THE HERBAL CORNER - "Myrrh" (Commiphora molmol)

Myrrh is actually a gummy resin harvested from shrubby trees that are native to eastern Africa and the Middle East. A light yellow color when it oozes from the cut stems or incisions in the tree's bark, myrrh darkens upon drying. The dried resin is then crushed into a powder or dissolved in liquid. Myrrh has been a component of incenses, perfumes, insect repellents, and herbal remedies since biblical times. The Egyptians also used myrrh to help preserve their mummies.

Myrrh has traditionally been applied topically or used as a mouthwash to treat various types of mouth and gum ailments, including sore gums, bad breath, and canker sores. Herbalists have also used myrrh in formulas for laryngitis, coughs and colds, respiratory and sinus congestion, and sore throats. Chinese herbalists have used myrrh to promote the healing and relieve the pain of wounds, arthritis, tumors, bedsores, sore muscles, and skin conditions. Myrrh has a folk reputation as a uterine stimulant and women have been known to use it to promote menstruation or alleviate menstrual pain. Some herbalists have recommended myrrh as a digestive tonic to promote appetite or expel gas from the intestinal tract.

Studies have begun to confirm that myrrh has anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, and anti-inflammatory properties that make it useful against conditions such as canker sores, sore throat, and gum disease. In addition some evidence suggests heart-protective properties in myrrh, from reducing blood levels of cholesterol and fats, and anti-cancer effects. Myrrh may also help to prevent or treat: bad breath, common cold, athlete's foot, herpes, and stomach ulcers.

Researchers recently isolated and described seven terpene compounds in scented myrrh, two of which were new and two others found in a natural source for the first time. The major component, T-cadinol, has previously been shown to be able to relax smooth muscles. An herbal mixture containing myrrh and extracts from four other plants was found to have a blood glucose lowering effect. According to Kuwaiti researchers, the mixture "may prove to be a useful therapeutic agent in the treatment of non-insulin dependent diabetes mellitus." Scientists recently investigated extracts of eleven plants found in Jordan and employed in traditional medicine. When tested on mice, myrrh and three other herbs were shown to have a dose-dependent anti-inflammatory effect against both acute and chronic inflammation. Researchers in Saudi Arabia determined that myrrh protects mucous membranes in the gastrointestinal tract against ulcers. Myrrh was shown to protect against depletion of stomach wall mucus and against formation of lesions on the stomach wall.

Myrrh is available as a liquid extract, in tea bags, tincture, in powdered form, and as an essential oil. It is sometimes included with herbs such as goldenseal in healing salves. Myrrh is also a common ingredient in mouthwashes, formulas for bad breath and halitosis, and for teeth and gums. Myrrh is relatively safe and nontoxic for occasional use. Because large doses may stimulate the uterus, pregnant women should not use myrrh. Large doses may also have a laxative effect.

Please note: the information contained herein has been compiled from various sources. The above statements have not been evaluated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. We make no claims, either expressed or implied, that any treatments mentioned in this newsletter will cure disease, replace prescription medication, or supersede sound medical advice.


The Olive Branch, On the Net since 1996