Want to plant a native shrub with medicinal use? Northern Bayberry is worth a look.
According to the Richters 2011 Herb and Vegetable Catalogue, Northern Bayberry is known botanically as Myrica pensylvanica. It is moderately difficult to germinate because it requires special treatment; the seeds germinate more readily if the berry’s wax is removed and seeds are expoosed to 6 weeks of cold, moist treatment. It can be sown in spring, late summer and early fall.
Northern Bayberry is native to Indiana, according to Birdzilla.com. It can be seen on the campus of Indiana State University, according to the university’s web page. The Indiana Department of Natural Resources reports that bayberry serves as a wildlife cover, improves the soil by fixing nitrogen, and is adapted to almost all soils.
According to the Richters web page, northern bayberrys’ “astringent action of root bark abates diarrhea and hemorrhages; and as a gargle, soothes sore throat.”
Purdue University reports that the root bark is what is used for medicinal purposes. “After thorough cleansing and while still fresh the bark is loosened and removed by heating the root,” reads the web page, which also notes bayberry’s use in making candles. The root bark is collected in late fall.
Mrs. M Grieve’s A Modern Herbal describes bayberry as “Astringent and stimulant. In large doses emetic. It is useful in diarrhoea, jaundice, scrofula, etc. Externally, the powdered bark is used as a stimulant to indolent ulcers, though in poultices it should be combined with elm. The decoction is good as a gargle and injection in chronic inflammation of the throat, leucorrhoea, uterine haemorrhage, etc. It is an excellent wash for the gums. The powder is strongly sternutatory and excites coughing. Water in which the wax has been ‘tried,’ when boiled to an extract, is regarded as a certain cure for dysentery, and the wax itself, being astringent and slightly narcotic, is valuable in severe dysentery and internal ulcerations. “
However, NaturalMedicinalHerbs.net warns that some components of bayberry wax may cause cancer.
Consult with your doctor before using bayberry.
Bayberry wax is also used in candles. According to AlleghenyCandles.com, bayberry candles were used by early American settlers for special ocassions. According to legend, “This bayberry candle comes from a friend/so on Christmas Eve burn it down to the end/For a bayberry candle burned to the socket/will bring joy to the heart and gold to the pocket.”