Myrtle (Myrtus communis) is a small evergreen shrub that grows wild across the Mediterranean area even though it is now being cultivated in many cultures of the world. The plant has leaves that contain the beneficial essential oil, star-shaped flowers, and fruits that look like small blackberries. The leaves can be dried like bay leaves for spicing up meals or the essential oil is extracted to treat a wide range of medicinal conditions. In addition, the fruit is sometimes used to make mirto, an alcohol commonly consumed on some of the Greek Isles. However, myrtle is widely known for its essential oil which has impressive effects on human health.
Myrtle possesses certain antioxidants and flavonoid compounds, including myricetin, citric acid, quercetin, linalool, tannins, catechin, malic acid, as well as pinene. In fact, some of the amazing health benefits of myrtle, particularly of its essential oil, include its ability to treat skin disorders, alleviate respiratory conditions, inhibit cancers, lower blood sugar levels, protect against intestinal issues, boost heart health, ensure hormone balance, regulate the endocrine system, enhance cognitive abilities, improve heart health, and support the functioning of the kidneys.
The Health Benefits of Myrtle
Let’s take a closer look at the amazing health benefits of myrtle.
Improves Heart Health
The flavonoids present in Myrtle, such as myricetin, have the ability to lower the oxidization of bad cholesterol (LDL cholesterol). This simply means that the cholesterol levels will stay balanced, the blood vessels and arteries would be unclogged, atherosclerosis is avoided, and the cardiovascular system stays protected against strokes and coronary heart disease.
Myrtle contains high levels of antioxidants like tannins, quercetin, catechin, and myricetin. These antioxidants have anti-mutagenic and anti-carcinogenic properties that help in the reduction in certain cancers, including breast and prostate cancer.
Alleviates Respiratory Conditions
Myrtle essential oil is extremely popular in aromatherapy and is effective to treat respiratory conditions, including asthma and bronchitis. The herb helps soothe the respiratory tract and clears the passage of oxygen. It also relaxes the body and significantly slowing breathing.
Enhances Cognitive Abilities
Myricetin are very important flavonols present in Myrtle that helps to prevent the formation of the beta-amyloid fibril. This implies that it can significantly alleviate the suffering of people with dementia and Alzheimer’s. Myrtle leaves and berries contain therapeutic effects that can keep the mind clear and inhibit the degradation of neural pathways that may cause certain serious cognitive disorders.
Supports Hormone Balance
According to some studies, myrtle essential oil is very effective on the endocrine system, especially in regulating the thyroid gland. Regardless of whether it is inhaled or taken orally, myrtle essential oil can have significant positive effect on the release of hormones, including those relating to the ovaries and women’s reproductive health issues.
Clears up Skin Issues
Myrtle is believed to be effective in clearing up acne and other blemishes on the skin. It can be topically applied to the skin as it contains organic compounds and powerful antioxidants that can help the skin cells heal faster and enhance the appearance of the affected areas.
Boosts the Immune System
According to some studies, myrtle possesses potent antibacterial and anti-parasitic properties. This is one of the major reasons why many people make use of the herb for boosting their immune system.
Treats Kidney Issues
One of the major health benefits of myrtle leaves is its ability to treat urinary tract or kidney conditions. Myrtle can help to induce urination which, in turn, eliminates excess fat, toxins, fluids, and even salts. This can greatly help in regulating the activities of the kidneys.
Regulates Blood Sugar
While there is still some controversy on the health benefit of myrtle, certain studies have shown that the volatile compounds and flavonols present in myrtle can significantly lower blood sugar plasma. This means that Myrtle has the ability to help regulate blood sugar in the body. This can of great benefit for diabetic patients who need to control their blood glucose levels frequently.
Side Effects and Precautions
The myrtle essential oil is unsafe as it contains a chemical that can result in asthma-like attacks and lung failure. The herb can also lead to diarrhea, vomiting, nausea, blood circulation disorders, low blood pressure, and several other problems.
It is also advisable for pregnant women and breastfeeding mothers to avoid the oral use of myrtle. Myrtle is also unsafe for children as facial contact with the oil can lead to breathing problems and death in children.
Similar to other essential oils, myrtle essential oil should only be used in very small doses where it is taken orally or used topically. The consumption of myrtle fruits or its leaves as an herb is safe, but its essential oil can bring on serious side effects if taken in large quantity. It is then advisable to consult with an aromatherapist before consuming or applying the oil.
The Bottom Line
Myrtle contains certain highly effective astringent, antimicrobial, and anti-inflammatory properties, which makes it effective in the treatment of several respiratory conditions and skin problems. In fact, the plant possesses high levels of salicylic acid, a compound in the same family as aspirin. Salicylic acid is an expectorant that helps to get rid of mucus, making myrtle tea an amazing treatment option for colds and flu. Its essential oil is also very effective and is commonly applied in combination with other essential oils.
In case you didn’t know, myrtle can actually be distilled into essential oils right in your kitchen. You simply need to steam the leaves and direct the steam via a pipe which is cooled with some cold water or ice, thereby converting the steam into liquid form. However, it is important to remember that it is way easier to make home remedies with oil infusion by simply boiling the leaves in base oil like grapeseed or olive. You can also make cold infusion (without cooking) by placing a jar loaded with myrtle leaves and base oil in a sunny area. Doing this may take more time, but the beneficial compounds present in the plant are best preserved in this manner.