Application cutanée, massage
Voie respiratoire, diffusion
Myrtle (Myrtus communis) is a shrub from the Myrtaceae family, native to the Mediterranean basin, which grows in the wild in dry and sunny scrubland. Its persistent, lanceolate and opposite leaves are extremely aromatic.
Its small white and perfumed flowers are replaced by bluish black berries.
In the Antiquity myrtle was dedicated to Venus-Aphrodite, probably due to its exquisite fragrance, and in Greece the bridal crowns were made with myrtle. Ovid tells us in his Fasti or Book of days, that the goddess of love was drying her dripping hair when she was surprised by a group of satyrs and she escaped their lascivious curiosity by wrapping herself in myrtle. She had a crown of myrtle the day of the famous beauty contest among the three goddesses, when she received the apple from the shepherd Paris. The plant was commonly used in medicine, and its berries were ground and used to prepare plasters and salves. Pliny recommended it "to cure bad mouth odour, a very embarrassing inconvenience" and it is still used for this purpose in Morocco.
Cultivation and production
Myrtle used to grow wild in Corsica, Morocco, Tunisia and in the Balkans. Myrtle leaves are harvested between May and September leaving two thirds on the tree to preserve its productivity.
The scent of myrtle is deliciously fresh and resinous.
Extraction and yield
Myrtle leaves are treated by steam distillation with a yield of 0.18% to 0.28%, i.e. four hundred and twenty grams to two hundred and eighty grams per hundred kilograms of plant.
The principal active constituents of essential oil of Myrtus communis are monoterpenes (alpha and beta-pinenes), monoterpenic alcohols (linalool), monoterpenic esters (myrtenyl acetate) and terpenic oxides (1,8-cineol).
The essential oil of Myrtus communis is an antiseptic and astringent. It treats digestive, pulmonary or urinary infections as well as skin ulcers and haemorrhoids. It lightens heavy legs and prepares the body to exercise to prevent cramps and aches. It is effective against productive and dry coughs.
Excerpts from the book « Aromatherapia – Tout sur les huiles essentielles », by Isabelle Pacchioni. Aroma Thera Editions.