Known interactions

No interactions found.

Information about Wax Myrtle

Scientific Name: Bayberry

Other Names: Candleberry, Myrica cerifera, Wax Myrtle

Who is this for?

Bayberry contains a high percentage of chemicals known as tannins, which have been associated with kidney or liver damage if they are taken by mouth. In addition, a case study of several people who regularly used large amounts of an oral product that contained tannins for many years, found they had a higher incidence of tongue and lip cancer than expected. Cancers of the nose and esophagus may also be more likely in people who take large amounts of tannin-containing products for long amounts of time. Although little specific information regarding bayberry is available, bayberry is not recommended to be taken by mouth due to the possibility that the tannins in it may cause kidney or liver problems or cancer.

Topically, bayberry acts as an astringent. An astringent shrinks and tightens the top layers of skin or mucous membranes, thereby reducing secretions, relieving irritation, and improving tissue firmness. A solution made from bayberry may be applied to minor skin injuries such as razor burn, scrapes, or sunburn. It may also be used as a mouthwash or gargle for soothing sore throat.

When should I be careful taking it?

Bayberry should not be taken by mouth. However, since it has a pleasant smell, it may be mistaken for a beverage. If it is made into a liquid for application to the skin, it should be labeled for topical use only and kept well away from children and pets that may be tempted to drink it.

The bark of bayberry root may contain chemicals that promote cancer. Whether any of these chemicals are absorbed through the skin is not known, but they may affect a developing fetus or a breast-feeding infant. Therefore, bayberry should not be used by women who are pregnant or breast-feeding.

What side effects should I watch for?

Large amounts of bayberry taken by mouth may cause liver damage. Liver damage can take years to develop and it may not have obvious signs. Your doctor may have to do tests of your liver function to diagnose it. Notify your doctor immediately if you take bayberry and you experience:

  • Excessive fatigue
  • Extreme widespread itchiness
  • Nausea, vomiting or diarrhea
  • Pain or swelling in the upper right part of the abdomen
  • Yellowing of the skin or the white parts of the eyes

Intense vomiting has resulted from large oral doses of bayberry.

Less Severe Side Effects

If it is swallowed or used as a gargle, bayberry may irritate the lining of the mouth, esophagus, or stomach — possibly causing pain or sores. It may also irritate raw skin.

What interactions should I watch for?

Because bayberry is usually applied topically, no specific interactions with drugs or herbals have been reported from its use. However, whether it is absorbed through the skin is unknown. It may have interactions that are not yet reported. The use of bayberry as an oral preparation is discouraged strongly.

Some interactions between herbal products and medications can be more severe than others. The best way for you to avoid harmful interactions is to tell your doctor and/or pharmacist what medications you are currently taking, including any over-the-counter products, vitamins, and herbals.

Should I take it?

A mid-sized evergreen tree, bayberry has narrow, shiny leaves and clusters of bluish or greenish white berries. It is native to the southeastern United States, and it generally grows near wet areas. A blue dye can be made from the berries. When they are boiled in water or alcohol, bayberries yield an aromatic wax that used to be popular as a sealing wax for documents. Bayberry wax is still used for candles and it may be included in some soaps. For medical use, pieces of the bayberry root are dug up in the fall of the year. The bark is removed, dried, and powdered. In colonial times, teas or extracts of bayberry were used to treat colds, diarrhea, fevers, and other conditions, but it is no longer recommended for oral use due to its high tannin content. A related species, Myrica rubra, which grows in Asia, has been studied for possible antiviral effects.

Dosage and Administration

Bayberry is not recommended for oral use.

A solution may be made from about one teaspoon of dried, powdered bayberry bark and 8 ounces of boiling water. Pour the water over the bark and let it soak until the water is cold. After the solid particles are strained out, the resulting liquid may be applied up to three times a day as a skin wash to soothe minor skin injuries. This liquid may also be used as a mouthwash or gargle, but it should not be swallowed. If the area being treated becomes irritated, the bayberry should no longer be applied to that area.


Bayberry is seldom used for medicine. It should not be taken by mouth, but it may relieve minor skin irritations when used as a skin wash. It may also be gargled to soothe a sore throat.


The tannins in bayberry may cause kidney or liver damage. Other oral products containing tannins have been associated with developing some types of cancer.

Side Effects

If it is swallowed, bayberry could damage the kidneys or liver. It may also provoke intense vomiting or damage the lining of the gastrointestinal tract. Topically, It may irritate the skin — especially areas that are raw.


No interactions have been identified with using bayberry topically. Taking bayberry by mouth is not recommended.


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Yang LL, Chang CC, Chen LG, Wang CC. Antitumor principle constituents of Myrica rubra Var. acuminata. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. 2003;51(10):2974297-9.

(Note: The above information is not intended to replace the advice of your physician, pharmacist, or other healthcare professional. It is not meant to indicate that the use of the product is safe, appropriate, or effective for you.)

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