Bayberry (Myrica spp.)
Natural Standard Bottom Line Monograph, Copyright © 2013 (www.naturalstandard.com). Commercial distribution prohibited. This monograph is intended for informational purposes only, and should not be interpreted as specific medical advice. You should consult with a qualified healthcare provider before making decisions about therapies and/or health conditions.
While some complementary and alternative techniques have been studied scientifically, high-quality data regarding safety, effectiveness, and mechanism of action are limited or controversial for most therapies. Whenever possible, it is recommended that practitioners be licensed by a recognized professional organization that adheres to clearly published standards. In addition, before starting a new technique or engaging a practitioner, it is recommended that patients speak with their primary healthcare provider(s). Potential benefits, risks (including financial costs), and alternatives should be carefully considered. The below monograph is designed to provide historical background and an overview of clinically-oriented research, and neither advocates for or against the use of a particular therapy.
Anthocyanins, antioxidant, arbre à cire (French), arbre à suif (French), arrayán (Spanish), arrayán brabántico (Spanish), Asian bayberry, bay-rum tree, bog-myrtle, bois-sent-bon (French), box berry, box myrtle, Brabantimirtusz (Hungarian), C-methylated dihydrochalcone, candleberry, cera vegetal (Spanish), chalcone, Chinese-arbutus, Chinese bayberry, Chinese strawberry tree, cirier (French), Elvepost (Norwegian), Fenyérmirtusz (Hungarian), flavanone, flavonoid, flavonol, Gagel (Dutch, German), Gagelstrauch (German), galé odorant (French), glashout (Afrikaans), Harilik porss (Estonian), ilethi (Zulu), Illatos viaszbogyó (Hungarian), Japanese bayberry, kaphal (Nepali), Kynning (Norwegian), Lopperis (Norwegian), louro-bravo (Portuguese), Lusgras (Norwegian), meadow-fern, Mjaðarlyng (Icelandic), Moor-Gagelstrauch (German), Mose Pors (Danish), Morella (alternate genus), Morella cerifera L. Small, Morella cordifolia (L.) Killick, Morella esculenta (Buch.-Ham. ex D. Don) I. M. Turner, Morella nana (A. Chev.) J. Herb.), Morella rubra Lour., mountain peach, Myrica cerifera, Myrica cordifolia, Myrica esculenta, Myrica gale, Myrica integrifolia, Myrica nagi, Myrica nana, Myrica quercifolia, Myrica rubra, Myrica salicifolia, Myrica sapida, Myrica serrata, myricetin, myrique (French), myrique baumier (French), Nageia nagi (Thunb.) Kuntze, piment royal (French), Pors (Danish, nagi (Japanese), Norwegian, Swedish), Porsch (German), Pørse (Norwegian), Porst (German), Poss (Norwegian), Post (Norwegian), Postris (Norwegian), quercetin, red bayberry, Rosmarin (Norwegian), southern bayberry, southern wax-myrtle, Sumpfmyrte (German), Suomyrtit (Finnish), Suomyrtti (Finnish), sweet gale, tallow shrub, tannin, Vahaporss (Estonian), Viaszbogyó (Hungarian), Viaszcserje (Hungarian), Voks-Pors (Danish), Vokspors (Norwegian), Voskovník japonský (Czech), Voskovník obecný (Czech), Voskovník pensylvánský (Czech), Wachsbeerbaum (German), Wachsgagle (German), Wachsmyrte (German), wasbessie (Afrikaans), wasbessiebos (Afrikaans), wasbossie (Afrikaans), Wasgagel (Dutch), wax, wax myrtle, wax-myrtle, wax shrub, waxberry, Woskownica (Polish), yamamomo (Japanese), yangmei (Cantonese, Chinese), yun nan yang mei (Chinese).
Note: Due to the lack of primary research and the extensive and often interchangeable use of different varieties of bayberry, this monograph addresses the available data on a number of commonly used species of the genus Myrica.
