Scientific Name(s): Myrica cerifera L., Myrica rubra (Lour.) Siebold and Zucc.
Common Name(s): Bayberry, Candleberry, Chinese bayberry, Red bayberry, Wax myrtle plant, Waxberry, Yang-mei
Bayberry or wax myrtle grows as a large evergreen shrub or small tree that is widely distributed throughout the southern and eastern US. It is known for its small bluish-white berries. Chinese or red bayberry is native to China and other Asian countries. Plant parts used include the fruits, leaves, bark, and roots. Geographical location and differing methods of harvesting, processing, and storage result in varying constituents in the juice and extract. A synonym is Morella cerifera (L.) Small.Khan 2009, Sun 2013, USDA 2014
Bayberry is best known for its berries, from which a wax is derived to make fragrant candles. In folk medicine, bayberry has been consumed as a tea for its tonic and stimulant properties, and for treating diarrhea. Chinese traditional medicine texts have recorded bayberry’s use for more than 2,000 years. Among Native American tribes, the leaves were used as a vermifuge, the leaves and stems were used for treating fever, and the roots were applied as a poultice. It is also reported to have been used as a charm medicine to exorcise spirits of the dead and to prevent diseases. The dried root bark is often used medicinally and as a dyeing/tanning agent.Chistokhodova 2002, Fu 2014, Khan 2009, Sun 2013
A number of compounds have been identified in bayberry. In the bark, tannins, triterpenes (myricadiol, taraxerol, and taraxerone), flavonoid glycosides, astringent resin, and gum have been described. The leaves and fruit contain anthocyanins (eg, cyanidin-3-O-glucoside) and phenolic acids (ferulic, caffeic, sinapic, and salicylic). Spectroscopic and chromatographic methods for identification of myricetin, myricitrin, quercetin, and gallic acid have been listed. The kernel contains proteins, unsaturated fatty acids, tannins, magnesium, potassium, and calcium.Fu 2014, Kang 2012, Khan 2009, Li 2011, Sun 2013, Wang 2012, Xu 2014
Uses and Pharmacology
In vitro studies of M. rubra leaf extracts implicate flavonoids, specifically myricitrin, as having anti-inflammatory properties, including inhibition of nitric oxide synthase and cyclooxygenase-2.Kim 2014, Sun 2013 Serum immunoglobulin E levels were down-regulated in a mouse allergy model, and inhibition of tumor necrosis factor (TNF) was demonstrated in macrophage cells.Kim 2013, Shimosaki 2011
A small, 4-week, randomized crossover study evaluated the effect of 250 mL of bayberry juice twice daily on nonalcoholic fatty liver disease outcomes. Improvements in antioxidant status were observed as well as decreases in markers of inflammation, including TNF and interleukin-8.Guo 2014
In vitro and chemical studies have identified several chemical constituents of bayberry leaf, bark, and fruit with antioxidant capacity, including anthocyanin, phenolic, and flavonoid content, and specifically myricetin and myricitrin and others.Fu 2014, Sun 2013 Protective effects against apoptosis and cell necrosis have been shown in endothelial, pancreatic, hepatic, colonic, and neuronal tissues.Liu 2014, Sun 2013, Sun 2013
Research reveals no clinical data regarding the use of bayberry as an antioxidant.
Cyanidin-3-O-glucoside from Chinese bayberry fruit administered to mice with induced diabetes decreased blood glucose and improved glucose tolerance. A protective effect on pancreatic tissue was also observed in microscopic analysis.Sun 2012
No effect on plasma glucose, insulin parameters, or lipid profile was observed in a study conducted in adults with nonalcoholic fatty liver disease.Guo 2014
Antithrombotic activity has been described for the root bark of bayberry in vitro.Chistokhodova 2002 and myricanone alone have been shown to induce apoptosis and suppress cell proliferation in human cancer cell lines.Paul 2013, Sun 2013
Antibacterial and antiviral activity of Chinese bayberry, including against Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Eschericia coli, Bacillus subtilis, Vibrio cholerae, and other human pathogens, has been demonstrated in vitro.Li 2012, Sun 2013
Clinical trials are lacking to guide dosage of bayberry. Bayberry juice was used at 250 mL twice daily for 4 weeks in 1 small clinical trial.Guo 2014
Pregnancy / Lactation
Information regarding safety and efficacy in pregnancy and lactation is lacking.
Case reports are lacking; however, inhibition of CYP3A4 (midazolam-like) and CYP2C9 (tolbutamide-like) has been reported.Guo 2014 Antithrombotic activity has been described for the root bark of bayberry in vitro.Chistokhodova 2002
Plant allergy, including anaphylaxis, has been documented. Cross-sensitivity with other fruits was reported.Wang 2012
The elevated tannin concentration of the plant bark was carcinogenic in rats and precludes its general internal use in humans. The triterpene myricadiol has been shown to be spermatocidal, and antiandrogenic activity of the bark extract of M. rubra has been reported.Khan 2009, Sun 2013
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