BAYBERRY, Myrica cerifera
We have all heard the story about the man who got sick at night so he called the doctor. The doctor always says, “Take two aspirins and call me in the morning.” In modern times, aspirin is a cure-all that is used to treat most everything.
Back in the days before aspirin or any modern medicine if folks got a little sick, they used what they called a composition powder. It was made from several herbs. It, too, was a cure-all that was supposed to be good for whatever ailed you. Every house had a bottle of composition powder. The main ingredient in composition powder is bayberry. Bayberry itself is good for a lot of things.
I will never forget my first encounter with bayberry. I was attending Doctor Christopher’s School of Natural Healing. My head was all stuffed up and I was catching a cold. I was told to take some bayberry powder and sniff it up my nose. Someone said to sniff it with a straw. That about killed me, it felt like the top of my head was coming off. Instead of the straw, I put about the teaspoon of the powder in a pill bottle and shook it up. Then I put my nose in the mouth of the bottle and sniffed a few time really hard. I could feel the powder go up into my sinuses. I shook and stiffed about five times and then I started to sneeze. I never knew there could be so much garbage in my head. I repeated this sniffing process every two or three hours until my head was all clear and I felt fine. It also shrank some polyps in my nose.
Bayberry trees are found all along the East Coast and from the Great Lakes to Texas. Bayberry trees are evergreen, and in warm climate they grow about 30 feet tall. The leaf is lanceolate or long and thin, dark and shiny green on top. There are resinous glands in the top and bottom of the leaf that make them fragrant when the leaf is rubbed. The berries seem to grow out of the branches in clusters. The berries and some of the branches are covered with an aromatic wax. The bark, root bark, leaf and wax are the part used.
The Indians taught the pilgrims to use bayberry leaf tea for colds and the fever. However, they soon found the wax that covered the berry made a fragrant candle. Soon bayberry was called myrtle, candle berry and tallow shrub, etc. Some old herbal books say that bayberry and lobelia are two of the most important herbs in botanic medicine. Therefore, bayberry is the main herb in the famous old composition powder that was used for almost everything.
Bayberry is an astringent, that means it tightens the tissue. It can be used for internal bleeding such as hemorrhages of the uterus, bowels or lungs. It is more effective when used with cayenne. For spongy or bleeding gums or loose teeth, rinse your mouth out with strong bayberry tea. Put some bayberry powder around your teeth and it will tighten your gums and teeth and even help pyorrhea. Bayberry is also used for diarrhea and dysentery. Drink a goodly amount of the tea and use additional tea for an enema.
Bayberry is a tonic that tones up the body. It cleans and tones up the liver. It is also used to tone up the female organs. When folks used to have a sour or bitter stomach it was for digestion. Bayberry is used in many Grandma’s herbal combinations, including the Asthma and Liver formulas.
Bayberry, if taken in too large quantities, becomes an emetic and will make you throw up. In smaller quantities it loosens phlegm and mucus and helps dispel them from the body. It also stimulates the whole circulatory system and to helps to get rid of plaque and mucus from the arteries and capillaries.