Myrtle (Myrtus communis L.) is a common shrub or small tree native to the Middle East and the Mediterranean. However, it carries astounding potential health benefits enjoyed around the world. For centuries, people have depended on myrtle’s leaves, flowers, berries, and essential oils for flavorings and remedies.
Many pharmaceutical, cosmetic, and food products include myrtle in some form. The fruit is a primary ingredient in a Greek alcohol beverage called Mirto. The herb’s essential oil is the most widely used component.
Myrtle is a common treatment for burn injuries in many countries. Research has highlighted its antioxidant potential in oral and topical use. In an animal study, treatment with both forms of Myrtle extract demonstrated a “protective role in the burn-induced oxidative injury” of skin tissue.
In another trial, oral application of the herb helped promote healing of the lungs and small intestine affected by thermal burn injury.
Myrtle essential oil may offer much-needed relief for people with hemorrhoid types I and II. Clinical studies found that lotion or ointment with the oil can significantly reduce bleeding, pain during defecation, and permanent pain.
Applications also showed effectiveness in alleviating anal itching, anal irritation, and anal heaviness. Myrtle oil-infused ointments were successful in treating individuals whose symptoms did not respond to chemical anti-hemorrhoids ointments.
Chronic alcohol overconsumption can lead to excessive oxidation and inflammation. However, studies suggest that myrtle can minimize these effects. Researchers believe that the herb’s antioxidants may protect cell membranes from destruction by alcohol exposure.
Myrtle’s polyunsaturated fatty acids and phenolic compounds such as anthocyanins and flavonoids may also help shield the gastrointestinal tract from alcohol-induced damage.
Myrtle contains eucalyptol, a compound with strong expectorant properties. Traditional medicine has used myrtle extensively for various respiratory illnesses. Myrtle shows promise as a preventative and therapeutic treatment for idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, an inflammatory disease that causes gradual loss of lung function.
The herb's ability to inhibit oxidative stress may have contributed to improvements in inflammation among animal models with the condition. Diffusing the oil or mixing it with a carrier oil and applying it to the chest may ease respiratory distress from coughing, asthma, or bronchitis.
Myrtle essential oil may slow the growth of bacteria such as E. coli and strains that cause urinary tract infections. Animal studies showed that myrtle oil could offer dose-dependent protection against acute diarrhea, as well.
Moreover, the oil helped reverse oxidative stress in the intestine caused by the diarrhea. This could be due to its antioxidant properties and tannins, which are known to exhibit antimicrobial capabilities.
Extensive studies suggest that plant foods high in antioxidants may help lower the risk of developing metabolic disorders such as type 2 diabetes.
Limited research has explored myrtle’s antidiabetic properties with impressive results. In one animal trial, extracts of leaves and branchlets inhibited or lowered hyperglycemia. Extracts of berries and essential oil improved the lipid profile and levels of blood glucose, serum triglycerides, and hepatic nitrite.
Consuming myrtle berries may help ease acid reflux, researchers have discovered. In several clinical trials, subjects who used freeze-dried capsules had the same results as omeprazole, a common medication for excess stomach acid.
Further, a paste made with myrtle leaves helped shrink ulcers, lessen pain severity, and improve life quality for individuals with recurrent aphthous stomatitis.
Iranian traditional medicine has long used myrtle to treat abnormal uterine bleeding or menometrorrhagia. In one study, three months of consuming myrtle fruit syrup led to a marked decline in the mean number of bleeding days. The subjects also reported improved quality of life scores compared to the baseline.
Myrtle’s camphor-like aroma makes it a popular addition to aromatherapy rituals. It is reputed to relax the nervous system and calm tension and anxiety. The oil eases breathing for some individuals, and some users diffuse it to heighten self-confidence. Myrtle is also known as an aphrodisiac. However, most evidence of these properties is anecdotal, and research is scarce.
Undiluted, myrtle essential oil may irritate the skin or cause an allergic reaction. Be sure to dilute it with a carrier oil, ointment, or lotion before applying it to the skin, and test a small area for any reaction. Avoid ingesting the oil undiluted. The following individuals should also avoid using myrtle oil:
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