Fig. 175. Myrtus communis. Photo: Myrtus communis 7. Myrtus communis, Linné.
Nat. Ord.—Myrtaceae.
COMMON NAMES: Myrtle, Common myrtle, European myrtle.

Botanical Source.—The myrtle is an evergreen shrub, whose stem is from 6 to 8 feet in height and covered with a deep-grayish, fissured bark. The stem is branched, and bears opposite, ovate, lanceolate leaves of variable width, short-petioled, closely pellucid-punctate, smooth, glossy, and evergreen. The flowers are solitary, axillary, and white, or pale-pinkish, and have many stamens. The fruit is a 2 or 3-celled bluish-black, fleshy berry, subglobular, each cell containing 4 or 5 reniform, whitish seeds. The flowers, leaves, and berry are all very fragrant. The bark is astringent.

History.—The myrtle grows in tropical and subtropical climes, often being cultivated. It is thought to be a native of the southeastern portion of Italy, and now grows abundantly throughout the borders of the Mediterranean. Florists consider five varieties of this species. The myrtle has been held as the emblem of honor and authority, and was worn by the Athenian judges in the exercise of their functions. It constituted the wreaths of the Grecian and Roman victors, in the Olympian and other festivities. Scriptural allusions to it are abundant, and to the Jews it was a token of peace, and entered into bridal decorations. It is a Mohammedan tradition that it was among the pure things carried by Adam from out the Garden of Eden. The leaves, berries, and twigs have been employed in flavoring food and wines, and the leaves are said to furnish a good tea (see Willis, Practical Flora).

The French distill an aromatic water from the leaves and flowers which they call eau d'ange. Myrtle was one of the medicinal plants of the ancients, and was practically obsolete in modern therapeutics until revived, in 1876, by Delioux de Savignac. In Mexico the Myrtus Arroya, Kunth, is substituted for myrtle. Its leaves contain a volatile oil and tannin.

Chemical Composition.—The ripe fruit of myrtle yielded Riegel (1849) resin, sugar, citric and malic acids, tannin, and volatile oil. P. Bartolotti obtained by distillation of the leaves and twigs 0.56 per cent of an emerald-green volatile oil (Jahresb. der Pharm., 1891, p. 452). It is dextro-rotatory, and has a specific gravity of 0.895 to 0.915. Myrtol was at one time supposed to be its chief constituent; however, it is not a simple body, and consists of a mixture of pinene, cineol, and dipentene, boiling between 160° and 180° C. (320° and 356° F.) (Amer. Jour. Pharm., 1891, p. 48).

Action, Medical Uses, and Dosage.—Myrtle has recently been revived as a remedy for relaxation of parts with mucous and other profluvia. The oil and the alcoholic solution of the same possess anodyne properties, less in degree, however, than that of menthol and peppermint oil. The powder, sprinkled upon cotton first impregnated with glycerin, has been applied with marked advantage to uterine ulcerations. Suppurative wounds and ulcers, intertrigo, and eczema have been treated in the same manner, omitting the glycerin, while in cases with offensive discharges and threatened gangrene, a wine of myrtle has been employed with the result of correcting the fetor and inducing granulation. An infusion of the leaves or the tincture, diluted, may be used for the above-named purposes, and has given excellent results when used as an injection in uterine prolapse, lax vaginal walls, and leucorrhoea. An infusion is likewise valuable as a topical agent in catarrhal conjunctivitis, pharyngitis, and bronchitis. Made into a bolus with Venice turpentine, it has some reputation as a curative agent in hemorrhoids. An infusion injected is said to relieve dysentery, while the powder in doses of 15 to 40 grains is asserted useful in renal and cystic catarrh, and colliquative sweating of phthisis, and in doses of 10 to 30 grains, to check the wasting in menorrhagia. The oil stimulates the gastric, renal, and pulmonic membranes, increasing their functions, and is reputed to possess decided antiseptic and deodorant powers. In doses of 2 minims, the oil (in capsules) every 2 or 3 hours, is asserted prompt and curative in fetid bronchitis and pulmonary gangrene. The chief advocates of the use of myrtle are Delioux de Savignac and Eichhorst. Infusion (leaves or berries, ʒii to ʒiv to water Oj) locally; for internal use should be diluted, and even then it is very unpleasant to take. A much stronger infusion of the bark may be prepared (℥i to ℥ii to water Oss). Dose, of the fine powder, 5 to 40 grains; of the oil (in capsules), 1 to 5 minims.

