The mirto plant

The myrtus communis is a medicinal plant that spontaneously grows only in Europe and is typical of the Mediterranean. It is very common in Sardinia, where it is called “murta”. Being a thermophilic species it prefers neutral or subacid soil, limiting its range to grow naturally below a half mile (800 mt.) above sea level. Sensitive to strong winds and rather demanding in terms of humidity of the substrate, it is localized preferably in the concaved areas of valleys and slopes.

Its height varies from approximately one and a half to ten ft. (0.5 - 3 mt.), but in favorable conditions it can reach significant statures, as a specimen in Gallura, Sardinia grew to 23 ft. (7 mt.) The myrtus communis blooms in June and July, and its fruit, the MIRTO berry (which is pigmented or white in color) matures between December and February. This plant harbors numerous varieties and forms and, in Sardinia alone, there are about 200 different types.

The University of Sassari has recently started a study on intensive cultivation of the myrtus communis in it’s most genuine form; focusing on the observation of these wild plants and providing the analytical basis to ascertain its antioxidant and nutraceutical properties. Thus far it has selected ten varieties and given them each a name, classifying them according to the production, size of the fruit, amount of anthocyanins and the ratio between the pulp and seeds.

For several centuries the berries and leaves have been widely used in folk medicine for treatment of various disorders. Today clinical and experimental studies suggest myrtus communis has a wide spectrum of pharmacological and therapeutic properties and possibilities (i.e. antioxidants, anticancer, antidiabetic, antivirals, antibacterials, antifungals, hepatoprotective and neuroprotective). ( Review of Pharmacological Effects of Myrtus Communis L. and its Active Costituents (pag. 1125-1136) – G.Alipour, S.Dashti, H.Hosseinzadeh).

The berries and leaves of myrtus communis are rich in:

  • Sugar
  • Proteins
  • Mineral salts (P, Ca, Mg, K, Na, Fe, Cu, Zn, Mn)
  • Fatty acids
  • Organic acids
  • Ascorbic Acid (Vitamin C)
  • β-carotene
  • Polyphenols
  • Anthocyanins
  • Tannins

100 grams of fresh berries equals about 20 calories.