Myrrh

Commiphora molmol

Description

Myrrh is a reddish-brown gum resin that is extracted from the bark of commiphora trees, especially Commiphora molmol, which is indigenous to north-east Africa and the Arabian Peninsula. Since ancient times, myrrh has been used in religious ceremonies and was prized by the ancient Egyptians for embalming, as a medicine and in religious rites. Ayurvedic medicine recommends myrrh to treat arthritis and obesity; modern practitioners acknowledge it to be as effective as some prescription drugs in lowering cholesterol and triglyceride levels in the blood.

Parts used

The resin, obtained from the bark of the myrrh tree.

Constituents

Myrrh contains complex polysaccharides, triterpenes, triterpene acids and is rich in sesquiterpenes and furanosesquiterpenes, of which the main ingredient is furanoeudesmane.

Medicinal uses

Myrrh has antifungal, antiseptic, anti-inflammatory, astringent and stimulating properties that promote circulation to the mucous lining of the bronchial tract, throat, tonsils and gums. The increased blood supply helps fight infection and speeds healing when you have a cold, congestion or infection of the throat or mouth. It has been used to ease ulcers and sores and to fight fungal infections such as athlete’s foot and ringworm. Traditionally myrrh was prescribed to induce a woman’s menstrual flow, and in childbirth to encourage uterine contractions and ease labour pains. In Germany the use of powdered myrrh and tincture of myrrh has been approved for the treatment of minor oral inflammation and swollen mucous tissue. The active ingredients in myrrh appear to affect the way the body metabolises cholesterol and fat, and it is believed that the extract may fight certain types of cancer.

Myrrh is prescribed to:

  • Strengthen the immune system.
  • Fight infections such as colds and flu.
  • Ease bronchial infections.
  • Fight fungal infections such as candida and athlete’s foot.
  • Lower levels of ‘bad’ LDL cholesterol and triglycerides in the blood.
  • May help fight certain cancers.

CAUTION

Talk to your medical practitioner before taking any herbal supplements.
There appear to be few side-effects when myrrh is taken in the prescribed dosage, although some cases of diarrhoea have been reported. However, large doses may affect heart rate and irritate the kidneys. Because of its link with menstruation and childbirth, pregnant women should not take myrrh. It should also be avoided when breastfeeding. It may interfere with the action of diabetes and blood-thinning medications. Always consult your medical practitioner before embarking on a course of natural remedies.

Flora Force Products containing Myrrh

Myrrh tree

Domestic & culinary uses

Myrrh is an ingredient of Fernet Branca, the Italian herbal drink that is sometimes used as a cure for hangover, but which was actually created in 1845 as a medicine. Myrrh is not used in modern cooking.

Cultivation

There is little published literature on the cultivation of Commiphora species, all of which should not be planted in areas that are prone to frost.

To read more about the chemistry of Commiphora species, go to http://biomed.papers.upol.cz/pdfs/bio/2005/01/01.pdf

Photo credits

  1. By Commiphora-myrrha-resin-myrrh.jpg: *IncenseWikiVers.jpgderivative work: TCO (Commiphora-myrrha-resin-myrrh.jpg)
[CC-BY-SA-2.5-2.0-1.0, CC-BY-SA-3.0 or GFDL], via Wikimedia Commons
  • By Somalia Ministry of Information and National Guidance (Beautiful Somalia) [CC-BY-SA-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons
  • Information in our herb library is intended only as a general reference for further exploration. It is not a replacement for professional health advice and does not provide complete dosage information, format recommendations, toxicity levels, or possible interactions with prescription medicines. Accordingly, this information should only be used under the direct supervision of a suitably qualified health practitioner such as a registered homeopath, naturopath or phytotherapist.