Herb: MYRRH (Commiphora myrrha; Commiphora molmol; Burseraceae)
Other Names: guggal gum, guggal resin, didin, didthin (2)
Character/Energetics: bitter, spicy, neutral (6); hot, dry, acrid, bitter (15)
Meridians/Organs/Body Parts affected: heart, liver, spleen (6) stomach and lungs. (14)
Part(s) used: the gum resin (6) The stems are cut, exuding a thick, pale yellow liquid. As it dries, this hardens to a reddish-brown solid, which can be dissolved in tinctures and oils. (15)
Identification & Harvesting: A stunted shrub or small tree up to 10′ high with a thick trunk and numerous irregular knotted branches and smaller clustered branchlets. Trifoliate leaves at the end of short branches, with very small lateral leaflets. Gum exudes from fissures or incisions in the bark when it is wounded, and is collected in irregular lumps varying from yellowish to reddish-brown. Indigenous to eastern Mediterranean countries and Somalia. (2)
Collected in Somaliland. This oleo-gum-resin occurs in various qualities, and varies in size from 3/4 inch to 2 inch or more in diameter, some pieces containing gum in white streaks, and other hardly any, and some pieces more oil than others. The best for making emulsions or for use in pills are the pieces with white streaks. The oily pieces, with few streaks, are more useful for tincture. The gum left when the tincture is made with rectified spirit is closely allied to acacia, possesses adhesive properties, and yields an excellent mucilage for sticking purposes. (57)
Active Constituents: Volatile oils 2-10%, chiefly sequiterpenes, incl. delta-elemene, beta-eudesmol, alpha-copaene, furosesquiterpenes incl. 5-acetoxy-2-methoxy-4,5-dienone (aroma bearer), furadesma-1,3-dien, isofuranogermacren (curzeren), curzenenone, 2-methoxy-furanoguaia-9-ene; triterpenes 30-50% incl. 3-epi-alpha-amyrin, alpha-amyrenone; mucilages 30-60%, chiefly methyl-glucurono-galactans. (2)
An essential oil, resins and gums (6)
Up to 17% essential oil, up to 40% resin and gums (8) volatile oil… (15)
Actions: Astringent, disinfectant. (2)
Emmenagogue, expectorant, antispasmodic, disinfectant, stimulant, carminative (6)
anti-microbial, astringent, carminative, anti-catarrhal, expectorant, vulnerary. An effective anti-microbial demonstrated to work in two complementary ways. Primarily stimulates production of white blood cells; secondarily, a direct anti-microbial action. Therefore supports the immune system itself. (8)
Primarily antiseptic, emmenagogue; also carminative, expectorant, stimulant. (14)
antifungal, antiseptic, astringent, immune stimulant, bitter expectorant, circulatory stimulant, reduces phlegm, antimicrobial. (15)
Stimulant, tonic, healing. (57)
Conditions & Uses: Used topically to treat mild inflammations of oral and pharyngeal mucosa. Folk uses include carminative and expectorant (2)
Its uses are similar to those of frankincense, with which it is often combined in liniments and incense. Myrrh is more blood‑moving while frankincense tends to move the chi more and is better for arthritic conditions. Myrrh is one of the most effective of all known disinfectants and is widely used medically for this purpose. It increases circulation and heart rate and power. It is useful for amenorrhea, dysmenorrhea, menopause and uterine tumors, as it purges stagnant blood out of the uterus. Myrrh is good for many chronic diseases, including obesity and diabetes. It helps toothache pain applied externally.
For inner ear infections, combine equal parts of echinacea and mullein with one‑quarter part myrrh to make a tea. The alcoholic extracts of these herbs are combined to make a medicated oil. An excellent liniment for bruises, aches and sprains is made from a combination of equal parts of myrrh, golden seal and cayenne, macerated in rubbing alcohol for about two weeks. Combined with peach seeds and safflower, myrrh is good for stomatitis, gingivitis and Iaryngitis.
