Myrtus communis Linnaeus, 1753
Common names: Myrtle, True myrtle [En], Myrte [Fr], Mirte [Nl], Myrtus [It], Mirto, Arrayán, Murta [Es], Μυρτιά, Μυρτιά η κοινή, Μύρτο [Gr], Mersin [Tu]
Rahes, IKARIA ● Greece
Description: The plant is an evergreen shrub or small tree, growing to 5 m tall. The leaf is entire, 3–5 cm long, with a fragrant essential oil. The star-like flower has five petals and sepals, and numerous stamens. Petals usually are white. The fruit is a round berry containing several seeds, most commonly blue-black in colour.
Biology: The flower is pollinated by insects, and the seeds are dispersed by birds that eat the berries.
Habitat: Scrub, avoiding calcareous soils.
Distribution: Native to southern Europe, Middle East and north Africa.
Uses: In the Mediterranean, myrtle was symbolic of love and immortality. In Greek mythology and ritual the myrtle was sacred to the goddesses Aphrodite and also Demeter.
Fruit is edible raw or cooked and has an aromatic flavour. The leaves and the dried fruits and flower buds are used as a flavouring in cooked savoury dishes, sauces, syrups, etc. 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 are used in salads.
The fresh, clear aroma of this oil is excellent at clearing the airways.
The leaves are aromatic, balsamic, haemostatic and tonic. Recent research has revealed a substance in the plant that has an antibiotic action. The plant is taken internally in the treatment of urinary infections, digestive problems, vaginal discharge, bronchial congestion, sinusitis and dry coughs. Externally, it is used in the treatment of acne (the essential oil is normally used here), wounds, gum infections and haemorrhoids. The oil is used as a local application in the treatment of rheumatism. The fruit is carminative and is used in the treatment of dysentery, diarrhoea, haemorrhoids, internal ulceration and rheumatism.
A recent systematic review of herbal medicines has proven a positive effect for myrtle compounds in the treatment of rhinosinusitis. An ointment containing the essential oil myrtle was effective against herpes simplexvirus (HSV-1) infection.
Plants For A Future