Bayberry

Bayberry (Yang Mei)Bayberry (Yang Mei)

Botanical Name: Western – Myrica cerifera, M. pensylvanica. Eastern – Myrica ruba.

Bayberry wax has been a traditional source for the bayberry scented Christmas candles. The root bark is the part of the plant that has been used first by Native American Indians and then by the European settlers who learned about it from them. The plant is very astringing and is used to support the immune system, connective tissue function and the respiratory system. It also increases circulation and stimulates perspiration. It is said to bring good luck and prosperity to the home it is planted near. The Chinese bayberry is in the same Myrica genus, but has a sweet and tart fruit that are eaten. The fruit is highly nutritious and helps strengthen blood vessels. The fruit prevent premature aging and defend against cardiovascular disease.

Below is an overview of Bayberry (Yang Mei), combining and interpreting the best of Western Science, Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), Shamanism, Folklore and more. Gain a balanced and thorough understanding of the healing properties of Bayberry (Yang Mei).

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Western

Western Name: Bayberry

Also Known As: Wax Myrtle, Candleberry, Tallow Shrub, American Bayberry

Organs/Systems: Respiratory, Intestines, Liver, Heart

Key Western Actions: Astringing, Stimulating, Sternutatory, Emetic, Immune Enhancing, Antipyretic, Decongestant, Antibacterial, Dispersing.

Medicinal Uses: Diarrhea, jaundice, ulcers, inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract, headaches, colds, flu, coughs, sore throats, sinusitis, hemorrhoids.

Eastern

Pin Yin: Yang Mei

Also Known As: Chinese Bayberry, Red Bayberry, Chinese Strawberry, Yumberry

Meridians: Western – Spleen, Liver, Lung. Eastern – Spleen, Heart.

Key TCM Actions: Bayberry (Myrica cerifera) – Supports Yang/Dispels Cold, Releases to the Exterior/Dispels Wind Cold, Invigorates the Intestines and Spleen Qi.

Chinese Bayberry Fruit (Yang Mei/Myrica ruba) – Enhance Immunity, Prevent Degenerative Disease, Anti-Aging.

Medicinal Uses: Bayberry (Myrica cerifera) – Cold limbs and extremities, spontaneous sweating, wheezing, increase circulation, palpations, white sinus discharge, fatigue, pale face and nails, colds, flus with no sweating, chicken pox, painful, sore throat, prolapse, cramping, abdominal pain, diarrhea, jaundice, dysentery, leucorrhea, postpartum bleeding, uterine prolapse, frontal headache, cold boils, bleeding gums, cardiovascular disease.

Basic Habitat/Botany:

Western – Bayberry is an evergreen shrub that grows to be 3-8 feet tall. Its leaves are lanceolate, shiny or resinous and dotted on both sides. Its flowers are unisex without calyx or corrolla, and its fruit are small groups of globular grayish or greenish-white waxen berries. The leaves are very fragrant when rubbed. Bayberry fruit are small blue-white berries that can remain attached to the tree for several years. Bayeberry is native to the Eastern North American coast, where it likes to grow in clumps near swamps and marshes in the sand-belt areas near the Atlantic coast and on the shores of Lake Erie. The shrubs are now cultivated across the Eastern U.S. and the British Isles.

Eastern – Chinese Bayberry is a small evergreen tree that can grow up to 30-65 feet high. It has a smooth gray bark and a uniform spherical crown. It is dioecioius, with seprate male and female plants. Chinese Bayberry is native to Eastern Asia, mainly in South-Central China. It is particularly found in forests and mountain slopes and valleys with poor acidic soils. The roots grow 2-25 inches deep with no long particular taproot. The deep, brilliant red fruit is round with a knobby surface and the flesh is sweet and very tart. Sometimes the berries are colored white to purple. Each fruit has a single seed.

Bayberry (Yang Mei)Parts Most Frequently Used: Dried Bark of the Root, Wax, Fruit

Flavors/Temps: Western – Bitter, Astringent, Very Acrid, Warming. Chinese Bayberry Fruit – Sweet, A Bit Sour, Tart.

Caution: Safe though not recommended for pregnant, breastfeeding women, babies or small children as it is a strong herb.

History/Folklore: Bayberry wax was introduced to Europeans in 1722 by the Native American Indians who had long used the roots as a medicine.

