Myrrh

Scientific names: Commiphora myrrha (T. Nees) Engl., Commiphora abyssinica (Bevg.) Engl., or Commiphora molmol Engl. Family: Burseraceae

Common names: African myrrh ( C. habessinica), Somali Myrrh (C. molmol), Arabian and Yemen myrrh (C. abyssinica), myrrha, myrrhe, gum myrrh, bola, bal, bol, heerabol

Efficacy-safety rating:

ÒÒ...Ethno or other evidence of efficacy.

Safety rating:

...Little exposure or very minor concerns.

What is Myrrh?

The Commiphora species that serve as sources of myrrh are thorny shrubs or small trees that grow to up to 3 meters high. They are native to Africa, eastern Mediterranean countries, and southern Arabia. A pale yellow-white viscous liquid exudes from natural cracks or fissures in the bark or from fissures cut intentionally to harvest the material. When air-dried, this exudate hardens into a reddish-brown mass that often contains white patches.

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What is it used for?

Traditional/Ethnobotanical uses

Myrrh has been used for centuries as incense and for medicinal purposes. Medicinally, it has been used as an astringent, antiseptic, antiparasitic, antitussive, emmenagogue, and antispasmodic agent. It was commonly included in mixtures used to treat worms, wounds, and sepsis during the 4th century BC. Myrrh has also been reported to treat gout, headache, jaundice, throat ailments, indigestion, fatigue, and paralysis. Myrrh has been used in a variety of infectious diseases, including leprosy and syphilis, and to treat cancers. The Chinese have used myrrh in the management of a variety of skin and mouth infections. Myrrh played a key role in the religious ceremonies of the ancient Egyptians. Today, myrrh is used as a component of fragrances and as an astringent in mouthwashes and gargles.

General uses

Myrrh is used as a fragrance in cosmetics and as a flavoring agent in foods and beverages. It has also been used as an astringent, as an antiseptic to be applied to inflamed sores of the throat and mouth, to stimulate menstruation, as an antispasmodic, and for the treatment of cancer and infectious diseases. Myrrh also has a potential role in the treatment of schistosomiasis and fascioliasis; however, there is limited clinical information to support these uses.

What is the recommended dosage?

Myrrh may be administered as a tincture or in dental powders, tea, rinses, and gargles.

How safe is it?

Contraindications

Contraindications have not been identified.

Pregnancy/nursing

Documented harmful effects. Avoid use. Myrrh can stimulate menstruation and induce abortion.

Interactions

Myrrh may interact with warfarin and other coumarin derivatives, resulting in a reduction in the international normalized ratio (INR).

Side Effects

Several cases of skin irritation have been reported.

Toxicities

Research reveals no serious toxicities.

References

  1. Myrrh. Review of Natural Products. Facts & Comparisons 4.0 [online]. April 2008. Accessed April 23, 2008.

Copyright © 2009 Wolters Kluwer Health

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