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Myrrh

Myrrh

Botanical Description & Habitat

Commiphora myrrha

Family
Burseraceaea

Common names

African myrrh
Arabian myrrh
Bal
Bol
Bola
Gum myrrh tree
Heerabol

Habitat
Native to east Africa, southwest Asia, and countries bordering the Red Sea.

Description
Is a small tree growing from 8 to 10 feet in height with white-gray bark and yellow-white wood. The leaves are obovate, smooth, and trifoliate. The fruit is pea-sized and brown.

Medicinal parts
Resin from the stem

Historical Properties & Uses

Myrrh is an ancient traditional herbal medication, prized for its aroma and its healing volatile oils, gums and resins. Historically, myrrh has had applications for: leprosy, cancer, and syphilis. In modern times, myrrh's primary application is in mouthwashes and gargles; it acts as an astringent to tighten dentrifces, and as a disinfectant or antiseptic to kill oral bacteria and heal sores of the mouth, gums, and throat. Another popular property of the herb is an expectorant action used to treat coughs and bronchial congestion; other internal uses are for ulcers and indigestion.

Externally, myrrh's astringent, disinfectant, and soothing properties are used in salves for sores, wounds, hemorrhoids, etc. There is no doubt the compound is astringent, antiseptic, and disinfectant, but other claims for the herb have not received experimental support. Recent research suggests myrrh has considerable anticholesterolemic activity, but this property is ignored by modern medicine, and acknowledged in folklore only in some dated works from India.

This herb has approval status by the German Commission E for mild oral and pharyngeal inflammations.

References:

Blumenthal, M (Ed.): The Complete German Commission E Monographs: Therapeutic Guide to Herbal Medicines. American Botanical Council. Austin, TX. 1998.

Method of Action

Myrrh is 7%-17% volatile oil, containing terpenes, sesquiterpenes, esters, aldehyde, and eugenol. It is 25%-40% resin (myrrhin) and 57%-61% gum and bitter principles. It is little wonder, then, it has gained a world-wide reputation as a stimulant, astringent, and antiseptic, with widespread applications listed in standard medical reference works.

Myrrh is hypocholesterolemic
Myrrh is not the product of just one plant, but can be obtained from several closely related species. One of those (Commiphor mukul) has effective hypochlesterolemic properties. In controlled clinical trials, this myrrh gum was administered to 120 obese, hypercholesterolemic patients. It significantly reduced serum cholesterol and serum total lipids over a treatment period of 21 days, and the results compared favorably with clofibrate-treated controls.

Drug Interactions & Precautions

Possible Interactions
The topical application of the astringent herb myrrh, in conjunction with the acne product Tretinoin (retinoic acid, vitamin A acid), may adversely affect the skin.

Myrrh precipitates when mixed with water.

Comments
Due to the presence of eugenol, myrrh may inhibit certain liver microsomal hydroxylating systems, thereby producing toxic effects from drugs normally metabolized by those systems.

There is evidence to show combined use of bactericidal and bacteriostatic agents will lower the effectiveness of the bacteriostatic agent. How this finding applies to herbal anti-infectives is still unknown.

Safety Factors & Toxicity

Myrrh is nontoxic.

Several cases of dermatitis have been reported. (Lee, 1993)

This herb has approval status by the German Commission E.

References:

Blumenthal, M (Ed.): The Complete German Commission E Monographs: Therapeutic Guide to Herbal Medicines. American Botanical Council. Austin, TX. 1998.

Facts and Comparisons. The Lawrence Review of Natural Products. Feb, 1994.

Lee, TY & Lam, TH: Allergic contact dermatitis due to a Chinese orthopaedic solution tieh ta yao gin. Contact Derm. 1993, 28:89.

Preparation & Administration

Tincture from stem
1:5 in 90% alcohol, 2.5-5 ml three times a day

This herb has approval status by the German Commission E.

Recommended daily dosages in Germany are as follows:

5 - 10 drops in a glass of water a a rinse or gargle.


References:

Blumenthal, M (Ed.): The Complete German Commission E Monographs: Therapeutic Guide to Herbal Medicines. American Botanical Council. Austin, TX. 1998.

