Myrtle is an evergreen bushy shrub native to the Mediterranean areas and typical of the plant species that populate the so-called "Mediterranean scrub". Its full botanical name is Myrtus communis L and it belongs to the Mirtaceae family. Other common names of the plant are Mortella, Mertella and Mortilla. The name Myrtus, however, goes back to a story of ancient Greek mythology, when it is said that a young girl named Myrsine was killed out of envy after a competition. A goddess, pitied by the fate of the young woman, decided to transform her into a shrub that took the name of Myrthus, later known as myrtle. The plant has been known, in fact, since ancient times, so much so that it is also mentioned in the Old Testament, where it is said that the wreaths of the young brides of Israel were intertwined with the myrtle. The meaning of myrtle, attributed by ancient civilizations, refers precisely to love and glory. In Greece, myrtle was also used to commemorate the dead, as a sign of indelible remembrance. Also in the past, the plant was also burned in place of incense due to its aromatic smell. Currently the myrtle grows up to altitudes of 800 meters, in coastal areas and is widespread in Southern Europe, especially in Corsica, Sardinia, Italy, Spain, England and Ireland. Some varieties of myrtle grow in tropical areas and in Australia. The plant has a stem about 2, 3 meters high, oval, leathery, bright dark green leaves and white 5-petaled flowers. The myrtle produces fruits, that is, oval-shaped and black berries. The plant blooms between May and July, while the berries ripen between September and October. In addition to being an aromatic plant, myrtle is also used in herbal medicine for some of its beneficial medicinal properties.
The parts of myrtle used for herbal purposes are the leaves, fruits, essential oil and flowers. The leaves are harvested in August, the flowers in the ripening period (May, July), the same applies to the berries that must be harvested, detaching them from the plant with your hands so as not to damage it, in the autumn period, depending on the area the berries can ripen from November to January. After harvesting, the parts of the plant should be dried in the sun and stored in tightly closed containers. Myrtle has flavoring, astringent and antiseptic properties. These properties are due to the constituents of the plant, namely essential oil, tannin, resin, acids and vitamin C. The essential oil of myrtle would have the same properties as eucalyptus, with mucolytic and antiseptic action in case of bronchial diseases. The leaves and berries of the plant, thanks to the presence of tannin, would have an astringent, tonic, stomachic and carminative action. They are used in case of cystitis, for skin diseases, gingivitis, hemorrhoids, leucorrhoea, diarrhea and irritated mucous membranes.
To exert their beneficial effects, myrtle extracts can be taken through various medicinal forms. The most common are decoctions and infusions. The infusion is prepared with 30.50 grams of dried leaves in a liter of water, to be left to infuse for about ten minutes. The infusion is taken as an astringent preparation and for external skin treatments in case of irritated mucous membranes, gingivitis and hemorrhoids. The essential oil of myrtle (myrtle) is used as a component of cough syrups and a component of perfumes, but in high doses, it can cause nausea, depression and headaches. Other "pharmaceutical" forms of myrtle extracts are powder, aqueous extract and mother tincture prepared from young fresh twigs with leaves. The recommended dose for myrtle powder is one or two grams per day; the recommended dose for the aqueous extract is 0.20, 0.60 grams per day. The recommended dose of mother tincture is 30 drops three times a day. Myrtle is also used in cooking, given its aromatic properties. From the macerated berries, a liqueur with digestive properties is also obtained, called myrtèi, produced in Corsica. Another famous liqueur based on myrtle is produced in Sardinia and is called “Liqueur myrtle of Sardinia”. The liqueur can be prepared on your own, with berries that must be harvested between November and December, when they turn black. The fruits should be left in alcoholic infusion, in a closed jar and in the dark, for 40 days. Then water and sugar will be added. The leaves and the myrtle berries they are also used to flavor meat or fish dishes and to flavor cured meats. In the past, with holes and myrtle leaves distilled, an aromatic water was also prepared, to be used as a beauty cure, called angel water or angelic water.
A 10ml bottle of myrtle essential oil costs 10.90 euros. A 50ml package of myrtle mother tincture costs around 14 euros. A pack of 20 drinkable ampoules of aqueous myrtle extract costs between 17 and 20 euros. The cost of cough syrup based on myrtle varies, which is sometimes found mixed with extracts of other plants. For a 170ml bottle, the price ranges between eight and twelve euros, depending on the brand and the formulation of the content. A half-liter bottle of myrtle liqueur costs around 16 euros.