• The Fantastic Spices World
  • The Fantastic Spices World
  • The Fantastic Spices World
  • The Fantastic Spices World

MYRTLE ( Myrtus communis L. )
Names in Other Languages:

English Myrtle
French Myrte (commun)
German Myrte, Brautmyrte
Spanish Arrayán, Mirto
Italian Mirto
Turkish Mersin, Murt, Bahar, Sazak
Japanese ギンバイカ Ginbaika

FAMILY: Myrtaceae

ORIGIN:   The plant grows abundantly in the North Western to Eastern Mediterranean.

GENERAL DESCRIPTION: This dense, evergreen shrub has an aromatic leaves and flower-buds, creamy white flowers and blue-black berries.The plant can be grown up to 5m.

USEFUL PARTS: Mostly the fresh or dried leaves are used; the dried berry fruits are also aromatic.

SENSORY PROPERTIES: The leaves have an aromatic and refreshing smell and the taste is very intensive, quite disagreeable and strongly bitter.


The most important constituents of myrtle oil (up to 0.8% in the leaves) are myrtenol, myrtenol acetate, limonene (23%), linalool (20%), pinene (14%), cineol (11%), furthermore, p-cymene, geraniol, nerol and the phenylpropanoid, methyleugenol. There is considerable variability in the composition of oil from different locations.


The fruit of myrtle has an aromatic flavour, it can be eaten fresh when ripe or it can be dried-used as an aromatic food flavouring. It can also be made into some acid drinks. The leaves are used as a flavouring in cooked savoury dishes. The dried fruits and flower buds are used to flavour sauces and syrups. An essential oil from the leaves and twigs is used as a condiment, especially when mixed with other spices. The flowers have a sweet flavour and can be used in salads


Antibiotic; Antiseptic; Aromatic; Astringent; Balsamic; Carminative; Haemostatic; Tonic.

The leaves are aromatic, balsamic, haemostatic and tonic. Recent research has revealed a substance in the plant that has an antibiotic action[1].

The plant is taken internally in the treatment of urinary infections, digestive problems, vaginal discharge, bronchial congestion, sinusitis and dry coughs[2,3].

Externally, it is used in the treatment of acne (the essential oil is normally used here), wounds, gum infections and haemorrhoids. The leaves are picked as required and used fresh or dried[2].

An essential oil obtained from the plant is antiseptic. It contains the substance myrtol - this is used as a remedy for gingivitis. The oil is used as a local application in the treatment of rheumatism[4].

The fruit is carminative. It is used in the treatment of dysentery, diarrhoea, haemorrhoids, internal ulceration and rheumatism[4].


Lesley Bremness, Eyewitness Handbook HERBS, London, 1994
Picture source: www.babbonyc.com/in-myrtle.html
[1] Chiej. R. Encyclopaedia of Medicinal Plants. MacDonald 1984 ISBN 0-356-10541-5
[2] Bown. D. Encyclopaedia of Herbs and their Uses. Dorling Kindersley, London. 1995 ISBN 0-7513-020-31 A very well presented and informative book on herbs from around the globe. Plenty in it for both the casual reader and the serious student. Just one main quibble is the silly way of having two separate entries for each plant.
[3] Chevallier. A. The Encyclopedia of Medicinal Plants Dorling Kindersley. London 1996 ISBN 9-780751-303148
[4] Chopra. R. N., Nayar. S. L. and Chopra. I. C. Glossary of Indian Medicinal Plants (Including the Supplement). Council of Scientific and Industrial Research, New Delhi. 1986