Botany and Production
Myrtus communis, the myrtle belongs to the family of the Myrtaceae, and is a beautiful evergreen bush or small tree with small elliptic, fragrant, deep green leaves and pure white flowers.
The flowers are extremely beautiful, star-like with 5 white petals and numerous protruding stamens. Although a native of North Africa, it is today naturalised around the Mediterranean basin and commercial oils are produced in France, Tunisia and Morocco. The oil has been known and valued from ancient times for its delicate, pleasant, clear and fresh scent. The plant is assigned to the goddess Aphrodite (Venus).
We collect young flowering twiglets of myrtle shrubs near Elos in the hilly district of Selino in south western Crete when the plants are full blooming in May/June. The plant material has to be distilled fresh, so collection and distillation takes place the same day. We often have a few friends joining us, in order to be able to collect enough myrtle during the day to fill the retorts of our distillery. When we get home with our harvest, steam distillation is immediately started. Myrtus communis yields very little essential oil, and the distillation, though pleasant, is a lengthy process of about four hours from the moment when the distillation is running. So, more often than not, distillation lasts until the early morning hours. This makes this oil very precious to us.
Like a falling star.. note the numerous round white buds in the background
Our Myrtus communis oil has the main components α-pinene (18%), limonene (20%), 1.8 cineole (5%), linalool (16%), linalyl acetate (8.16%), myrtenyl acetate (9%), geranyl acetate (3%), α-humulene (2%), α-terpineol (1.5%), trans-caryophyllene (1%), methyl eugenol (1%), trans-β-ocimene (0.9%), α-terpinolene (0.9%), along with minor quantities of eugenol (0.4%), neryl acetate (0.4%), α-terpinyl acetate (0.5%), p-cymene (0.8%), γ-terpinene (0.6%), terpinen-4-ol (0.3%), methyl chavicol (0.7%) and methyl iso-eugenol (0.2%), along with minor components.
Myrtus communis oil is tested non-toxic, non-irritant, non-sensitising and non-phototoxic.
Principle of Action
A revitalising oil, soothes anger, fear and despair, has a balsamic and slightly sedative action. Balancing and reassuring.
Myrtus oil is used with great benefit on de-vitalised, irritated and inflamed skin as well as in case of acne and generally problematic skin. Even though it is especially recommended for oily skin, it can be used on all skin types since its action being mainly balancing and revitalising. Because of its sedative qualities, it is a good remedy in cases of insomnia and nervous conditions. It is especially recommended for children and older people in cases of respiratory afflictions, chronic lung conditions, colds, infections and bronchial catarrh. A few drops of oil can be used as a spice for meat dishes.
Dedicated by the ancient Greeks to Aphrodite, to whom the Myrtle was sacred, myrtle wraths were worn by the victors in the Olympic games. It is said, that Aphrodite, the 'foam-born', hid under a myrtle bush when she emerged naked from the sea, and since then myrtle has been the symbol of purity and protection, love and beauty.
In biblical times, myrtle wraths were worn at weddings as a symbol of love, and still today the name 'bride myrtle' is used for the plant. In ancient Rome, on April 1st, the 'Veneralia' rituals were held by women in honor of Venus Verticordia, the 'changer of hearts'. The women would wear Myrtle wraths and bathe in water perfumed with the leaves. During the rituals, women would seek divine advice for their relationships to men.
Myrtle is considered the scent and symbol for the garden of Eden, and mentioned in the Bible as a symbol for the blessings of God.
Dioscurides, in his famous work 'De Materia Medica', dated around 75 AD describes the use of Myrtle extensively. Though he mostly refers to the use of the fruits in his work, he mentions the use of the leaves in cases of otitis, ear infections, for infected oozing sores and 'all parts affected by flows' and for stomach complaints. He also lists the use of the leaves with different skin complaints, and excessive sweating.
This sweet, yet clear and fresh fragrance is a good aid in cases of insomnia, and nervous tension, it has a somewhat innocent but not ignorant influence. Evaporated in an aroma-lamp, sniffed directly from the bottle, or as a perfume, it helps when we feel lack of composure, distracted and nervous. Its fragrance aids us when we feel fearful, anxious and insecure, can't sleep or have nightmares. Especially children benefit from being surrounded by its fragrance evaporated in an aroma-lamp.
Myrtus communis is a very special oil for children, as it reassures them and protects them. Can be used with great success with nervous children which have difficulties to fall asleep, or awake often during the night. Evaporate the oil in their bedroom, drip a drop of essential oil on their pillow, or massage the child's chest and back lightly with a carrier oil containing myrtle oil at 2% before bedtime. We have seen great results, even in children with a long history of sleeping difficulties.
It's a good oil to evaporate in homes of heavy smokers. Also it's a beautiful perfume in its own right and can be diluted 1:1 with almond oil and used drop-wise.
The oil is generally very helpful for chronic coughs, bronchitis and asthma, and especially for children, weakened persons and elderly people, in which case it should be evaporated in an aroma-lamp at night to facilitate breathing as well as to soothe and comfort the ill person. Diluted in a carrier oil (3%) massaged onto the chest with fast and strong movements and then covered with a towel wrung in warm water and subsequently a woolen blanket, it can penetrate the skin as well as it is inhaled at the same time. Also regular inhalation can be practiced, (3 drops in a bowl of hot water, cover your head with a towel and inhale) which aids the expectoration of mucus as well as disinfecting and soothing coughing. Myrtle helps to calm an upset stomach especially when of a nervous nature, and flatulence (2 drops in a small glass of alcohol).
Myrtle has a long tradition as a skin care product especially for oily skin, open pores, devitalised and irritated skin and can be used successfully in a tonic either added to your favorite commercial one or prepared as mentioned under Cypress. It was a major ingredient in a 16th century skin lotion called ‘Angel’s water’. However, not only suited for oily skin, its action is mostly soothing and balancing as well as astringent, and therefore yet another oil that can help to reduce wrinkles. It can be added to the under Carrot mentioned eye care oil. Also as an ingredient in skin care oils and creams myrtle is a good choice, being antiseptic as well as purifying and vitalizing. A luxurious bath can be prepared by mixing 10 drops of myrtle into a cup full of slightly warmed dairy cream, with a good table spoon of honey added. Add this mixture to a bathtub of warm water just before entering and stir well. For very oily, impure skin use 1/2 liter of good vinegar, some tablespoons of salt and 10 drops of Myrtle oil, or a mixture of myrtle and Bay laurel.
To us, the oil of Myrtus communis represents the pure, fresh, innocent yet wise aspect of Aphrodite. It has the most pure, light, but yet amazingly full, harmonious and round scent, and a spirit of light and beauty. There is nothing heavy and seductive about the oil, as it is the case with other flowery scents such as Ylang Ylang and Rose often attributed to the goddess.
This is why we find, that both women and men can relate to and respond to this oil.
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Myrtle Essential Oil?
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