The Many Myrtles

Myrtus communis (Myrtle)

Myrtus communis image courtesy of Forest and Kim Starr on flickr.com

Myrtle essential oil isn’t often used in blends, but I was doing a bit of research and it came across my radar. I wanted to be sure which essential oil was being referenced, so I looked up myrtle essential oil. It ended up there are at least four different myrtles, two of which that have the same latin name but different common names. To clear away the confusion I will delve into them here.

The latin name Myrtus communis is given to “common myrtle.” When you see an essential oil spoken of as “myrtle” it usually means this plant. Although this seems straightforward, that essential oil can then also be called “Red Myrtle” or “Green Myrtle.” Both of these are distilled from the same plant, but hail from different geographical locations. The location determines the chemical constituents this plant will have, so much so that it has two different names.

Compared to Green Myrtle (Myrtus communis), Red Myrtle (Myrtus communis) essential oil is higher in cineole, the constituent prominent in Eucalyptus (Eucalyptus globulus). This suggests that Red Myrtle would excel in respiratory formulas, as Eucalyptus does. The therapeutic properties of this oil include anti-infectious, antimicrobial, and expectorant, showing that it shines in uses for lung congestion.

Green Myrtle is quite similar to Red, and it is good for the lungs as well. However, it is higher in pinenes making it a bit more gentle and more popular to use in Aromatherapy. It can be used with children and with the elderly for complaints such as asthma, congestion, and colds.

Both types of Myrtus communis are also seen in skincare recipes, as a skin rejuvenator, and in blends to fight bacterial and fungal infections. These herbaceous-scented oils can even help with mental and physical exhaustion and can banish headaches.

The spicier Aniseseed Myrtle (Syzygium anisatum) is somewhat similar to Anise (Pimpinella anisum) essential oil in that both are useful to soothe the digestive system. But, Aniseed Myrtle shares some therapeutics with the common myrtle, too. It is good in cases that require anti-inflammatories and expectorants so it also helpful with coughs and colds.

The last myrtle is Lemon Myrtle (Backhousia citriodora). The first time I encountered this essential oil I found that it smelled so much like Lemon Balm (Melissa officinalis) that I was hoping to use it as a less expensive replacement. They do have several of the same chemical constituents, but Lemon Myrtle is not as gentle an antiviral and it can cause skin sensitization. I decided it would be more useful in cleaning products, to take advantage of its antibacterial qualities, and in bug repellants. It can also be added to immune boosting diffuser blends so you won’t catch a cold and end up needing the other myrtles to clear your lungs.

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