This section of the book is from "The Complete Herbalist" by Dr. O. Phelps Brown. Also available from Amazon: The Complete Herbalist: The People Their Own Physicians By The Use Of Nature's Remedies.
COMMON NAME. Wax Myrtle.
MEDICINAL PART. The bark of the root.
Description. -- This shrub is branching and partially evergreen, and varies in height from two to a dozen feet. The flowers appear in May, before the leaves are fully expanded. The fruits are small and globular, resembling berries, which are at first green, but become nearly white. They consist of a hard stone, inclosing a two-lobed and two-seeded kernel. On the outside of the stone are gunpowder-like grains, and over these is a crust of dry greenish-white wax.
History. -- Bayberry is found in woods and fields, from Canada to Florida. The bark of the root is the officinal part, but the wax is also used. Water must be employed to extract the astringent principles of the root-bark, alcohol to extract its stimulating virtues. The period at which the root should be collected is the latter part of fall. Cleanse it thoroughly, and while fresh separate the bark with a hammer or club. Dry the bark thoroughly and keep it in a dry place; then pulverize, and keep the powder in dark and sealed vessels. In order to obtain the wax, boil the berries in water; the wax will soon float on the surface, and may be removed when it becomes cold and hardened.
Properties and Uses. -- The bark has been successfully used in scrofula, jaundice, diarrhoea, dysentery, and in other cases where astringent stimulants were indicated. Powdered, it has been employed as a snuff, with curative effect, in catarrh of the head and nasal polypus. It is sometimes applied, in poultice form, to old ulcers, sores, tumors, etc.; but is better for these when combined with Bloodroot. The wax possesses mild astringent with narcotic properties. The real properties of Bayberry bark are found in a preparation called Myricin, which is a stimulant and astringent, and can be employed to the best advantage in dysentery with typhoid symptoms, chronic diarrhoea, scrofula, and follicular stomatitis. Its greatest and most salutary influence is exerted over a diseased condition of the mucous surface. Myricin should be administered internally by the advice of a physician acquainted with its virtues. It may be applied externally to sores, ulcers, etc., by anybody; but its immediate effects must be neutralized by a poultice of slippery elm.