Scottish Bog myrtle

Bog Myrtle from Scotland

 insect repellent

* September 2021 * - new season dried bog myrtle now in stock.

After regular enquiries from home or independent brewers, we have been selling dried Scottish bog myrtle since 2010. We carefully select the bog myrtle - also known as sweet gale (latin name myrica gale) - for drying, and the level of impurity (grass and fern) is very small. The leaves (and some seeds) are dried on the twig, we strip and remove large twigs (greater than 5 cm), as bog myrtle is a very twiggy shrub. It's labour intensive, but this produces a high quality product. We use our own method of drying to keep in the flavour, rather than blast or freeze drying. Bog myrtle is popular in the USA, Canada, Australia, the UK and other EU countries.
 Herbal Products:
 Secure Ordering. 
 Made in Scotland
 by Totally Herby.  BUY Dried Bog Myrtle (Sweet Gale)  securely
10 gms £3.99, 25 gms £8.99, 250 gms £70, 1 Kg £260. £3.95 P&P per order.
We send by first class post, airmail or courier for larger quantities.
£1 = 1 GBP, is about $1.30 or €1,12. Cards are charged in GBP.

 Dried Bog Myrtle packs

Because of great interest in bog myrtle and several enquiries from website visitors,
Totally Herby of Scotland now sell Essential Oils on the herbyessentialoils website.
This did include bog myrtle oil, but it's now scarce and we can't get it ourselves.
You can use our secure buying Totally Herby of Scotland facility.
We sell lavender, tea tree, rosemary, sage, thyme, vanilla, frankincense, myrrh,
citronella, eucalyptus, lemongrass, patchouli, rosewood and other pure oils.
 Bog Myrtle sprig

 Natural midge repellent
 made with bog myrtle -
 it's traditionally Scottish
Midge Magic Midge repellent
with lemon eucalyptus
and bog myrtle scented

 Bog Myrtle sprig

This website was started as a 5 year project in 2004, to promote bog myrtle,
sometimes known as sweet gale, properly myrica gale, and its forgotten uses.
We started our own research in 2001 after we heard from our customers
of the old and traditional use in Scotland of bog myrtle as a midge repellent.
It used to be and still is used for cooking occasionally, and as a tea for arthritis.
Another use is in beer making, and there are delicious heather ales using it now.
We collected and processed fresh bog myrtle for our very popular repellent,
but now sell a lemon eucalyptus repellent made in Scotland which also uses bog myrtle
and we trialled, successfully, the sale of dried bog myrtle on a small scale.
We now dry it ourselves, the price has dropped from extortionate, to just expensive!

Update 2020: Bog myrtle is now much better known, and was used by a major high-street
chain in its skincare ranges, though they found it hard to produce oil to meet demands.
Our intention is to keep this website going - there's much more to come from bog myrtle!

Musings of a wild bog myrtle picker

Although bog myrtle has been known for centuries in Scotland as an insect repellent, curiously I observed that where bog myrtle is to be found - so is the midge. Also in abundance are clegs (horseflies) and other less harmful but still pestilential flies. I think this is because of the wetness of the peaty, acid soil, and the abundance of reeds and grass amongst the heather, and amounts of rotting vegetation which attract all sorts of insects. This is contrary to popular and apparently informed opinion which thinks that midges are not to be found, or are less frequent, where bog myrtle grows.

I did find that the repellent I used (our own Stop Bite) worked well there, fortunately, against the midge, and also kept away the flies and clegs which were as much of a nuisance as the infernal midgies. This is likely because the leaves and fruit of the bog myrtle are better crushed or processed as in the repellent spray, but on the other hand, traditionally in times long past and even nowadays, shepherds and walkers in Scotland put a sprig of (uncrushed) bog myrtle behind the ear or in the hat, and found this to keep the midge away. When the midgies were really thick and hungry, I really needed our midge head net as well, to be totally safe.

Another observation is that minor wounds such as from careless use of cutters, very soon turned a healthy pink, and healed within two or three days, where you'd normally expect them to take over a week. There is indeed amongst the large amount of our reading and research so far, some little evidence of bog myrtle's healing, anti-microbial and anti-bacterial properties, but seemingly little of that exists in today's world. This is very Interesting!