Myrrh is most commonly used in Chinese medicine for rheumatic, arthritic and circulatory problems. It is combined with such herbs as tienchi ginseng, safflower, dong quai, cinnamon and Salvia miltorrhiza (dan shen), usually in rice wine, and used both internally and externally. However, myrrh is not as important in Chinese medicine as it is in the systems of India, the Middle East and the West, which ascribe to it tonic and rejuvenative properties.
A related species known as guggul in Ayurvedic medicine is considered one of the best substances for the treatment of circulatory problems, nervous system disorders and rheumatic complaints (see guggul in Planetary Formulas section, pg. 134). Pitch from pine trees and other bush and tree resins also are used as antirheumatics.
The preparation of guggul in traditional Ayurvedic medicine can serve as a model for the detoxification of various resins intended for internal use. Place the myrrh or other resinous material in a porous or muslin bag and suspend it from two crossed sticks into a simmering tea of Triphala or other alterative herbs (turmeric also is good for improving the blood‑moving properties of myrrh). After simmering for a period of time, remove the sack with the residue and continue to cook the tea down to a thick moist mat at the bottom of the pot. This is spread out in the open air to dry into solid chunks; or the residue is further prepared and softened with ghee and rolled into little pills. The dose is two or three pills the size of a mung bean two or three times day. (6)
Useful in a wide range of conditions in which an anti-microbial is needed: infections of the mouth such as mouth ulcers, gingivitis, pyorrhea, pharyngitis and sinusitis; boils and similar conditions as well as glandular fever and brucellosis. May also help with laryngitisand respiratory complaints. An external antiseptic for wounds and abrasions. (8)
Internal uses — asthma, herpes, ulcers: tincture*, fluid extract*, powder*. Bad breath, boils, chronic catarrh: tincture, fluid extract, powder. Cankers: infusion, tincture, fluid extract. Colitis, coughs: decoction*, powder*. Digestive tonic: tincture, fluid extract, powder, decoction. Bleeding gums: tincture, fluid extract, infusion. Indigestion: tincture, fluid extract, powder, infusion. Infections: tincture*, fluid extract*, powder*, infusion*, decoction*. Leukorrhea: tincture, fluid extract, powder, infusion, decoction. Mouth sores: tincture, fluid extract, powder, infusion. Skin disease: tincture*, fluid extract*, powder*, infusion*. Thrush: tincture, fluid extract.
External uses — bad breath, cankers, bleeding gums, mouth sores, thrush: gargle. Cuts: wash, infusion, tincture, fluid extract. Leukorrhea: douche, infusion, tincture, fluid extract. Skin disease: fomentation. Wounds: wash, fomentation, tincture, fluid extract.
*Usually used in combination with other herbs when treating the indicated problem.
Myrrh gum is a powerful antiseptic. Goldenseal and myrrh in equal parts used in capsules or tea is a specific for intestinal ulcers, bad breath, catarrh of the intestines and all other mucus membrane conditions. The tincture added to water is an excellent mought wash for spongy gums, pyorrhea and all thraot diseases. Myrrh destorys putrefaction in the intestines and prevents blood absorption of toxins. It has been successful in treating chronic diarrhea, lung diseases and general body weakness. It is a good wash for wounds and skin diseases. Inject the tincture of myrrh in the sinuses for all sinus infections and inflammations. If the sinuses are too sensitive for the straight tincture, dilute it with water. The powder of myrrh can be applied to dry up moist skin conditions. Myrrh is best suited for all pus conditions both internally and externally as well as for mucus membrane problems. (14)
Astringent, the resin has been used extensively for wounds and is also excellent for sore throats and mouth ulcers. Research suggests that it can lower blood cholesterol levels. In China, it is taken to “move” blood and relieve painful swellings. Myrrh tastes particularly unpleasant. (15)
A valuable and deservedly popular medicine. The tincture is used in inflammatory sore throat, ulcers, bad legs, thrush and other complaints. Makes an excellent wash for ulcerated mouth, tongue, etc. (57)
Combinations: For infections, and as a mouthwash for ulcers, combine with echinacea; for external use, combine with witch hazel. (8)
See “Conditions and Uses” and “Applications” for various combinations.
