Someone asked for info on how to harvest bayberries to make candle wax. (Pic of bayberry bush in Fall to the right.) Some basic info:
The berries of both American bayberry and English bog myrtle, when boiled in water, produce myrtle wax, which is composed of stearic, palmitic, myristic, and oleaic acids. This is used in making bayberry-scented soaps and bayberry candles, which are fragrant, more brittle than bees' wax candles, and are virtually smokeless. Four pounds of berries produce approximately one pound of wax. A briskly stimulating shaving cream was also made from this bayberry wax.
Updated Feb 2011: Understand the above pic is NOT bayberry, it's BARberry so I'm adding the following pic to this posting. Thanks Brighid!
The wax's modern medicinal uses were first discovered and came into use in 1722, and included the making of surgeon's soap plasters. The water that the berries were boiled in during wax extraction, when boiled down to an extract, has been used in the North Country of England and Scotland for centuries as a treatment for dysentery. Narcotic properties are also attributed to bayberry wax. Note: It can also cause miscarriages so be careful and completely research if you decide to take in bayberry.
Here are 2 good links about using bayberry for candles:
When making bayberry candles, be sure to keep the candle small, like the size of a tea-light or votive. OR dip a cotton wick in to make tapers. Making jar candles is really not a good idea, unless you have a LOT of practice! Bayberry wax can be a bit more brittle, and burns differently than most candles people are used to. Get samples of pre-made bayberry candles to get the gist.
Once we get our homestead found and bought, and us moved, we'll be planting lots of bayberry bushes. Can't wait!
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