Myrtle - Very Useful Herb for Skin Problems


Myrtus communis Myrtaceae

Native to scrubland around the Mediterranean, myrtle is an evergreen shrub with erect, hairy stems and shiny, pointed oval leaves, covered in tiny pits. White, sweet-smelling flowers, are followed by purple-black fruits, or berries, about the size of a pea.


For internal use

TO TREAT respiratory disorders INFUSION Put 10g of dried leaves into 1 litre of boiling water. Cover and leave to infuse for about 10 minutes, then strain. Drink 2 cups a day. DECOCTION Put 10g of dried leaves into 1 litre of water. Cover, boil for 10 minutes, then strain. Drink 2 cups a day.

For external use

TO TREAT abcesses, boils COMPRESS Prepare the decoction as described above, and soak a clean cloth in it. Apply this to the affected area, two or three times a day. Alternatively, use a cloth soaked in diluted myrtle essential oil.


Parts used

  • Leaves and berries
  • The leaves are gathered in spring, then dried in the shade, so that they remain green.
  • They are used in infusions and powders, and for their essential oil.
  • The berries are picked in autumn. Fresh ones are sometimes chewed. In Corsica and Sardinia a popular drink is made by steeping the berries in alcohol.


Myrtle leaves contain a small quantity of essential oil. The berries contain more and also tannins, and a number of organic acids.

Medicinal uses

Recent research has confirmed the antiseptic and decongestant powers of myrtle, which traditionally made it a valued treatment for respiratory and intestinal problems. It is also used occasionally to treat genital and the urinary tract infections.

For its emollient and healing powers, it is recommended for treating skin infections, such as abscesses and boils, and the essential oil will kill infestations of lice.

The berries are chewed as an appetite stimulant because they are said to stimulate the gastric function. Myrtle may have a new use, too, in treating diabetes. Tests show that it can reduce high blood sugar levels.


Myrtle can be grown from seeds in autumn. A young nursery plant or woody cuttings taken in summer, ideally in a sheltered spot. The neutral to alkaline soil should be well drained.


Because certain components in the essential oil can irritate the digestive system, it is highly advisable to only take myrtle preparations internally in close consultation with a doctor or medical herbalist.


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