Bog myrtle does, to most people and at most times, smell very pleasant, and for those used to walking alongside patches of bog myrtle, the mention of it brings back memories of walks in the sunshine, through Scotland's glorious countryside. Sweet Gale, as it's commonly known, indeed. At other times, however, the smell can be of stale feet, though perhaps this is more to do with treading through peat bogs and bracken, than to the herb itself. A natural predator of bog myrtle is the sheep and the deer; the young tender shoots presumably are a welcome change from their normal diet.

Another enemy of bog myrtle is of course crop cultivation and drainage; it requires wet soil and has shallow roots, and is easily pulled or dragged out of the ground, and drainage is just not good for it. Bog myrtle is to be found all over Scotland, where there is still wild country, especially the islands. It's also in the Lake District (though little known there, unlike Scotland) as found by David Bellamy in conservation aware caravan parks, and will exist in North Wales, Northern Ireland and in parts of the Irish Republic. I don't know whether it's to be found outside of these countries, yet. It can be seen in Forestry land, where the sheep are not allowed to graze, and should it become a rarer sight as land becomes more and more humanised, perhaps the Forestry Commission could keep an eye on it with a view to preserving it for us.

It's a bushy shrub, which can grow up to 6 feet tall, though more commonly you'd find it about three feet (1 metre) tall. It often trails through the grass, and is often choked with grass and ferns, though whether this leads to suppression of the bog myrtle, or is just a natural annual late season event, I don't know yet. Bog myrtle likes to be near running water, from where it derives much of its nourishment. It starts growing after the last frost, and dies off around the time of the first frost, becoming virtually unrecognisable expect as a twiggy brown shrub, much like other shrubs. It can spread through its waxy fruits which it sheds all around it in Autumn, and these can carry some way. Like us, it has two sexes!

Sweet gale was well known to the Vikings, who used to drink a brew before going into battle with their customary berserk frenzy. Though they believed it was the brew gave them extra strength and the battle madness, it's rather more likely it was certain other substances they took that caused this happy and reckless mental state. The small leaves were often used in olden times in Scottish cooking, and you can still find high class restaurants that prepare fish and chicken dishes when it's young and in season, though its culinary uses are now generally quite rare. There are breweries that use it to make a sweet heather ale, and some home or small brewers do the same according to their own handed down recipe, though unless they have bog myrtle growing nearby they find it difficult to buy. It's got a very pleasant and very different taste to regular ales, even real ales, and if you're lucky, you'll find a heather ale even on your supermarket shelves, as well as on tap in a surprising number of pubs in Scotland. It's also used to flavour gin and whisky.

It's a grossly underated herb, alongside possibly the horsetail which is a nightmare if it gets into your garden, especially the vegetable garden. Horsetail was well known in Roman times, for its uses for kidney infections and problems, and against it seems, osteoporosis. I've found no evidence so far that bog myrtle (as opposed to myrtle) was known to the Romans at all; perhaps they were distracted in their friendly information gathering excursions into neighbouring barbarian lands, by their quite unusual behaviour in stopping to build the odd wall or two, thus depriving themselves of the pleasure of peacefully touring Scotland with our beautiful scenery in the Lowlands, as well as the Highlands and Islands, and sharing a heather ale or two and a wee peaty goldie, with our friendly natives. Maybe over the next few years we may see more use made of bog myrtle and horsetail, and other ubiquitous plants which seem to serve little purpose in these enlightened times, but to be pleasant to the walker's eye and sometimes nose. Oh, and to act as a very effective insect repellent!

Possibly in time these minor ramblings will turn into some form of coherent information source about bog myrtle, meanwhile that's all you get ...

Some interesting links to gather here:
BCTV - Practical Conservation Online
Plants For A Future - Myrica Gale

To contact me about bog myrtle, please follow the link below
and click on the "Contact" link at the top right of the page.

 Totally Herby of Scotland for unique herbal sprays
 for insect repellents, itchy bites and nasty stings,
 and hot tired aching feet after all that walking!
Totally Herby

Totally Herby of Scotland are founder members of the Scottish Wild Harvests Association.

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