November 2011
The Herb Lady

Bayberry Makes a Comeback

Mayberry (Myrica cerifera), or wax myrtle if you prefer, has become a very common, evergreen, shrub-like plant around here. When I was a child, I only knew a few places where it could be found. Now it’s growing in the woods, on fence rows, and up and down roads. It is just everywhere as a wild plant. And it has become a very common landscape planting.

According to "North American Wildlife" by Readers Digest, bayberry grows in the coastal states from Texas to New England. It’s easy to spot as I travel the roads because the leaves on the tips of the limbs have a slightly golden color. This is more noticeable in the winter time.

 

Bayberry (Myrica cerifera)

Bayberry is an insect repellent, especially a flea repellent. Leaves can be placed in a pet’s bed to serve in this capacity. Sometimes bayberry limbs are placed under a house to rid the area of fleas. This practice was very common when I was a child in the 1930s.

When I was a youth, very few people had lawns or lawn mowers. Instead, we had well-swept yards in which grass was not allowed to grow. Of course, we did not own a store-bought yard broom either. Bayberry was one of the plants from which we constructed homemade yard brooms. To do this we tied several sprouts together with used haywire. (This was recycling, but we didn’t call it that during the Depression.)

Small gray-colored balls grow up and down the stems of bayberry. These berries are the material from which true bayberry candles are made. By dropping some of these berries into boiling water, cooking for a while and then cooling the mixture, you can discover the presence of wax for yourself. You will also enjoy the pleasant aroma.

Bayberry has been used in folklore medicine since long before Columbus discovered America. Some of the ailments which it is said to alleviate are colds, flu, fever, congestion, wounds and diarrhea. Oh, and gout. I have a little story about that.

A few years ago, a workman was performing a needed service in my yard. While doing so, he told of his painful experiences with gout. His pain caused him to have to crawl to the bathroom. His doctor’s medication helped some, but didn’t completely relieve all the pain. Someone suggested he take bayberry for this condition. He obtained bayberry capsules from a health food shop. He took them along with his prescribed medicine. Soon he was free of pain, walking upright like a normal man should and able to perform his occupational duties.

This gentleman didn’t even know my name. He had no way of knowing of my interest in herbs. After hearing his story, I introduced myself. Then I took him into the backyard to see my bayberry bush. His response was interesting.

He exclaimed, "Why, that grows everywhere!"

A homemade bayberry poultice can be applied to gout for possible relief and will be cost free.

Check with your physician before taking bayberry or any other herbal remedy.

Nadine Johnson can be reached at (866) 570-7302, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or P.O. Box 7425, Spanish Fort, AL 36577. She has a long history of involvement with herbs. She is also an independent distributor of Nature’s Sunshine Products.