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Myrrh

Myrrh

Botanical and Common Names

  • (a) Family Burseraceae
  • Commiphora molmol syn. C. myrrha (Myrrh, Guggal Gum, Guggal Resin, Didin, Didthin)
  • Commiphora mukul (False Myrrh)

  • (b) Family Umbelliferae
  • Myrrhis odorata (British Myrrh, Sweet Cicely, Sweet Chervil, Sweet Bracken, Sweet-fern, Sweet-Cus, Sweet-Humlock, Sweets, The Roman Plant, Shepherd s Needle)

Cautions

  • (a) Do notuse myrrh during pregnancy as it is a uterine stimulant.
  • (b) British myrrh has no cautions listed.

Description

(a) Myrrh is indigenous to eastern Mediterranean countries, Somalia, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Yemen, and South Arabia. The herb comes from a spiny, deciduous, bushy tree that grows to about fifteen feet, producing yellow-red flowers and pointed fruits. Myrrh is the resin that is a pale, yellow, granular secretion which discharges into cavities in the bark when it is wounded. The exudate hardens to a reddish-brown mass about the size of a walnut. It is harvested from June to August and dried for medicinal use. Myrrh should not be confused with British Myrrh, which is from a different plant family.

(b) British Myrrh is found in mountainous regions from the Pyrenees to the Caucasus and cultivated elsewhere. A similar North American plant, Osmorhiza longistylis, flowers in early summer. It has a sweet, aniseed-flavoured root. British myrrh is a hardy perennial, a small fernlike plant, that produces umbel flowers, closely resembling a dillweed head. The leaves are among the first greenery to appear in spring and the last to go in the fall. The soft green leaves have a myrrh-like scent, with overtones of moss and woodland with a hint of aniseed. The seeds are long and green when unripe, but turn a dark brown when mature, appearing in late spring. They can be eaten raw as food or medicine, but they also provide an aromatic furniture polish.


History

Myrrh is the oleo-gum resin that has been regarded as one of the treasures of the East for thousands of years.

In the 5th century BCE, Herodotus noted that myrrh was used by the Egyptians for their embalming. Egyptian women also burned myrrh in pellets to rid their homes of fleas.

In ancient times, myrrh was often burned to mask the stench of the day: unwashed bodies, animals, filth in the streets, sewage, and other things.

Called mo yao in China, myrrh has been used to heal wounds since at least the time of the Tang Dynasty.

An infusion of British Myrrh was listed in old herbals as being valuable for girls aged fifteen to eighteen. The boiled root was prescribed to strengthen the elderly.


Key Actions

(a) Myrrh

  • antifungal
  • anti-inflammatory
  • antiseptic
  • astringent
  • antimicrobial
  • antispasmodic
  • immune system and circulatory stimulant
  • bitter
  • expectorant
  • reduces phlegm

(b) British Myrrh

  • antiseptic
  • blood purifier
  • carminative
  • digestive aid
  • expectorant

Key Components

(a) Myrrh

  • volatile oil (including limonene, eugenol, and pinene)
  • mucilages (30-60%)
  • triterpenes (30-50%)

(b) British Myrrh

  • volatile oil
  • flavonoids

Medicinal Parts

The resin (Myrrh), entire plant including the seeds (British Myrrh)

Research has not been done on a wide scale with myrrh; but what has been done confirms its astringent, antiseptic, and antimicrobial actions.

Chinese scientists have also determined that myrrh has anifungal properties that enable the body to rid itself of several deadly fungi and bacteria. This is the reason that myrrh is often placed into toothpastes and gargles, to promote the healing of oral infections.


Remedies

(a) Myrrh
Note: Since myrrh is not soluble in water, it cannot be taken in the form of an infusion, but only in powder or tincture form.

Gargles, mouthwashes and douches can be made from diluted tinctures.

Tinctures are used externally on such infections as canker sores or in gargles and, internally, for feverish conditions, including head colds and glandular fevers. It is ideal in expectorant mixtures to treat upper respiratory problems.

Powdered myrrh is rubbed onto sore gums and often used as an analgesic. When mixed with safflowers, it is good for abdominal pain associated with blood stagnation (as in menstrual pain).

Essential oil is diluted and massaged in areas of sinus congestion.

Capsules are taken for bronchial congestion.

Essential oil is diluted and used externally on wounds and chronic ulcers or in lotions for hemorrhoids.

A chest rub can be made from the oil diluted with a neutral oil to treat bronchitis and colds with thick phlegm.

(b) British Myrrh
Ointments, balms, salves are made from the plant to treat fresh wounds, cuts, and sores, as well as to relieve the pain of gout.

Roots are used to treat chest and throat complaints and urinary problems.

Fresh herb is used externally for gouty swellings and indurations (hardened areas).

Decoctions from roots are used to treat bites and stings.


Traditional Uses

(a) Myrrh
Myrrh has long been used for cancers, leprosy, syphilis, sores, sore throats, asthma, coughs, bad breath, weak gums, and loose teeth. Currently, it is used for treating such conditions as those involving bleeding, pain, and wounds, as hemorrhoids, menstrual difficulties, tumors, and arthritis – to name a few.

When burned as an incense, it not only has a pleasant odour but also seems to calm the mind and soul.

In Ayurvedic medicine, myrrh is considered to be a tonic and blood cleanser, but it also has the reputation for improving the intellect.

It is widely used for treatment of mouth, gum, throat, and digestive problems, as well as for irregular or painful menstruation.

Myrrh has long been used for skin infections, including acne, as well as for muscular pains and in rheumatic plasters.

In Germany, its drying and slightly anesthetizing effect has led to its being used as a treatment for pressure sores caused by prosthetic limbs. In Chinese medicine, myrhh is used to help heal cases of stubborn skin wounds.

Placing a little myrrh in a hot bath and “marinating” for about twenty minutes is an excellent way to relax and to tone the skin at the same time.

In China, myrrh is used to correct defective health, as a sedative, and for wounds and ulcers. The Chinese believe that the herb enters the body through the liver channel, invigorating the blood so that it will move rapidly to all parts of the body. According to Chinese medicine, getting the blood moving is the main boost to health. Since the blood is the essence of the body, it carries nutrition to various cells which, in turn, tunes up the organs. In addition, the blood picks up any waste products that need to be eliminated; and myrrh helps by getting rid of congealed blood from a bruised area, for example. The Chinese also believe that myrrh is good for soothing pain caused by any number of reasons.

(b) British Myrrh
(see Remedies)