Myrica cerifera. N.O. Myricaceae.
Synonym ► Candleberry, Waxberry, Wax Myrtle. Habitat ► Near the sea in pastures and on stony soils.
Features ► The bark has a white, peeling epidermis covering a hard, reddish-brown layer beneath. It is slightly fibrous on the inner surface, and the fracture is granular. The taste is pungent, astringent and bitter, the odour faintly aromatic.
Part used ► The bark is the only part of the Bayberry shrub now used as a medicine. Action ► A powerful stimulant, astringent and tonic to the alimentary tract.
Bayberry bark is one of the most widely used agents in the herbal practice. It figures in many of the compound powders and is the base of the celebrated composition powder, a prescription of which will be found in the “Herbal Formulae” section of this volume. In cases of coldness of the extremities, chills and influenza, an infusion of 1 ounce of the powdered bark to 1 pint of water is taken warm. This assists circulation and promotes perspiration, especially when combined with Cayenne as in
the formula referred to above.
As an antiseptic the powder is added to poultices for application to ulcers, sores and wounds. It also makes an excellent snuff for nasal catarrh, and an ingredient in tooth powders, for which a prescription is given in the section previously mentioned.
The virtues of Bayberry bark were recognized and used beneficially by the herbalists of many generations ago. Indeed, their enthusiasm for this, as for certain other remedies also extremely efficacious within proper limits, led them to ascribe properties to the bark which it does not possess. Many affections of the uterine system, fistula, and even cancer were said to yield to its influence.
Even in these cases, however, Bayberry bark certainly did less harm than many of the methods employed by the more orthodox practitioners of that time !