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"Libraries: The medicine chest of the soul."
Library at Thebes, inscription over the door
Myrtle was used by the ancient Greek physician, Dioscorides for its healing properties. Today, myrtle essential oil is also of use in modern day aromatherapy.
Ancient Use of Myrtle
Dioscorides, the ancient Greek, recommended the use of a macerated myrtle leaves extract (in wine) for bladder and lung infections. The Greek goddess of love, Aphrodite, was revered with offerings of myrtle in the form of incense; myrtle's Greek association with love is continued today in the inclusion of myrtle in Greek bridal bouquets.
Myrtle was also included in the wedding bouquet of Queen Victoria of England in 1840. Myrtle is a traditional Mediterranean remedy to regulate the menstrual cycle; it was also used in skin preparations, including a 16th century skin care remedy that used the leaves and flowers of myrtle.
Plant Profile of Myrtle
Myrtle (Myrtus communis) is a member of the Myrtaceae plant family and is botanically related to eucalyptus and tea tree. It is a native plant of North Africa and is commonly found growing in the southern Mediterranean region including France, Spain, Corsica, Tunisia and Italy. Myrtle is a small tree or large bush (of up to three feet in height) with pointed leaves, white flowers and black berries; the leaves and flowers of myrtle are aromatic. Myrtle essential oil is extracted by steam distillation of the leaves and twigs that produces a pale yellow essential oil, similar to eucalyptus in fragrance.
Uses of Myrtle Essential Oil in Aromatherapy
Myrtle essential oil is largely used for its antiseptic properties; however, myrtle essential oil is also astringent, bactericidal, expectorant, toning and an anti-depressant. Myrtle essential oil can be used in aromatherapy to treat oily skin, acne, mature skin, coughs, anxiety, colds, infections, asthma, bronchitis, pulmonary and urinary infections.
Cautions for Using Myrtle Essential Oil
Myrtle essential oil is non-sensitizing, non-toxic and a non-irritant; it is a comparatively gentle oil due to its chemical make-up. The principal chemical component of myrtle essential oil is alcohol; alcohol components include cineol, geraniol, myrtenol, linalol, and there are also other chemical components of pinene and camphene.
Due to the high alcohol content of myrtle essential oil, it is a gentle essential oil that is suitable for use with children and the elderly, especially in the treatment of coughs and chest complaints. Consult a qualified professional for further advice.
– Davis, Patricia 1999 Aromatherapy An A-Z UK: Vermilion
– Harding, Jennie 2005 Aromatherapy Massage for You UK: Duncan Baird Publishers
– Lawless, Julia 1995 The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Essential Oils UK:Thorsons
This article was written by Sharon Falsetto and appeared in its original format on Suite101 as Myrtle Essential Oil
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