Myrtle

Myrti aetheroleum, M. folium, Myrtus communis

Myrtle is an evergreen, bushy shrub indigenous to areas from the Mediterranean to the Himalayas. The medicinal components are obtained from the leaves and branches. Myrti folium refers to the dried leaves of Myrtus communis, where as Myrti aetheroleum is the essential oil of Myrtus communis. The essential oil is extracted from the leaves and branches by steam distillation. The percentage of oil extracted ranges from 0.1 % to 0.5% depending on the month of harvest. Concentration is highest during May and June.

The chief components of myrtle are volatile oils, tannins, tonnic acid, and aceylphloroglucinols. Myrtol is the active constituent. It is absorbed in the intestine, stimulates the mucous membranes of the stomach and, deodorizes the breath. Myrtol also possesses fungicidal, disinfectant, and antibacterial effects. Animal experiments have also demonstrated hypoglycemic effects. Myrtle is available as an oil.

Reported uses

Taken internally, myrtle is used in the treatment of acute and chronic infections of the respiratory tract such as bronchitis, whooping cough, and tuberculosis of the lung. Other uses include bladder conditions, diarrhea, worm infestations, muscle spasms, and hemorrhoids. Externally, myrtle has been used to treat acne and varicose veins.

Administration

  • Myrtle oil: 200 mg by mouth daily
  • Myrtle leaves (powder from leaves): 5 g by mouth three times a day before meals.

Hazards

Myrtle may cause nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea. When applied to the faces of children, glottal and bronchial spasm has been noted. The tannic acid in myrtle may interfere with glycosides, iron-containing compounds, and alkaloids. When taken with antidiabetic medications, hypoglycemic effects may be enhanced.

Myrtle is contraindicated in patients with gastrointestinal, biliary duct, and liver disease. It shouldn’t be used by pregnant or breast-feeding women. Myrtle shouldn’t be used topically in children because of the potential for glottal and bronchial spasm.

Safety RiskĀ Overdoses of myrtle oil (more than 10g) can lead to a rapid fall in blood pressure and circulatory and respiratory collapse. Vomiting shouldn’t be induced owing to the danger of aspiration. Following administration of activated charcoal, use symptomatic treatment for spasms and colic. Intubation may be warranted.

Clinical considerations

  • Caution patient about the potential for overdose.
  • Advise patient of the effects of myrtle when taken with other medications.
  • Warn patient to store product away from light.
  • Advise patient not to use topically on children, and to keep out ofreach of children.
  • Caution patient to avoid large doses of myrtle as it may lead to hepatic damage, dehydration, and cardiovascular collapse.
  • Advise patient that the herb’s strength may vary depending on the time it was harvested; highest concentrations of the active component and subsequent higher risk for adverse effects are found in product harvested in May and June.
  • Tell patient to remind prescriber and pharmacist of any herbal or dietary supplement that he’s taking when obtaining a new prescription.
  • Advise patient to consult his health care provider before using an herbal preparation because a treatment with proven efficacy may be available.

Research summary

The concepts behind the use of myrtle and the claims made regarding its effects haven’t yet been validated scientifically.

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