Myrica is a genus of about 35-50 species of small trees and shrubs in the family Myricaceae, order Fagales, found throughout most of the world. Occasionally, the genus is divided into two genera, Myrica and Morella, with the former restricted to only a few species and the remainder appearing under Morella. Common names include bayberry, bay-rum tree, bog-myrtle, candleberry, sweet gale, and wax-myrtle.
Several species of Myrica have been used in folk medicine in Asian, Native American, European, and African cultures. According to Daniel Moerman's Medicinal plants of Native America, the branches of sweet gale (Myrica gale) were used by the Bella Coola Indians of British Columbia to prepare decoctions for use as a diuretic or as a treatment for gonorrhea. Other Native American peoples have used bayberry for dysentery, diarrhea, fevers, gynecological conditions, bleeding in the uterus, and as a toothache remedy. Myrica cordifolia, native to South Africa, has been traditionally used as an astringent, food source, and for tanning hides. Another species indigneous to Africa, Myrica quercifolia, has also been prescribed by native herbalists to cure stomachaches.
The early American colonists did not initially use the herb medicinally, but rather made candles, soaps and cosmetics from the bayberry fruit.
Today, bayberry remains popular in Asian herbalist traditions. In Taiwan, bayberry is often recommended for stomach disorders and diarrhea, and in China, it is used as an astringent and pain reliever.
Human data on the therapeutic use of bayberry for any condition are currently lacking. However, a number of early studies suggest that Myrica may have beneficial effects, including anticancer, antioxidant, blood pressure-lowering, antifungal, and antibacterial activities.
Bayberry is not listed in the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS) list.
These uses have been tested in humans or animals. Safety and effectiveness have not always been proven. Some of these conditions are potentially serious, and should be evaluated by a qualified healthcare provider.
No available studies qualify for inclusion in the evidence table.
*Key to grades:A: Strong scientific evidence for this use; B: Good scientific evidence for this use; C: Unclear scientific evidence for this use; D: Fair scientific evidence against this use (it may not work); F: Strong scientific evidence against this use (it likely does not work).
The below uses are based on tradition or scientific theories. They often have not been thoroughly tested in humans, and safety and effectiveness have not always been proven. Some of these conditions are potentially serious and should be evaluated by a qualified health care professional.
Analgesic (pain reliever), anaphylaxis (severe allergic reaction), antibacterial, anticoagulant, antifungal, antihelmintic (treatment for parasitic worms), antihypertensive (blood pressure-lowering), anti-malarial, antineoplastic, antioxidant, antipyretic, antiviral, anxiolytic (anti-anxiety), arthritis, asthma, astringent, bleeding gums, blood purifier, bronchitis, cholera, colds, colic, colitis, cosmetic, dental pain, dermatoses, diaphoretic, diarrhea, digestive tonic, diuretic, dysentery, emetic, epilepsy, expectorant, flavoring, flu, fragrance (detergents, perfumes, soaps), glaucoma, hepatoprotection (liver protection), gonorrhea, headaches, hemorrhage (uterine), high cholesterol, hormone regulation (antiandrogen), hysteria, insect repellant, insecticidal, jaundice, laxative, leukorrhea (abnormal vaginal discharge), menstrual problems, nausea, pruritus, rheumatic disorders, salivary stimulant, scurvy, vitiligo (loss of skin pigment), sore throat, spermicide, stimulant, stomach disorders, syphilis, thrush, tonic, tuberculosis, varicose veins, wound healing.
The below doses are based on scientific research, publications, traditional use, or expert opinion. Many herbs and supplements have not been thoroughly tested, and safety and effectiveness may not be proven. Brands may be made differently, with variable ingredients, even within the same brand. The below doses may not apply to all products. You should read product labels, and discuss doses with a qualified healthcare provider before starting therapy.
Adults (18 years and older)
There is no proven safe or effective dose for bayberry in adults.
