Some of the health benefits of myrtle, particularly of its essential oil, include its ability to reduce respiratory issues, protect against intestinal conditions, regulating the endocrine system, prevent certain cancers, treat skin diseases, lower blood sugar levels, improve the functioning of the kidneys, boost cognitive strength, and improve heart health.
What is Myrtle?
Arguably one of the most famous plants in history, myrtle (also known as “myrtus”) remains a significant part of the modern world. The scientific name of this flowering plant is Myrtus communis and this is the most commonly used species variety in the genus, although the Saharan myrtle (Myrtus nivellei) is used in that region and has similar properties. Over thousands of years, this small plant has crept into mythology, history, culture, medicine, and the culinary arts in a wide variety of cultures, including Greece, Rome, England, Ukraine, China, and various others. The versatility of this important flower is still being discovered, but its uses have ranged from culinary applications and ornamental decoration to powerful medicinal applications and elements of religious rituals.
Myrtle itself is actually a small evergreen shrub, sometimes considered a small tree, and can grow up to five meters in height. It grows wild around the Mediterranean area but has also been cultivated in many cultures. The leaves, which contain the valuable essential oil, are 3-5 cm in length. The plant also consists of the star-shaped flowers and the fruits, which resemble small blackberries. The leaves are either dried, almost like bay leaves for culinary applications, or the essential oil is extracted from a wide variety of medicinal uses. Also, the fruit is occasionally used to make alcohol, called mirto, commonly drunk on some of the Greek Isles. However, the most dominant use of myrtle is the essential oil, which can be applied during aromatherapy and have impressive effects on your health. The essential oil smells similar to eucalyptus and is acquired through steam distillation of the leaves. Now, let’s take a closer look at why myrtle has been considered so valuable for thousands of years…
Nutritional Value of Myrtle
Myrtle leaves and fruit contain a unique combination of organic compounds and nutrients that make it not only an interesting dietary addition as an herb but also as an invaluable source of essential oil. Myrtle contains various antioxidants and flavonoid compounds, including myricetin, as well as quercetin, catechin, citric and malic acids, linalool, pinene, tannins, and other sugars. As you can see, this power-packed plant has the potential to significantly boost human health!
Health Benefits of Myrtle
The health benefits of myrtle include a better respiratory health, skin care, boosted immunity, and hormone balance, among others.
Improved Respiratory Conditions
As mentioned, myrtle essential oil is very popular in aromatherapy and is commonly used to alleviate respiratory conditions, such as bronchitis and asthma. It soothes the respiratory tract and allows for clear passage of oxygen, while also calming the body, so breathing is slowed and irritation is eliminated.
Myrtle has been found to effectively clear up acne and other imperfections on the skin. It should topically be applied in its essential oil form, often in another carrier oil or in very limited concentrations. The organic compounds and powerful antioxidants in myrtle can help the cells heal quicker and improve the appearance of those affected areas. In its herb form, it can be consumed to see similar effects working from the inside out!
Boosted Immune System
There has been a wide scope of research detailing the antibacterial and anti-parasitic nature of myrtle. For this reason, many people turn to this herb in order to boost the strength of their immune system.
Extensive research has been conducted around the world regarding the effects of myrtle essential oil on the endocrine system, primarily in regulation of the thyroid gland. It has been shown that myrtle essential oil, whether consumed or inhaled, can positively affect the release of hormones, including those related to the ovaries and women’s reproductive health.
Myrtle is perhaps most highly praised for its high levels of antioxidants, including quercetin, tannins, myricetin, and catechin. These antioxidants have been widely studied and have been found to have anti-carcinogenic and anti-mutagenic properties. Myrtle is quite similar in chemical composition to sandalwood, which has been connected to a reduction in prostate and breast cancer. Ongoing research is still discovering more potential applications in the field of cancer for myrtle.
One of the ancient applications of myrtle leaves was for the treatment of urinary tract or kidney issues. Myrtle can help to stimulate urination, thereby eliminating excess toxins, salts, fluids, and even fat, thereby helping to regulate the functions of your kidneys.
Myricetin is one of the most important flavonols that are found in myrtle. It has been found to inhibit the formation of beta-amyloid fibril, which means that it is a very powerful aid for people suffering from Alzheimer’s and dementia. The therapeutic use of myrtle leaves and berries can keep your mind clear and prevent the degradation of neural pathways that lead to these terrible cognitive disorders.
The various flavonoids found in myrtle, including myricetin, have been shown to reduce the oxidization of bad cholesterol (LDL cholesterol), which means that your cholesterol levels will remain balanced, your blood vessels and arteries won’t be clogged, atherosclerosis won’t occur, and your cardiovascular system will be protected from coronary heart disease and strokes.
Although the jury is still technically out on this health benefit of myrtle, early reports indicate that the volatile compounds and flavonols in myrtle can reduce blood sugar plasma, which means that it would be able to help regulate blood sugar in the body. This would be a major boost for diabetic patients who need to monitor their blood glucose levels at all times.
A Final Word of Caution: Like the majority of essential oils, myrtle essential oil should only be used in extremely small doses if consumed or applied topically. Consuming myrtle leaves as an herb or eating the fruits is safe, but when it comes to the essential oil, consult with a professional aromatherapist or alternative healer before consuming or applying the oil. It can have very serious side effects if consumed in too high a quantity.