Bayberry is a traditional folk medicine herb derived from the bark of a small evergreen shrub that grows throughout a wide portion of the Eastern and Southern United States. Also referred to as wax myrtle or candleberry, the Bayberry plant also produces small waxy berries that have been used since colonial times to make fragrant candles popular at Christmas time.
Bayberry bark, brewed into a spicy tea or infusion, is a popular folk remedy and was a favorite of Native Americans. It has been used as a tonic and stimulant to support the body’s defense against a range of ailments such as coughs, colds, flu, fevers, headache, and sore throat. It was also considered an effective remedy for diarrhea, bloody stools, and excessive menstrual bleeding. As an astringent this herb helps to dry up and protect exposed membranes, and is often applied to the skin as poltice to heal boils, cankers and skin ulcers. Bayberry is also prepared as a gargle for treatment for early symptoms of colds and sore throat.
Current data on Bayberry list a number of compounds such as tannic acid, gallic acid and acrid resins that function as astringents. Researchers have raised some concern about the carcinogenic effects of tannin, but no human studies have been conducted to date. Bayberry is also known to contains the triterpene Myricitrin which is effective in stimulating the flow of bile and exhibits antibacterial activity.
xThough generally considered safe, in large doses Bayberry serves as an emetic agent to produce vomiting.