Children (under 18 years old)
There is no proven safe or effective dose for bayberry in children.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration does not strictly regulate herbs and supplements. There is no guarantee of strength, purity or safety of products, and effects may vary. You should always read product labels. If you have a medical condition, or are taking other drugs, herbs, or supplements, you should speak with a qualified healthcare provider before starting a new therapy. Consult a healthcare provider immediately if you experience side effects.
Avoid in individuals with known allergy/hypersensitivity to bayberry, bayberry pollen, plants of the genus Myrica, and/or constituents thereof.
Bayberry is listed as an allergenic in the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Vaccines, Blood & Biologics Database. Substances labeled as such are regulated by the Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research and include patch tests used to diagnose the causes of allergic skin reactions (called contact dermatitis) or extracts used to diagnose and treat rhinitis, allergic sinusitis and pinkeye, and bee stings.
A diagnosis of hay fever from southern wax-myrtle (Myrica cerifera) has been noted.
In human study, 15% of 400 subjects evaluated for allergic respiratory symptoms had a positive reaction to bayberry pollen extract skin tests.
Side Effects and Warnings
Scientific safety evidence is lacking, although the bark, leaves, and fruits of several species of Myrica have been traditionally used and consumed without reports of adverse effects. Bayberry is not listed in the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS) list.
Use cautiously, as secondary sources report cancer-causing properties.
Use cautiously in large doses, as secondary sources report that bayberry may cause nausea and gastrointestinal disturbances.
Use cautiously in patients with heart or kidney disease, as secondary sources suggest that bayberry may alter the body's processing of sodium and potassium.
Use cautiously in patients taking blood pressure-lowering agents, as bayberry may lower blood pressure levels.
Bayberry may increase the risk of bleeding. Caution is advised in patients with bleeding disorders or taking agents that may increase the risk of bleeding. Dosing adjustments may be necessary.
Use cautiously in patients using bronchodilators, as the stem bark of Myrica sapida may have bronchodilative effects and improve airflow.
Use cautiously in patients using hormonal agents, as Myrica rubra extract may have 5-alpha-reductase inhibitory anti-androgenic activity.
Pregnancy and Breastfeeding
Bayberry is not recommended in pregnant or breastfeeding women due to a lack of available scientific evidence.
Most herbs and supplements have not been thoroughly tested for interactions with other herbs, supplements, drugs, or foods. The interactions listed below are based on reports in scientific publications, laboratory experiments, or traditional use. You should always read product labels. If you have a medical condition, or are taking other drugs, herbs, or supplements, you should speak with a qualified healthcare provider before starting a new therapy.
Interactions with Drugs
Bayberry may increase the risk of bleeding when taken with drugs that increase the risk of bleeding. Some examples include aspirin, anticoagulants ("blood thinners") such as warfarin (Coumadin®) or heparin, anti-platelet drugs such as clopidogrel (Plavix®), and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen (Motrin®, Advil®) or naproxen (Naprosyn®, Aleve®).
Bayberry may lower blood pressure. Caution is advised in patients taking agents that lower blood pressure.
Bayberry may also interact with pain relievers, antianxiety drugs, antibiotics, antifungals, cholesterol-lowering agents, antimalarial agents, antiviral agents, bronchodilators, heart drugs, and hormonal agents.
Interactions with Herbs and Dietary Supplements
Bayberry may increase the risk of bleeding when taken with herbs or supplements that increase the risk of bleeding.
Bayberry may lower blood pressure. Caution is advised in patients taking herbs or supplements that lower blood pressure.
Bayberry may also interact with pain relievers, antianxiety herbs or supplements, antibacterials, antifungals, cholesterol-lowering herbs or supplements, antimalarial herbs or supplements, antivirals, bronchodilators, heart agents, and hormonal herbs or supplements.
This information is based on a systematic review of scientific literature edited and peer-reviewed by contributors to the Natural Standard Research Collaboration (www.naturalstandard.com).
Natural Standard developed the above evidence-based information based on a thorough systematic review of the available scientific articles. For comprehensive information about alternative and complementary therapies on the professional level, go to www.naturalstandard.com. Selected references are listed below.
