MYRTLE – Plant & Essential Oil
By Jeanne Rose
Introduction ~ Myrtle, Myrtle communis, is a common evergreen plant, usually organically grown and not to be confused with the tree called Crêpe Myrtle (Lagerstroemia spp.).
NAMING AND DESCRIPTION of MYRTLE ARE CONFUSING.
Naming & Background ~ Myrtle, the genus name comes from the Old Greek myrtos or myrsine.
The specific epithet (this species name) of communis means common. We are only discussing this myrtle that is discussed in this article and mentioned in the Bible and used in some Jewish rituals, called Myrtus communis or Common Myrtle (in Myrtaceae) and NOT the so-called Oregon Myrtle (Umbellularia californica).
Family ~ Myrtaceae
Names and part and country as follows: Myrtle, Myrtus communis, comes in several chemotypes and they all look different. It is important to know where it comes from and how you want to use the plant or oil. There are several chemotypes of this plant. The typing seems to depend more on where it is grown, than how it is grown or processed. Please pay close attention to country of origin when selecting Myrtle to use in your practice. The various chemotypes often seem very difficult to obtain and are sometimes very expensive.
Chemotypes: Red myrtle CT cineole, camphor, and linalool
Countries producing: Tunisia, Morocco, Spain produce cineole, Corsica produces CT linalool
Colors of the oil: Red, Colorless, and Green Myrtle is from Corsica.
…Spring leaves are considered more suitable for processing because they are less fibrous and contain more aromatic compounds than winter leaves. However, leaves from myrtle cultivation are generally greener and longer-lived than those of wild plants (Mulas et al., 2002a) because of better water and nitrogen supply…. The green (i.e., more negative a* values) and yellow (i.e., more negative b* values) components of the color of the infusions prevailed in all samples. High concentrations of chlorophylls, tannins, and polyphenols determined a darker and less green color, with a light increase of yellow-brown components. …1
Red Myrtle essential Oil is grown in Tunisia, Morocco, or Spain. The chemotype (CT) from Morocco and Spain is high in cineole and has a distinct spicy, fresh, herbaceous, and camphor-like aroma. The herbaceous aroma is penetrating that is complex but sweet as well. This oil is used in aromatherapy, particularly in blends for the respiratory system. It has astringent properties and is used externally on hemorrhoids, varicose veins, and in skincare for wrinkled skin. Red Myrtle is considered balancing and is used in diffusers to refresh the air but also to stimulate the immune system and promote general health and well-being. Red myrtle CT linalool from Corsica is also available.
Green Myrtle essential oils is steam distilled from the leaves of Myrtle bush, organically grown in Tunisia and Corsica. This is a bright, fresh, very therapeutic distillation of Myrtle for the essential oil. Green Myrtle (rather than Red) is the preferred Myrtle variety for therapeutic essential oil applications. Green Myrtle from Corsica as carried by Prima Fleur is organically grown.
ENDANGERED – Probably, it depends upon to whom you are speaking and what plant and plant part they are discussing. Even in the scientific literature, often the plant part being discussed is missing as evidenced from many articles in the literature as well as any book discussing essential oils.
GENERAL DESCRIPTION OF PLANT HABITAT AND GROWTH – MYRTLE ~ Myrtle is a common evergreen bushy shrub (Myrtus communis of the family Myrtaceae, the myrtle family) generally found in southern Europe. It has oval to lance-shaped shiny leaves, fragrant white or rosy flowers, and black berries. Myrtle (M. communis L.) is a common part of typical Mediterranean flora and grows well in any country with this weather pattern. Myrtle is native to southern Europe, North Africa, and west Asia. It is also distributed in North and South America, northwestern Himalaya, and Australia. Myrtle is cultivated in gardens of India for its fragrant flowers.
Myrtle is widespread throughout the Mediterranean region and is considered to be one of the species most important as an evergreen shrub in the maquis, the thick scrubby evergreen underbrush of Mediterranean shores. It is most characteristic among the islands of Italy. The genus Myrtus communis grows wild in Tunisia, on the coast, the internal hills, and the forest areas of northern Tunisia.
“In Tunisia, two myrtle varieties are described : M. communis var. italica L. and M. communis var. baetica L. which possesses the same vegetative characters. The morphological difference between the two varieties regards to the size of fruits and leaves. …(Pottier-Alapetite et al. 1979).”
PORTION OF PLANT USED IN EXTRACTION AND YIELDS ~ Myrtle Essential Oil is steam distilled from leaves. Always carefully analyze the odor of the essential oil as there are certainly different varieties and scents.
YIELD ~ Specific yield of essential oil of leaf varies with variety from .3% to .5%.