Related Species.Myrtus Chekan, Sprengel (Eugenia Chekan, Molina). This Chilian shrub is known in its native land as cheken, chequen, or chekan. The rough brownish bark is astringent, and the leaves almost sessile, nearly an inch long, elliptic or ovate-lanceolate, smooth, pale-green, with slightly revolute margins, and beset with oil-glands, are gathered with the branchlets, for medicinal use. The leaves have a feeble, aromatic fragrance, and a bitter, pungent aromatic taste. The leaves contain volatile oil (2 per cent, J. W. England, Amer. Jour. Pharm, 1883, p. 248), soluble in alcohol, ether, chloroform, and amylic alcohol; insoluble in water. It burns with a brilliant white flame, and becomes oxidized when exposed to the air. Fritz Weiss (Jahresb. der Pharm., 1888, p. 80) found it to consist of about 75 per cent of pinene (C10H16), 15 per cent of cineol (C10H18O), and 10 per cent of undetermined higher boiling fractions. The leaves, freed from the essential oil, yielded to the author the following substances: Crystallizable chekenon (C40H44O8), insoluble in water, soluble in hot alcohol; amorphous, nonpoisonous cheken bitter, soluble in all ordinary solvents except water and petroleum-ether; chekenin (C12H11O3), crystallizing in yellowish plates, and probably being a di-phenol, and chekenetin (C11H7O6 + H2O), forming yellowish, olive-colored crystals, probably related to quercetin. The mother liquor finally contained large amounts of sugar and a small amount of choline, which tends to explain the formation of the volatile base chekenine, observed by Mr. England (loc. cit.) upon distillation of the leaves with alkali after they were deprived of their essential oil. The leaves were also found to contain about 4 percent of tannin (J. W. England, loc. cit., and J. Hoehn, ibid., p. 253). Cheken was brought forward as an efficient remedy for catarrhal disorders of the broncho-pulmonic tract, and similar conditions of the urinary organs. It is claimed to be a good remedy for winter cough and oppressed breathing. The dose of the fluid extract is a fluid drachm, 3 times a day.

Jambosa vulgaris, De Candolle (Eugenia Jambos, Linné; Jambosa malaccensis, De Candolle).—India. The flowers, leaves, and bark are used medicinally by the natives. The bark of jambosa root is astringent, and is used in India in leucorrhoea, diarrhoea, and dysentery. A minute portion of alkaloid (Lyons), a crystalline, non-glucosidal body jambosin (C10H15NO3), and an oleoresin have been found in it (A. W. Gerrard, Pharm. Jour. Trans., 1884, Vol. XIV, p. 717). The fruit is rose-flavored and pleasantly acid, and is known as rose-apple.

Psidium Guajava, Linné (Psidium pomiferum, Linné, and Psidium pyriferum, Linné).—West Indies and the tropics. The acidulous fruit of these species is the guava, much employed by the natives in jellies, etc. The aromatic leaves and astringent bark are reputed febrifuge. They contain 12 per cent of tannin, and a resinous substance guavin (Bertherand, 1888); the latter is believed to be the active principle.

Related entry: Caryophyllus (U. S. P.)—Cloves

Eugenia Jambolana, Lamarck (Syzygium Jambolanum, De Candolle; Calyptranthes Jambolana, Willdenow). Nat. Ord.—Myrtaceae. Jambul, Jamboo, Java plum.—The seeds of this plant are reputed a remedy for diabetes. The subacid fruit is largely eaten by the natives, and a vinegar prepared from it is regarded as carminative, stomachic, and diuretic. The whole plant is astringent, the bark being employed where astringents are indicated. The bark externally is fissured and gray; internally fibrous and red. It has a very astringent taste and the odor of oak-bark (Dymock). The fruit is purple, of the shape and size of an olive, and excessively astringent unless altered by cultivation. The fruit is employed in India in bilious diarrhoeas, sore throat, and ringworm. The seeds have been highly lauded as a remedy for diabetes, the amount of sugar being appreciably reduced in a marvelously brief space of time, the patients at the same time being able to partake of amylaceous food without ill effects. It appears, however, that the opinions as to the efficacy of this remedy are divided (see Chemist and Druggist, 1892, Vol. XLI, p. 319). The seeds are nearly ½ inch long, and ⅓ inch wide, gray-black in color, cylindrical in shape, with one truncated and one dome-shaped extremity, very hard and nearly tasteless. Analysis by Mr. W. Elborne (1888) showed the presence of a trace of essential oil, fat, chlorophyll, gallic acid (1.65 per cent), colored extractive soluble in water, albumen, and resin soluble in ether and alcohol, all in small amounts, together with a large proportion of insoluble matter (Pharm. Jour. Trans., Vol. XVIII, p. 921). The fluid extract of the seeds is administered in doses of from 30 minims to 1 fluid drachm a day, beginning with 10-drop doses 3 times a day at first, and gradually increasing each day.

King's American Dispensatory, 1898, was written by Harvey Wickes Felter, M.D., and John Uri Lloyd, Phr. M., Ph. D.