- Myrica cerifera L.
- Myrtle family
American vegetable tallow tree
American vegetable wax
Bayberry wax tree
Katphala (Sanskrit name)
Parts Usually Used
Bark, leaves, flowers
Description of Plant(s) and
Coarse, stiff, shrub or small, slender, tree; to 3-8 feet. Bark is brownish-gray and smooth; leaves narrow at the base. Young branchlets waxy. Leaves oblong to lance-shaped, 1-4 inches long, reduced at the tip of the branches, often sparingly toothed, dark green and shiny above, paler and sometimes hairy beneath; leathery, evergreen, with waxy globules. Flowers appear in early spring, March and April, before or with the new leaves. Fruits, borne against the stems, 1/8 inch across. The green berries are covered, when mature, with a pale blue, lavender or grayish-white aromatic wax in microscopic rounded particles used in making candles which burn with a pleasing fragrance. Bayberry needs lime free soil.
Sandy swamps, thickets, marshes and wet woodlands. Southern New Jersey to Florida, Texas to Arkansas. West Indies
Stimulant, astringent, emetic, antispasmodic, alterative, expectorant, diaphoretic, tonic. Leaves - aromatic, stimulant
Volatile oil, starch, lignin, albumen, gum, tannic and gallic acids, acrid and astringent resins, an acid resembling saponin
Legends, Myths and Stories
One of the most versatile herbs, this native American plant is highly regarded by herbal practitioners. Nineteenth century physicians used to prescribe a hot tea made from the powdered bark of the bayberry at the first sign of a cold, cough, or flu.
Wax of the berries is used to make fragrant candles. To obtain the wax, boil the berries in water. The wax floats to the surface and can be removed when hardened.
Gather root bark in the fall. Cleanse it thoroughly and while fresh separate the bark with a hammer. Dry the root completely and keep in a dry place; when dry enough to pulverize do so and store in a dark glass or pottery sealed container.
Bayberry is considered one of the most useful in the Medical Herbal practice. Its popularity has had respect for generations.
Candle wax is produced from the fruits.
Root bark formerly used in tea as an astringent and emetic for chronic gastritis, diarrhea, dysentery, leukorrhea, mouthwash for sore, bleeding, or sensitive gums, is good for circulation, catarral states of the alimentary tracts, jaundice, scrofula, bowel inflammation, excessive menstrual bleeding and uterine discharge, and indolent (hard to heal) ulcers. Leaf tea was used for fevers, sore throats, bronchitis, cholera, typhoid, epilepsy, indigestion, hemorrhoids, externally as a wash for itching. Powdered root bark was an ingredient in "composition powder", once a widely used home remedy for colds, flu, laryngitis, sinusitis, asthma, and chills.
Bayberry bark powder makes an excellent toothpowder, combined with cinnamon bark powder, myrrh, salt, and echinacea root. Good results used for goitre.
A decoction is used as a wash or poultice for varicose veins, chronic sores, boils, or the powdered bark may be directly applied to wounds. The oil of Bayberry is good for bruises.
Bayberry is excellent as an emetic after narcotic poisoning of any kind. It is good to follow the bayberry with lobelia.
Formulas or Dosages
Tea: steep 1 tsp. in 1 pint of boiling water for 30 minutes. Use as a gargle for sore throat or for chills (drink 1/2 cup warm every hour until relief).
Extract: mix 10-20 drops in juice or water.
Mouthwash: gargle with liquid mixture made of extract or powder as needed.
Powder: mix 1/2 to 1 tsp. in 1 cup warm water.
Tincture: 1/2 to 1 tsp. is taken in a small glass of water, 2 or 3 times daily.
Externally: rub liquid mixture on varicose veins or hemorrhoids as needed.
Capsules: take 1 capsule 3 times daily as needed.
Wax is irritating. Constituents of the wax are reportedly carcinogenic.
Avoid in very hot temperatures. Avoid if hypertensive.