|Myrica gale foliage and immature fruit|
Myrica gale is a species of flowering plant in the genus Myrica, native to northern and western Europe and parts of northern North America. It is a deciduous shrub growing to 1–2 m tall. Common names include Bog Myrtle and Sweet Gale. The leaves are spirally arranged, simple, 2–5 cm long, oblanceolate with a tapered base and broader tip, and a crinkled or finely toothed margin. The flowers are catkins, with male and female catkins on separate plants (dioecious). The fruit is a small drupe.
The foliage has a sweet resinous scent and is a traditional insect repellent, used by campers to keep biting insects out of tents. It is also a traditional ingredient of Royal Wedding bouquets and is used variously in perfumery and as a condiment.
In northwestern Europe (Germany, Belgium and Great Britain), it was much used in a mixture called gruit as a flavouring for beer from the Middle Ages to the 16th century, but it fell into disuse after hops had become widely available. In modern times, some brewers have revisited this historic technique. Jester King Craft Brewery of Austin produces Gotlandsdricka, a beer flavored with sweet gale, juniper berries, and smoked malts reminiscent of the beers made by Vikings. Danish brewery Thisted Bryghus produces Porse Guld, a strong beer flavoured with the plant. Beau's All Natural Brewing Company, of Vankleek Hill, ON, Canada, produces 'Bog Water', a seasonal strong ale made with sweet gale from Eastern Ontario.
Boots chemist are planning to increase production of the plant in Scotland for use as an essential oil for treating sensitive skin and acne. It is also marketed by Totally Herby of Scotland as an insect repellent, and by The Highland Soap Company as a soap.
In some native cultures in Eastern Canada, the plant has been used as a traditional remedy for stomach aches, fever, bronchial ailments and liver problems. In Scotland it has been traditionally used to ward off the dreaded midge. "The Creole Doctor," an 1886 article by Lafcadio Hearn, discusses the uses of the plant, known locally as "cirier batard," in Louisiana creole folk remedies.
Sweet Gale can grow in a narrow band in the intertidal zone, especially if it has some logs, washed down into the estuary, on which to establish itself. It is a favorite food of beavers, and low beaver dams can be found in the intertidal zone if sufficient sweet gale is present. The ponds thus formed are often completely submerged at high tide but retain water at low tide and provide deep enough water to provide a refuge for fish, including juvenile salmon where the water is too deep for predation by wading birds. Thus the presence of Sweet Gale can enhance salmon recruitment.
- Beau's All Natural Brewing Company
- Scotland's bog myrtle to fuel second oil boom
- Stop Bite - herbal Midge repellent spray
- Bog Myrtle Soap
- Lafcadio Hearn, "The Creole Doctor: Some Curiosities of Medicine in Louisiana." New York Tribune, January 3, 1886.
- A Modern Herbal: Gale, Sweet
- Myrica gale
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