Myrtle (Myrtus communis)

Common Name Latin Name Plant Family
Myrtus communis

The plant is very tolerant of regular clipping[200] and can be grown as a hedge in the milder parts of Britain[166, 200].

An essential oil from the bark, leaves and flowers is used in perfumery, soaps and skin-care products[89, 143, 238]. An average yield of 10g of oil is obtained from 100 kilos of leaves[7].

A perfumed water, known as “eau d’ange”, is obtained from the flowers[245].

A high quality charcoal is made from the wood[89].

Wood – hard, elastic, very fine grained. Used for walking sticks, tool handles, furniture etc[46, 89].

  • Medicinal Use

    The leaves are aromatic, balsamic, haemostatic and tonic[7, 46]. Recent research has revealed a substance in the plant that has an antibiotic action[7]. The active ingredients in myrtle are rapidly absorbed and give a violet-like scent to the urine within 15 minutes[238]. The plant is taken internally in the treatment of urinary infections, digestive problems, vaginal discharge, bronchial congestion, sinusitis and dry coughs[238, 254]. In India it is considered to be useful in the treatment of cerebral affections, especially epilepsy[240]. Externally, it is used in the treatment of acne (the essential oil is normally used here), wounds, gum infections and haemorrhoids[238]. The leaves are picked as required and used fresh or dried[238].

    An essential oil obtained from the plant is antiseptic[240]. It contains the substance myrtol – this is used as a remedy for gingivitis[7]. The oil is used as a local application in the treatment of rheumatism[240].

    The fruit is carminative[240]. It is used in the treatment of dysentery, diarrhoea, haemorrhoids, internal ulceration and rheumatism[240].

  • Edible Use

    Fruit – raw or cooked[2, 105]. The fruit has an aromatic flavour[245], it can be eaten fresh when ripe or can be dried and is then used as an aromatic food flavouring, especially in the Middle East[7, 46, 238]. It can also be made into an acid drink[89, 148]. The fruit is about 8mm in diameter[200].

    The leaves are used as a flavouring in cooked savoury dishes[238].

    The dried fruits and flower buds are used to flavour sauces, syrups etc[183].

    An essential oil from the leaves and twigs is used as a condiment, especially when mixed with other spices[183].

    In Italy the flower buds are eaten[183]. The flowers have a sweet flavour and are used in salads[245].

  • Cautionary Notes

    None known

Cultivation & Habitat

Pre-soak the seed for 24 hours in warm water and then sow it in late winter in a greenhouse. Prick out the seedlings into individual pots as soon as they are large enough to handle and grow them on in the greenhouse for at least their first winter. Plant them out into their permanent positions in late spring or early summer, after the last expected frosts[K]. Cuttings of half-ripe wood, 7 – 10cm with a heel, July/August in a frame. Pot up in the autumn and overwinter in a cold frame. Plant out in late spring. High percentage[78]. Cuttings of mature wood of the current seasons growth, 7 – 12cm with a heel, November in a shaded and frost free frame. Plant out in late spring or early autumn. High percentage[78]. Layering.
Succeeds in any reasonably good soil so long as it is well-drained[1]. Prefers a moderately fertile well-drained neutral to alkaline loam in a sunny position[11, 200, 238]. Succeeds in dry soils. A very ornamental plant[1], when fully dormant it is hardy to between -10 and -15¡c[184], so long as it is sheltered from cold drying winds[200], though it does withstand quite considerable maritime exposure[K]. The young growth in spring can be damaged by late frosts. This species does not succeed outdoors in the colder parts of Britain[11, 49]. A moderately fast-growing plant when young but soon slowing with age[202]. There are a number of named varieties[183]. ‘Tarentina’ with narrow small leaves is hardier than the type and is especially wind-resistant[182, 200], ‘Microphylla’ is a dwarf form and ‘Leucocarpa’ has white berries[182]. Myrtle is often cultivated in the Mediterranean[7], where the plant is regarded as a symbol of love and peace[89] and is much prized for use in wedding bouquets[182]. The foliage is strongly aromatic[184]. Any pruning is best carried out in the spring[238]. Plants in this genus are notably resistant to honey fungus[200].
S. Europe to W. Asia.

Become ungovernable, break the chains of the matrix; grow and forage your own food and medicine.

*None of the information on this website qualifies as professional medical advice. Take only what resonates with your heart and use your own personal responsibility for what’s best for you. For more information [brackets] [000], see bibliography.