Bao, J, Cai, Y, Sun, M, et al. Anthocyanins, flavonols, and free radical scavenging activity of Chinese bayberry (Myrica rubra) extracts and their color properties and stability. J Agric Food Chem 3-23-2005;53(6):2327-2332. View Abstract
Chistokhodova, N, Nguyen, C, Calvino, T, et al. Antithrombin activity of medicinal plants from central Florida. J Ethnopharmacol 2002;81(2):277-280. View Abstract
Fang, Z, Zhang, M, Tao, G, et al. Chemical composition of clarified bayberry (Myrica rubra Sieb. et Zucc.) juice sediment. J Agric Food Chem 10-4-2006;54(20):7710-7716. View Abstract
Jacinto, CM, Nelson, RP, Bucholtz, GA, et al. Nasal and bronchial provocation challenges with bayberry (Myrica cerifera) pollen extract. J Allergy Clin Immunol 1992;90(3 Pt 1):312-318. View Abstract
Kobayashi, K, Ihara, S, Kobata, A, et al. Inhibitory effect of Myrica bark on lipase activity in mouse plasma and gastrointestinal tract. J Med Food 2008;11(2):289-293. View Abstract
Kuo, PL, Hsu, YL, Lin, TC, et al. Prodelphinidin B-2 3,3'-di-O-gallate from Myrica rubra inhibits proliferation of A549 carcinoma cells via blocking cell cycle progression and inducing apoptosis. Eur J Pharmacol 10-6-2004;501(1-3):41-48. View Abstract
Liao, X, Lu, Z, Du, X, et al. Collagen fiber immobilized Myrica rubra tannin and its adsorption to UO2(2+). Environ Sci Technol 1-1-2004;38(1):324-328. View Abstract
Matsuda, H, Yamazaki, M, Matsuo, K, et al. Anti-androgenic activity of Myricae Cortex--isolation of active constituents from bark of Myrica rubra. Biol Pharm Bull 2001;24(3):259-263. View Abstract
Patel, KG, Bhalodia, PN, Patel, AD, et al. Evaluation of bronchodilator and anti-anaphylactic activity of Myrica sapida. Iran Biomed J 2008;12(3):191-196. View Abstract
Patel, KG, Patel, KV, Shah, JH, et al. Evaluation of the effect of Myrica sapida on bronchoconstriction and bronchial hyperreactivity. Pharmazie 2008;63(4):312-316. View Abstract
Popovici, J, Bertrand, C, Bagnarol, E, et al. Chemical composition of essential oil and headspace-solid microextracts from fruits of Myrica gale L. and antifungal activity. Nat Prod.Res 2008;22(12):1024-1032. View Abstract
Prince, HE and Meyer, GH. Hay fever from Southern Wax-Myrtle (Myrica cerifera): a case report. Ann Allergy 1977;38(4):252-254. View Abstract
Sylvestre, M, Legault, J, Dufour, D, et al. Chemical composition and anticancer activity of leaf essential oil of Myrica gale L. Phytomedicine 2005;12(4):299-304. View Abstract
Tong, Y, Zhou, XM, Wang, SJ, et al. Analgesic activity of myricetin isolated from Myrica rubra Sieb. et Zucc. leaves. Arch Pharm Res 2009;32(4):527-533. View Abstract
Wang, DY and Liu, EG. A new diaryheptanoid from the bark of Myrica rubra. Nat Prod Res 3-10-2008;22(4):292-295. View Abstract
Copyright © 2013 Natural Standard (www.naturalstandard.com)
The information in this monograph is intended for informational purposes only, and is meant to help users better understand health concerns. Information is based on review of scientific research data, historical practice patterns, and clinical experience. This information should not be interpreted as specific medical advice. Users should consult with a qualified healthcare provider for specific questions regarding therapies, diagnosis and/or health conditions, prior to making therapeutic decisions.
March 22, 2017