature where it slowly boils. Use a wooden spoon to stir the mixture. Do this every 20 minutes. Simmer the oil until the leaves become crisp and "worn-out." This means that the leaves will be devoid of oil for infusion.
Place a coffee filter into a strainer and place over the dark-colored jar. Pour the myrtle extract through the filter until no more oil comes out.
Close the jar tightly and store it in a cool, dark and dry area.
Cold Oil Infusion
- Measure 1 cup of dried myrtle leaves. Chop the leaves using a knife.
- Place the chopped leaves into a jar and fill it with cold-pressed grape seed oil until the oil sits approximately an inch above the chopped leaves. Seal the jar afterward.
- Place the jar in a warm place, with access to direct sunlight. Let the jar sit for two weeks and shake the jar vigorously at least twice a day.
Put a coffee filter into the strainer, with a dark glass jar underneath it. Pour the oil through and old the strainer over until no oil comes out.
Seal the jar and store in a cool, dry and dark place.
Note: Myrtle infusion oil is best used when fresh, but it can remain stable up to a year. Use within six months for best results.
How Does Myrtle Oil Work?
Myrtle oil can be used in a number of ways. It can be inhaled, applied directly, or added to your food. If you're interested, here are some ways to use myrtle oil:
Hemorrhoids — Add 6 drops of myrtle oil to 30 grams (1 ounce) of cold cream and mix well. Apply several times a day until the swelling or pain subsides.
Acne — Bad cases of boils or white heads can be treated by using 10 ml (2 teaspoon.) of grape seed oil, 1 drop of wheat germ oil, and 7 drops of myrtle oil.
Remedy for any respiratory ailment — Diffuse the oil. You may also add 4 to 5 drops to your bath salts and mix with warm bathwater, or apply a diluted blend to your chest or back.
Deodorant — Apart from being an effective skincare agent, myrtle can also ward off bad odor. Add diluted myrtle oil solution to water and use as spray.
Insomnia — You may diffuse, mix with bathwater, or apply a drop to the back of the neck and pulse points.
Calming agent — If you're experiencing stress or anxiety, you may use myrtle oil for its calming and relaxing properties.
If you're thinking about blending myrtle oil with other essential oils, effective ones include lavender, lime, bergamot, lemon, hyssop, rosemary and clary sage. Myrtle oil also blends well with spices.
Is Myrtle Oil Safe?
Myrtle oil is generally considered non toxic. Its mild nature makes it suitable for use on children and the elderly who have respiratory issues. However, you should not use it without diluting it with other carrier oils, such as olive oil or coconut oil. To check for any adverse effects, you may use a skin patch test or simply apply a drop of the diluted oil on a small portion of your skin.
Myrtle essential oil is also approved as a food additive and flavoring agent by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). While it's gentle for use on kids suffering from cold, coughs and similar problems, children age 6 and below should not ingest this essential oil as a dietary supplement.
Do not use myrtle oil on pets, especially cats, as it is toxic to them. Always consult your veterinarian prior to use. Pregnant and nursing women should also consult their doctors before using myrtle or any type of herbal oil.
Myrtle Oil Side Effects
No side effects have been noted for myrtle essential oil when used in normal dosages.15 Application of undiluted essential oil may cause allergic reactions, such as skin irritations and reddening, in people with sensitive skin. Before using myrtle or any oil, consult your doctor or seek advice from an experienced aromatherapist.
Sources and References
1 Health Impact News, Myrtle Essential Oil: Normalizing the Function of Thyroid and Ovaries
2 OrganicFacts.net, Health Benefits of Myrtle Essential Oil
3 The Telegraph, May 11, 2012
4 Experience-Essential-Oils.com, Myrtle Oil
5 Base Formula Essential Oils & Aromatherapy Sundries, Myrtle Essential Oil
6 Annie’s Remedy Essential Oils & Herbs, Myrtle Myrtus communis
7 Aromatherapy Bible, Myrtle
8 Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, February 22, 2006;54(4):1420-6
9 Journal of Essential Oil Bearing Plants, Feb 4,2009; 13(1): 123-129
10 Beneforce.com, Pinene Information
11 The Ananda Apothecary, Myrtle Essential Oil
12 Health Impact News, Myrtle Essential Oil: Normalizing the Function of Thyroid and Ovaries
13 Plant Pathology & Microbiology, 2013;4:7 (PDF)
14 eHow.com, How to Get Myrtle Oil out of Myrtle Leaves
15 R. Balz, B. Dandrieux, & P. Lartaud, The Healing Power of Essential Oils, p.124
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