Add 5 ml sage or rosemary tincture to a mouthwash, or chew bilberries after using the mouthwash to help disguise the flavor. (15)
Precautions: No known hazards or side effects with designated dosages. The carbohydrate component of the gum easily absorbs water; should not be stored in powdered form. (2)
Any resins tend to be difficult to eliminate and can cause minor damage to the kidneys if taken intemally over an extended period. (6)
Do not take myrrh in large amounts or over a long period of time, as it can be toxic. (14)
Avoid in pregnancy, because it is a uterine stimulant. (15)
Applications: See “Conditions and Uses” for various applications.
Infusion: steep 5-15 min., 3 oz. 3-4 x daily. (14)
Resin–Tincture: Use for infections, feverish conditions, from head colds to glandular fever. It is ideal for upper respiratory problems, and can be added to expectorant mixtures. Take up to 5 ml a day in 1–2 ml doses, well diluted with water.
Capsules: Use as a more palatable alternative to the tincture; take one 200 mg capsule up to 5 times a day.
Gargle/Mouthwash: Use 1- 2 ml tincture for sore throats and mouth ulcers. (pg.50)…Add 5–10 drops oil or 5 ml tincture to a glass of warm water and use as a mouthwash (for mouth ulcers) (pg.143)
Douche: Use the diluted tincture for thrush.
Powder: In China, myrrh (3–9 g) is used as an analgesic, powdered with safflowers for abdominal pain associated with blood stagnation, as in menstrual pain.
Essential Oil: Oil: Distilled from the resin, myrrh oil has been used since Ancient Greek times to heal wounds. It is generally considered yang in character but is anti-inflammatory rather than heating. It makes a good expectorant, used in chest rubs for bronchitis and colds with heavy mucus.
Dilute 10 drops in 25 ml water, shake well, and use externally on wounds and chronic ulcers, or in lotions for hemorrhoids.
Chest Rub: Use 1 ml oil in 15 ml almond or sunflower oil for bronchitis and colds with thick phlegm.
Fungal Infections: add 10 drops oil or 10 ml tincture to 100 ml water and use as a wash; also take 1 ml tincture 3x daily–(For this function do not combine myrrh) Use as a simple. Externally, add an equal amount of arbor vitae, or add the myrrh to pot marigold cream. Internally, take purple coneflower capsules. (15)
Dosage: of the powder 1‑15 grains for Iimited periods. In formulas (also for limited periods) 3‑12 gms. (6)
The infusion of 1 oz. to a pint of boiling water is taken in half-cup doses. (57)
General Notes: An oleo-gum resin collected from the stems of bushy shrubs growing in Arabia and Somalia, myrrh has been regarded as one of the treasures of the East for millennia. Ancient Egyptian women burned myrrh in pellets to rid their homes of fleas. In folk tradition, myrrh was used for muscular pains and in rheumatic plasters. Called mo yao in China, it has been used since the Tang Dynasty (A.D. 600), primarily to heal wounds.
“The marvellous effects that it worketh in newe and greene wounds, were heere to long to set down…” John Gerard, 1597 (15)
(2) PDR for Herbal Medicines (Medical Economics Co., 1998), p. 770
(6) Planetary Herbology by Michael Tierra, C.A., N.D., pgs. 278-279
(8) The New Holistic Herbal by David Hoffman, p. 218
(14) Natural Healing With Herbs by Humbart Santillo BS, MH, pgs. 150-51
(15) The Complete Medicinal Herbal by Penelope Ody, pgs. 50, 142-143, 146-147
(57) Potter’s Cyclopaedia by R.C. Wren, F.L.S., pgs. 246-47