Myrtle, the quiet one

Myrtle is your shy friend. She is quiet and unassuming, often fading into the background. Her nature is humble and pure. When life leaves you feeling a little grey, myrtle will reveal her inner radiance and help you to shake off the cobwebs, allowing you to shine once more.

Myrtle is a subtle and charming plant. It originates from the Mediterranean and grows like a shrub or small tree, with oval and shiny dark green leaves. If you’re lucky your myrtle will bloom delicate white flowers, which will eventually turn into edible dark berries.

There are many myths surrounding myrtle, but the most enduring is that of the goddess Venus and her priestess Myrene. Myrene, a favoured priestess of Venus, took a secret lover and the goddess, angered by her priestess’s indiscretion, killed the young man and turned Myrene into a myrtle tree. Since then myrtle has always been planted by temples of Venus and eventually became a symbol of the love goddess.

Myrtle is a particular favourite of mine because it was the subject of my plant study during my training as an aromatherapist. As a result my mother’s garden is now home to two myrtle plants, which have, as yet, survived assault from our leonberger Mackie.

Easy breathing

Myrtle is helpful for respiratory problems. It has an expectorant action, helping to ease breathing when you have a cold or flu. Its scent is less obtrusive than eucalyptus oil and so it tends to be tolerated better by babies and young children. Its effects are also slightly sedative.

I gave a bottle of myrtle oil to a friend of mine when his baby son was suffering from a persistent cold and having trouble sleeping due to a stuffy nose. I advised dropping a little myrtle oil onto the corner of his pillow, and vapourising the oil in the room about half an hour before bedtime. He reported back that his baby son slept soundly and peacefully through the night for the first time since catching the cold.

Of course, I always like to mention when recommending aromatherapy for children that their primary source of healthcare should be from a medical practitioner (your GP), and a complementary method used only as a helping hand.

Radiant skin oil

After winter I always feel that my skin looks a little grey. To brighten my complexion for spring, I like to make a facial wash using myrtle oil. You’ll need:

  • a medium-sized dark-glass jar with a screw-top lid
  • 50ml aloe vera gel
  • 25ml olive oil
  • 30 drops myrtle oil
  • sterilised teaspoon (stirrer)

Whisk the aloe vera gel and olive oil in the jar with your teaspoon (use the handle of the teaspoon if this is easier) until you have a white-coloured gel. Add 30 drops myrtle oil and stir well again.

You can now use this blend as a simple gel-based facial wash every morning. Remove with a warm cotton flannel. Myrtle oil’s astringent and restorative properties will brighten skin, and clarify and tighten pores.

Purifying fragrance

Myrtle oil is a good choice for lifting your mood and dispelling dark thoughts or negative energy. The effects of its fragrance when burned in a room are uplifting and purifying. With spring on its way, I burned myrtle at home this week to banish negative stale energies and to welcome in positive emotions for the new season, such as optimism and hope.

This post is dedicated to Gosia, whose inner radiance shines like myrtle.

Profile of myrtle:

Latin name: Myrtus communis
Plant family: Myrtaceae
Plant type: floral
Perfume note: top/middle
Botany and origins: a small evergreen shrub with oval-shaped dark green leaves, small white flowers and edible blue-black berries; originally native to the Mediterranean.
Extraction: steam distillation
Chemical properties/active components: primarily cineol (oxide), helpful for respiratory problems
Blends with: bergamot, lavandin, lavender, rosemary, clary sage, lime, ginger and other spice oils
Key actions: astringent, antiseptic, bactericidal
Common conditions: acne, oily skin, large pores; asthma, bronchitis, chronic coughs, colds and flu; bladder infections
Contraindications: non-toxic, non-sensitising and non-irritant. As with most essential oils, it’s advisable to avoid during the first three months of pregnancy. Thereafter, it may be helpful for skin problems.
Further reading: This profile is based on my own experience and knowledge of using this essential oil. Other aromatherapy texts will list a wider range of properties and uses. The most comprehensive essential oil profiles that I have read are given by Salvatore Battaglia’s The Complete Guide to Aromatherapy, Second Edition, published by Perfect Potion, 2003, Australia. ISBN:  0-6464-2896-9

Image © Mauro Rodrigues / 123RF

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3 thoughts on “Myrtle, the quiet one

  1. Pingback: Lights! Camera! Action! It’s jasmine! | Basil and bees

  2. Pingback: A plant study of myrtle | Basil and bees

  3. Pingback: Remembering Myrtle | Miss Apis Mellifera

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