Bayberry is a hardy plant that produces waxy, dark red or blue berries most famous these days for being made into fragrant candles.
In the 19th century, it was common practice for physicians to prescribe a hot tea of powdered bayberry root bark to treat the symptoms of colds and flu. The powdered root bark formed part of a well-known "composition powder" that was commonly used to treat a range of respiratory ailments.
Bayberry's fiery flavor is likened to ginger or cinnamon.
The root bark of the bayberry contains a very specific flavonoid: myricetin. Myricetin's primary benefit is as an antibiotic. The bayberry has antibacterial properties derived from the specific polyphenol and flavonoid compounds.
Research has found the plant to be effective activity against bacteria like Salmonella, Listeria, and Shigella. The root bark also contains phenols and tannins that work in conjunction to reduce issues like inflammation.
The powdered root bark of the bayberry is very effective in drying up secretions of the sinus cavity; in other words, stopping a runny nose. This is due to its astringent properties, which shrink mucus membrane and prevent mucus production. The powdered root bark can be used to treat cold, flu, asthma, and laryngitis.
The astringent properties of bayberry make the plant effective in relief from diarrhea, indigestion, and irritable bowel syndrome. The bark can be brewed as tea to reach the stomach and get right to work on symptom relief.
Bayberry's properties support a healthy urinary stem and effective functioning of the kidney and bladder. Symptoms like cramps, inflammation, irritation, and discomfort can all be reduced by drinking or otherwise consuming this multi-purpose plant.
Research suggests bayberry can bring down a fever, especially when the symptom is caused by a respiratory infection. Choctaw Indians historically used the plant for this purpose.
This is another benefit that is linked to bayberry's antibiotic properties specifically those of myricitrin. For this kind of treatment, the plant does its best work in tea form.
Mouth and gum issues can be alleviated with bayberry. If the gums are sensitive and bleeding, some rootbark powder mixed with cinnamon, echinacea root, and salt applied to the sensitive areas or gargled can ease these symptoms. The antibiotic properties fight infection and the anti-inflammatory properties can help reduce sensitivity.
Wounds that are hard to heal, dry itchy skin, and insect bites may benefit from topical application of bayberry. The effectiveness of this treatment is due to the antibacterial, antibiotic, and anti-inflammatory properties of the bayberry. Similarly, a combination of bayberry and lavender oils applied to the scalp — the a carrier oil to dilute — can help ease dandruff.
Bayberry can be a comfort to women who suffer from severe cramps and bleeding when menstruating. The plant may reduce heavy bleeding and other uterine discharge. Alleviating cramps is another benefit of drinking the root in tea form.
The high concentration of tannins bayberry rootbark can help with inflamation management. As noted, the tannins can help tighten mucus membranes, which stops excessive mucus production.
However, tannins can cause nausea and upset digestion if taken in excess.
Bayberry is known for its "heat-producing" effect on the body, once ingested. Records from the 19th century describe bayberry as second only to the red pepper for producing heat within the body. This stimulating effect was the reason the plant was initially used as a tonic, to increase the vital force in the bodies.
Now that research is available on the bayberry, we can understand why it was effective as a tonic, supporting the immune system in the fight against infections, respiratory diseases, diarrhea, and fever.
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