A description from 1737 states that the plant, “removes air and relieves all kinds of pain caused by cold, and is a good remedy for colic, paralysis, convulsions, epilepsy and other disorders.”

The berries were brought to a boil and the wax floated up on top to the surface.  It is harder and more brittle than beeswax. It takes 4 pounds of berries to yield 1 pound of wax.

The bark is sold in curved pieces from 1-7 inches long and will be covered with a thin, mottled layer and the cork beneath will be smooth and red-brown.

When harvesting takes place in late autumn the bark is separated from the fresh root by pounding, then allowed to completely dry when it can be powdered and stored in dark air-tight containers.

Modern research confirms bayberries astringing and antibacterial constituents. The plant’s flavonoids encourage the flow of bile.

A Brazilian species of bayberry produces a waxy-resinous product that is called and sold as “Tabocas combicurdo”.  Stimulating, it is used as a “pick-me-up.”

Bayberry makes a good gargle and is good for washing the gums with. It has been used as a douche, from infusions, to treat excessive vaginal discharge. Traditionally, it has been a remedy for sore throats and diarrhea.

The fragrance released from the leaves upon squeezing makes a safe insect repellent for dogs.

Large doses of the herb may lower the amount of potassium in the body that can increase the amount of sodium causing the retention of fluids and therefore hypertension, as well as nausea.

The herb is best used for Cold conditions with poor circulation as the herb is hot and stimulating.  It is generally not used for Hot, inflamed conditions for the same reasons: it is already a hot stimulating herb with the potential to exacerbate Hot conditions.

The word “bayberry” is also commonly used as a name for another plant known as Wild Cinnamon (Pimenta acris) that is found in the West Indies and in South America, this is not the same plant as Bayberry (Myrica cerifera).  Wild Cinnamon is used to make Bay Rum and oil of Bayberry, so be aware not to be confused by the use of the same name for two different plants!

Bayberry roots contain nitrogen-fixing bacteria which form a symbiotic relationship with the shrub allowing it to grow in very nutrient-poor soils.  It has become a popular ornamental shrub for gardens.

It has been used to make surgeon soap plasters, shaving lather and sealing-wax as it is brittle.

Chinese Bayberry, has been cultivated for over 2,000 years along the south Yangtze River. The trees are very popular as ornamental additions to classical East Asian Gardens. Similar to American bayberry (Myrica cerifera), Chinese bayberry (Myrica ruba) has nitrogen-fixing root nodules.

In China, the Chinese bayberry fruit is eaten fresh, dried, juiced or soaked in bai jiu (a Chinese liquor). In the Yunnan Provence of China, there are two main types of Yang Mei, one that is sour and used to make dried fruit and another that is sweet and used to eat fresh or juiced.

The Chinese Bayberry fruit is commonly used in juice blends, jams, as a yogurt flavoring and a yellow dye can be made from the bark of the tree. The fruit is only just beginning to be studied, but an extract called myicerone is an important mediator of blood vessel constriction, making it a potential new source for western pharmaceutical application.

Chinese bayberry fruit is unusually high in OPCs (oligomeric pranthocyanidindins), the most powerful class of free-radical scavenging antioxidants. They support the metabolic system, immunity, and help counter the negative effects of stress and anxiety. OPCs are known to be 20 times more powerful than vitamin C and 50 times more powerful than vitamin E. They help fight against cardiovascular disease, degenerative diseases and premature aging.

The Chinese Bayberry is a popular image in many Japanese poems.

Key Constituents:

The Bark – Volatile oil, Starch, Lignin, gum, Albumen, Extractive, Tannic, Galllic acids, Resins. The Wax – Glycerides of Stearic, Palmitic acid, Myristic acid, Oleaic acid, Triterpenes, Flavonoids, Phenols, Rubber Substances, Calcium, Cobalt, Magnesium, Manganese. Chinese Bayberry Fruit – Thiamine, Riboflavin, Carotene, Minerals, High levels of Vitamin C, Flavonols, Quercetin, Gallic acid, Unusually rich in Oligomeric proanthocyanidins (OPCs).

Did you know?

Food for Quail and Wild Turkeys

Bayberry’s waxy fruit are a source of food for quail, wrens, sparrows and wild turkeys.

Facts

Common Therapeutic Dosage

20-40 drops taken 1-4 times daily is a common therapeutic dosage.

Fun fact!

Smokeless Candles

Candles made from bayberry wax are aromatic and after snuffing, are smokeless.

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