BAYBERRY
Common Names
Bayberry, Wax-myrtle, Waxberry, Candleberry
Botanical Name
Myrica cerifera
Family
MYRICACEAE

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What is it?

The bark from the root of the Bayberry, which itself is a hardy, evergreen and long-lived shrub that grows to about 2 meters in height.


PLANT


BERRIES


DRIED ROOT BARK

How has it been used?

Bayberry was an essential part of treatments for many chronic digestive disorders such as dysentery, mucus colitis, diarrhoea and enteric infections. Any kind of looseness or inflammation of the bowels would see Bayberry taking a central role in the treatment plan. Women’s problems were also frequently treated with Bayberry, including such conditions as uterine prolapse and frequent or heavy periods.

Bayberry was relied on for the treatment of fevers and serious wasting conditions where its tonic and restorative properties were understood to come to the fore.

During the 19th century Samuel Thomson, a New England herbalist and father of 'physiomedicalism' described Bayberry as second only to red pepper for producing 'heat' within the body. Thomson recommended it for colds, flu, diarrhoea, fever and infectious disease and most particularly as an agent to increase the 'vital force', related to the body's intrinsic ability to heal itself.

Science on Bayberry

~ Bayberry conatins an antibiotic chemical called myricitrin which has been shown to be effective against a broad range of bacteria and protozoa. Myricitrin's antibiotic action supports Bayberry's traditional use against diarrhoea and dysentry. Myricitrin has also been show to reduce fever in experimental models and it also promotes the flow of bile which may contribute to Bayberry's overall benefits to the body.

Bayberry Safety
Bayberry also contains high amounts of tannins which make it useful for binding a loose digestive tract but also mean it can cause nausea and an upset digestion if taken in excess. Bayberry is a safe herb to use for young and old and in pregnancy and breastfeeding however it must be taken in moderate doses or else it will upset anyone's stomach.

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Personal experiences

I have found Bayberry dried herb and its extract to have a marvellous heating quality that is hard to describe because it is not your typical ‘spiciness’ (like from cayenne or ginger for example), but rather something that goes in at a deeper level, a gut level you could say.

Even just a small dose of Bayberry root bark is a truly healing, warming tonic and I have come to understand in my own practice why this so herb was so revered as a treatment for disorders of the digestive and reproductive systems. I think it gets into the coolest, dampest, darkest and most depleted of places and brings a 'light'.

Bayberry is similar to Cinnamon in that it is excellent in combination with other herbs to increase the effectiveness of the whole but it is better tolerated at a higher dose.

In a tincture formula I find that just 10 mls in a 100 is enough to feel its influence. I would use just 1 or 2 or 3 mls of Bayberry in a day for a chronic condition such as a weakened digestion, poor circulation or a gynaecological problem. The bark works extremely well in tea form and can be given in small amounts (just 1 or 2 grams) with confidence that it will take safe effect.

Bayberry combines perfectly with Cinnamon for 'stuck blood', with Panax Ginseng for cold and tired depletion and with Licorice root for a weakened digestive system.

Much of the information here about the traditional uses of Bayberry is consistent with the model of thinking whereby one may treat problem A with plant B. There is much value in this approach, especially in how it helps us pass on useful knowledge to one another, but it falls short in one vital area; and that is that people are not all cut from the same cloth! Something that works brilliantly for one person may do less for another -- why is this?

The reason is that people vary in their constitutions as to whether they are more hot or cool and at the same time more dry or damp (more info about this here) There is much old wisdom in treating the person first and the condition second and in this light Bayberry shows itself as a particularly warming herb that can be of especial benefit to those with cooler consitutions; the Elephant/Butterfly and the Bears.

 

Excerpt from Felter & Lloyd's Kings Dispensatory from 1898

Bayberry bark is astringent and stimulant, and as such is valuable in debilitated conditions of the mucous membranes.

The bark has been successfully employed in scrofula, jaundice, diarrhoea, dysentery, aphthae, and other diseases where astringent stimulants were indicated.

In small doses it has been found advantageous in chronic gastritis, chronic catarrhal diarrhoea, muco-enteritis, and in dysentery having a typhoid character. Cases calling for myrica show feeble venous action, while the pulse is full and oppressed. The decoction is beneficial as a gargle in sore mouth and throat, and is of service in injection, in leucorrhoea and fistula, and also as a wash for ulcers, tinea capitis, etc. It also forms an excellent gum wash for tender, spongy, and bleeding gums.

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© 2011 R.J.Whelan Ltd