Herb: Bog Myrtle


Latin name: Myrica gale


Synonyms: Gale palustris, Myrica palustris


Family: Myricaceae (Bayberry Family)



Medicinal use of Bog Myrtle:

The leaves are abortifacient, aromatic, astringent, emmenagogue and stomachic. The leaves are normally used as a tea, but they do contain a poisonous aromatic oil, so some caution is advised in their use.

Description of the plant:



Plant:
Deciduous
Shrub

Height:
2 m
(6 1/2 foot)

Flovering:
March
to May


Scent:
Scented
Shrub

Habitat of the herb:

Bogs, marshes, fens and wet heathland in acid soils but plants are occasionally found in calcareous fens.

Edible parts of Bog Myrtle:

The aromatic fruits and leaves are used either fresh or dried to flavour soups, stews etc. They are sometimes put in beer and ale to improve the flavour and increase foaming. The fruit is about 3mm in diameter with a single large seed. The dried leaves make a delicate and palatable tea.

Other uses of the herb:

A wax covering on the fruit and leaves is extracted by scalding the fruit with boiling water and immersing them for a few minutes, the wax floats to the surface and is then skimmed off. The fruit is then boiled in water to extract the wax from the pulp and once more the wax is skimmed off. It is then strained through a muslin cloth and can be used to make aromatic candles. These candles diffuse a delightful odour when burnt. Unfortunately this species does not produce enough wax to make it commercially viable. A yellow dye is obtained from the stem tips. Brown according to another report. A yellow dye is obtained from the seeds. The bark contains tannin and can be gathered in the autumn and used as a yellow dye. The plant repels moths and insects in general. The fragrant leaves are used. A strong decoction of the leaves can be used as a parasiticide to kill external body parasites. A fragrant essential oil is obtained from the fruits.

Propagation of Bog Myrtle:

Seed - best sown as soon as it is ripe in the autumn in a cold frame. Barely cover the seed and keep it moist. Stored seed germinates more freely if given a 3 month cold stratification and then sown in a cold frame. Germination is usually good. Prick out the seedlings into individual pots when they are large enough to handle and grow on in the cold frame for the first winter. Plant out in late spring or early summer. Cuttings of half-ripe wood, 5 - 8cm with a heel, July/August in a frame. Pot up and overwinter in a cold frame. Fair to good percentage. Cuttings of mature wood in November/December in a frame. Layering in spring. Division of suckers in the dormant season. Plant them out direct into their permanent positions.

Cultivation of the herb:

Bogs, marshes, fens and wet heathland in acid soils but plants are occasionally found in calcareous fens.

Known hazards of Myrica gale:

This plant is an abortifacient and so should not be eaten by pregnant women.

Plant information taken from the Plants For A Future.