The chemical composition of Myrtus communis is characterized whatever the cultivar by some alpha-pinene. There were various chemotypes depending upon terroir and country.3
ORGANOLEPTICS of Myrtle
The organoleptic, physical, and chemical profiles of the essential oil of Myrtus sp. is confusing, each company has their own Myrtle oil and are variously named. Some are chemo-typed, and some are not. Here is a sampling of what I have collected.
|Sensory qualities||Corsica #335 – PF||Tunisia Various company||Tunisia||Unknown country #0063 – PF|
|Name on bottle||Green Myrtle||Myrtle||Red Myrtle||Green Myrtle|
|Color of oil||green||colorless||red||Red color but is green in name|
|Tenacity in a blend||Good (skin)||Good (diffusor)||Good (inhale)||Good (skin)|
PF = Prima Fleur Botanicals
DESCRIPTION OF SCENT ~ The leaf oil is herbaceous, spicy, and green-scented and more suitable to therapeutics than perfumery. Most of these Myrtles have an odor much like Eucalyptus often due to the same chemical component of Cineol. The ones with linalool are less intense and usually more softly herbaceous. It is pleasant and refreshing, sometimes fruity, herbaceous, and spicy. Know each one by their scent ‑ Waft the scent enough times to remember it by its odor.
GENERAL PROPERTIES of MYRTLE
Myrtus is a medicinal herb, leaves and berries, and is used in traditional herbal medicine. It is an important herbal treatment in the Unani system of medicine in Greece. This plant was used for food, medicine, and flavor in meats and sauces. The essential oil is both antimicrobial and antioxidant.
PROPERTIES OF MYRTLE ~ Leaves used as an antiseptic, and a mild astringent in herbal mixtures for douching.
Leaves and flowers are fragrant when dried and used in linen closets for scenting sheets and towels. It is an aromatic astringent in the bath, and Myrtus communis L. (Myrtaceae) has long been used in folk medicine to treat inflammatory and infectious processes mainly in the respiratory system for bronchitis, sinusitis, and colds. Different experimental studies demonstrate its antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant activities.
SKINCARE ~ The essential oil of Myrtle is used in creams, lotions, and preparations used for oily skin, hair loss, to reduce the enlarged look of pores, external skin irritations, hemorrhoids, varicose veins, and in night creams. There are some noted uses in bedtime preparations to ease insomnia.
BLENDING MYRTLE FOR PURPOSE ~ This pleasant oil is best used in blends for the respiratory system and in massage blends to refresh and uplift the body. Myrtle oil used in perfumery in the top note and not as a fixative. It blends with Rosemary, Clary Sage, Lavender, and Bergamot.
HYDROSOL of Myrtle ~ The leaves that I collected near Golden Gate Park (organically grown) were hydro-distilled and the hydrosol was used as a spray to heal and soothe skin irritations, inflamed facial skin, it was helpful in reducing scarring on fresh wounds, for all-over skincare, and as an external eye compress. Emotionally, it seemed refreshing and reviving and relieved fatigue. I have also used Myrtle hydrosol as a spray in the mouth for sore throat and coughs as well as using it in cooking meat and fish.
PLEASE NOTE: A true hydrosol should be specifically distilled for the hydrosol, not as a co-product or even a by-product of essential oil distillation. The plant’s cellular water has many components most are lost under pressurized short steam runs for essential oil, or by using dried material. We recommend that the producers specifically distill for a product by using plant material that is fresh.
CULINARY USES OF MYRTLE ~ Myrtle leaf has been used since ancient times as a spice, as well as for medicinal and food preparation purposes.
“Myrtle as a spice finds no wide application because of its bitterness, despite the pleasant odor. The taste is very intense, quite unpleasant and strongly bitter, so its culinary application is limited to the region of origin, such as Italy (Gortzi et al. 2008). In Italy, especially in Sardinia, berries and leaves are used to produce two well-known liquors (Mirto Rosso and Mirto Bianco, respectively) (Messaoud et al. 2012). Foods flavored with the smoke of myrtle are common in rural areas of Italy or Sardinia (Gortzi et al. 2008). However, some parts of the plant are used in the food industry, for flavoring meat and sauces (Chalchat et al. 1998), and its berries and leaves are mostly employed for the industrial formulation of sweet liquors with advertised digestive properties (Clark, 1996, Mulas et al., 2000).”
Formula for Hemorrhoids & Varicose Veins: Take 30 drops (1 ml) each of Cypress, Myrtle CT linalool, high linalool Lavender, MQV. Put into a 2 oz glass bottle. Mix them together completely. Add 120 (4 ml) drops of Calendula infused oil . Mix together. Apply regularly to the hemorrhoids or apply by gentle massage to the varicose veins.
Key Use ~ Inhale for Respiratory system.
1.Influence of Growing Area, Year, Season, and Cultivar on the Composition of Myrtle Leaves and Infusions. Horti. Science. vol. 43: issue 2 • 2008
2. Touaibia, M. Composition and anti-inflammatory effect of the common myrtle (Myrtus communis L.) essential oil growing wild in Algeria. Phytothérapie (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10298-017-1100-9
3. M. Mulas & R. A. M. Melis (2011) Essential Oil Composition of Myrtle (Myrtus communis) Leaves, Journal of Herbs, Spices & Medicinal Plants, 17:1, 21-34, DOI: 10.1080/10496475.2011.556986
4. Rose, Jeanne. 375 Essential oils & Hydrosols • Frog Ltd, 1999.
This examination of the latest information about the essential oil Myrtle
was sponsored and supported by Prima Fleur Botanicals.
SOME CAUTIONS TO REMEMBER
Know what you are using by correct name and chemotype
Moderation in All Things.
Be moderate in your use of essential oils as they are just not sustainable for the environment.
Be selective and more moderate in your usage.
Use the herb first as tea or the infusion. —JeanneRose 2014