Note: This Herbal Preparation information is a summary of data from books and articles by various authors. It is not intended to replace the advice or attention of health care professionals.

References

Am Hospital Formulary Service. Am Soc of Hosp Pharm. Wash, D.C.

Blumenthal, M (Ed.): The Complete German Commission E Monographs: Therapeutic Guide to Herbal Medicines. American Botanical Council. Austin, TX. 1998.

Bressler, R., M.D. Bogdonoff & G.J. Subak-Sharpe. 1981. The Physicians Drug Manual. Doubleday & Co, Inc. Garden City, NY. 1213 pp.

Brinker, F. Herb Contraindications and Drug Interactions. Eclectic Institute, 1997.

Claeson, P et al., T-cadinol: a pharmacologically active constituent of scented myrrh: introductory pharmacological characterization and high filed 1H and 13C-NMR data. PLanta med. 1991, 57:352.

Committee on Pharmocopaeia of the Am Institute of Homeopathy, The Homeopathic Pharmacopaeia of the United States. 8th ed., Vol 1. Otis Clapp and Son, Agents, Boston, l981.

Duwiejua, M et al., Anti-inflammatory activity of resins from some species of the plant family Burseraceae. Planta med. 1993, 59:12.

Facts and Comparisons. The Lawrence Review of Natural Products. Feb, 1994.

Felter, H.W. & J.U. Lloyd. King's Am Dispensatory, 18th ed. 1898, reprinted by Eclectic Medical Publications: Portland, Or, 1983

Goodman, L.S. & A. Gilman. 1975. Pharm Basis of Thera. Macmillan, NY.

Hansten, P.D. 1979. Drug Interactions, 4th ed. Lea & Febiger, Phila.

Jaffe, H., et.al. 1968. In vivo inhibition of mouse liver microsomal hydroxylating systems by methylenedioxyphenyl insecticide synergists and related compounds. Life Sciences, 7. pp. 1051-1052.

Kastrup, E.K., ed. 1981. Drug Facts and Comparisons, 1982 edition. Facts and Comparisions Division, J.P. Lippincott Co, Phila(St. Louis).

Kuppurajan, K., S.S. Ragjagopalan, T.K. Rao & R. Sitaraman. Effect of guggulu (commiphora mukul--engl.) on serum lipids in obese, hypercholesterolemic and hyperlipemic cases. Journal Of The Assoc. Phys. India, 26(5), 367-373, 1978.

Lata, S et al., Beneficial effects of Allium sativum, Allium cepa and Commiphora mukul on experimental hyperlipidemia and atherosclerosis - a comparative evaluation. J. Postgrad. Med. 1991, 37:132.

Lee, TY & Lam, TH: Allergic contact dermatitis due to a Chinese orthopaedic solution tieh ta yao gin. Contact Derm. 1993, 28:89.

Lewis, Walter H. & Elvin-Lewis, Memory P.F. Medical Botany: Plants Affecting Man's Health, John Wiley and Sons. New York, l977.

List, P. & L. Hoerhammer. 1969-1976. Hagers Hanbuch der Pharmazeutischen Praxis, vols. 2-5. Springer-Verlag, Berlin.

Martin, E.W. 1978. Drug Interactions Index, 1978/79. J.B. Lippincott Company, Philadelphia.

Michie, CA & Cooper, E: Frankincense and myrrh as remedies in children. J. R. Soc. Med. 1991, 84:602.

Morton, J.F. Major Medicinal Plants: Botany, Culture, And Uses. Thomas. Springfield, Illinois, 1977.

Mowrey, Daniel B., Ph.D. Exper. Psych., Brigham Young University. Director of Nebo Institute of Herbal Sciences. Director of Behavior Change Agent Training Institute. Director of Research, Nova Corp.

Scientific Committee, British Herbal Pharmocopaeia, British Herbal Med Assoc, Lane House, Cowling, Na Keighley, West Yorks, Bd Bd220lx, l983

Essential Oil

See Myrrh Essence under Aromatherapy