Bayberry Candle Wax

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!


MelVil said...

WOW 4 to 1 wax production? that's a good ratio.
if bay berries wax is so hard i wonder if cutting it with tallow would allow u to make the bottle candles. i m looking for a way around mineral wax and bees wax as petrol could be hard to get and bees are having problems.

ThrtnWmsFam said...

Mel: 4 to 1 but also I've read that it takes 15 pounds of bayberries to make 1 pound of bayberry wax so... I guess it depends on the author, the wax-maker, etc. Also, some candle sellers cut the bayberry wax with paraffin or other waxes. Just experiment.

I use straight bayberry wax and cotton wicks and decorate with holly leaves to make little walnut floater candles. The candles last about an hour. Vikki

Anonymous said...

The photo is of Barberry not Bayberry. I believe that barberry is poisonous. JM

Brighid's Wheel said...

Thanks for the links! I thought I would mention tho, that your picture is of barberry, not bayberry. Very different, and barberry has no wax just little red berries! Bayberry is gray. Here's a pic!

Mike said...

Thanks for the write up. One comment though. The picture posted is of a Barberry (Berberis), not a bayberry (Myrica). Both are useful, but I don't think you can make wax with Barberry berries!

Vee and the Kid said...

Tell you .. it's nearly impossible to get a good pic of bayberry. So far we've been unsuccessful at growing it, so I've been buying the wax.

Thanks, Brighid ... hope you don't mind that I'm adding your recommended pic to the posting.

Thanks for everyone's comment.