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Bayberry root bark (Myrica cerifera)Latin Name: Myrica cerifera
Common Names: Bayberry root bark
The shrub from which we obtain bayberry root bark, which grows along the Atlantic coast of North America from the Maritime Provinces of Canada to the Florida Keys as well as swampland throughout the Southeast, is known by numerous aliases. In addition to its scientific name, myrica cerifera, it also goes by wax myrtle, candleberry, and arbre á suif, or “tallow tree.” The name fits, as the berries provide a form of wax that is actually used in candlemaking.
Of greater interest to those who buy organic bulk herbs however is the bark itself. Gathered in November and early December, bayberry root bark is removed from the trunk and branches by heating the roots, which is then used to make bulk dried herbs for sale.
Dried myrica cerifera bark is one of the earliest natural herbs that American physicians studied and wrote about. These dried herbs had been used by the Chotaw Indians of present-day Alabama and Mississippi boiled sliced bayberry root bark for use in combating fevers. Colonists in French Louisiana reportedly used these dried herbs as early as 1722 for dysentery; by 1737, it was also being used by them for convulsions as well as seizures. It was one of the quality bulk herbs that nearly every medical doctor in the 18th and 19th century South kept in their apothecary.
Organic herbs such as those derived from myrica cerifera may be taken as an infusion, or bayberry root bark powder can be made into a paste for applying topically.
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