“And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense, and myrrh.” -Matthew2:11
Myrr is known due to the story of the birth of Jesus Christ in the Bible. It has a spiritual meaning in the bible and in the modern days, it has been used in holistic health.
Myrrh was used in ancient Israelite temple worship as an ingredient in the holy anointing oil for consecrating priests, the Tabernacle, and kings (see Exodus 30:23–25). It was used in the purification of Queen Esther (see Esther 2:12), and it was also used in embalming (see John 19:39).
Myrrh is also a dried resin from Arabia and northern Africa (from thorny shrubs and trees of the genus Commiphora) used in perfumes, incense, and medicines for thousands of years. The word comes from an Arabic word meaning “bitter.” It has been valued for its aroma as well as for its use as an antiseptic, analgesic (topical painkiller), and other medicinal qualities.
Two studies (Germano et al. 2017; Hanu? et al. 2005) showed that myrrh is a reddish-brown dried sap from a thorny tree — Commiphora myrrha, also known as C. molmol — that is native to northeastern Africa and southwest Asia.
Gadir and Ahmed(2014) study also found that a steam distillation process is used to extract myrrh essential oil, which is amber to brown and has an earthy scent.
A previous study by El Ashry et al. (2003) also found that myrrh is also used in traditional Chinese medicine and Ayurvedic medicine and researchers are exploring the oils to treat pain, infections, and skin sores. Other emerging studies have explored the impact of myrrh on our health.
For instance, Chakravarty et al.(2018) test-tube study found that when SPF 15 sunscreen is combined with myrrh oil, it becomes effective at blocking ultraviolet rays as compared to the sunscreen alone. Also, the myrrh oil alone was also not as effective as sunscreen.
Three test-tube studies (Ge and Zhang, 2019; Wang et al. 2011; Chen et al. 2013)found that myrrh oil could kill or slow the growth of cancer cells from the liver, prostate, breast, and skin.
Also, (Vissiennon et al. 2015; Nehal et al.2016) animal study also found that myrrh compounds could treat intestinal spasms connected to irritable bowel syndrome and stomach ulcers.
Suad Gadir and Ibtisam M. Ahmed(2014) test tube study revealed that myrrh oil could kill mold, such as Aspergillus niger, that normally appears as mildew on damp walls, and A. flavus, which causes
spoilage and mold contamination of food.
In this article, I explore the scientific benefits of myrrh oil.
Buckley and Evershed(2001) oils kill bacteria and other microbes. In the biblical times myrrh incense — normally combined with frankincense — was burned in places of worship to help purify the air and prevent the spread of transmissible diseases, such as those caused by bacteria.
Fast forward, another study by Grbi? et al.(2018) found that burning myrrh and frankincense incense decreased airborne bacterial counts by 68%.
A previous animal study by Haffor AS(2010) found that myrrh could kill bacteria, and arouse the immune system to increase white blood cells to kill bacteria.
In test-tube studies, myrrh oil is effective against many infectious bacteria, such as some drug-resistant ones( Dolara et al. 2000; Wanner et al. 2010; Lee et al. 2014).
Besides, Feng et al.(2018) test-tube study found myrrh oil at a low dilution of 0.1% killed all dormant Lyme disease bacteria, that are present after antibiotic treatment.
Tipton et al.(2003) study found that myrrh has antimicrobial properties, hence it has been used to treat oral infections and inflammation.
The US FDA approved myrrh oil as a flavoring and is used in some natural mouthwashes and toothpaste.
Besides, Jamal Albishri(2017) study explained that for those with Behcet’s disease — an inflammatory disorder — when they used a myrrh mouthwash to treat painful mouth sores four times daily for a week, 50% were okay with the pain and 19%mouth sores gone.
A previous test-tube study by Tipton et al.(2003) showed that mouthwash that has myrrh oil could fight gingivitis- inflammation of the gums around the teeth due to a buildup of plaque.
Skin health and treat sores
Mahboubi et al.(2016) study found that myrrh has been used in ancient times to treat skin wounds and infections.
Another test-tube study by Hans et al.(2017) of human skin cells found that an essential oil combined with myrrh treats wounds.
A previous study by Hur et al.(2004) revealed that myrrh and other essential oils applied through baths in women treat skin wounds from vaginal deliveries. The only thing is that several oils were combined at the same time in this study.
This notwithstanding, a test-tube study by Orchard et al.(2018) used over 247 different essential oils together and found that myrrh oil mixed with sandalwood oil helped destroy microbes that infect skin wounds.
In one previous test-tube study(Mahboubi et al. 2016) myrrh oil only inhibited 43–61% of the development of five fungi that trigger skin conditions, including ringworm and athlete’s foot.
Fights pain and swelling
Some studies (Al-Hasani and Bruchas. 2011; Su et al. 2011) found that myrrh oil has ingredients that relate to opioid receptors and inform the brain of pains. Myrrh also blocks the production of inflammatory chemicals that trigger swelling and pain.
Leonardo Scarzella(2017) showed that those with headaches when they were given a multi-ingredient supplement that has myrrh’s pain-relieving compounds, dealt with the headache by about two-thirds in the six-month study.
A powerful antioxidant
Racine P and Auffray B(2005) study also found that the antioxidant in myrrh fights oxidative damage. This was demonstrated in a test-tube study that found that myrrh oil was superior and more effective than vitamin-E, a powerful antioxidant, at fighting free radicals.
Another study by Ashry et al.(2010) on an animal found that myrrh oil protects the liver against lead-induced oxidative damage.
El-Sherbiny and El Sherbiny(2011) pilot study found that women who did not respond to standard drug treatment for trichomoniasis were administered an oral drug, Mirazid, made of myrrh sap and its essential oil. The good news is that 85% of healed of the infection.
Fathy FM(2011) animal study found that myrrh drug successfully treated giardiasis- Giardiasis is a diarrheal disease caused by the microscopic parasite Giardia duodenalis (or “Giardia” for short). Once a person or animal has been infected with Giardia, the parasite lives in the intestines and is passed in stool (poop).
Some human studies (Mostafa Yakoot. 2010; Massoud et al. 2013; Massoud et al. 2010; Osman et al. 2010) found that myrrh drug could be effective against the parasite Fasciola gigantica, which can cause liver and bile duct diseases. However, the results appeared to be mixed.
This notwithstanding, one study by Massoud et al. (2012) found that myrrh and its oil could cure parasites, where there is drug resistance.
Just in case you want to apply it on the skin, naturalmedicines.therapeuticresearch.com recommends that one has to dilute myrrh oil in another oil such as jojoba, almond, grapeseed, or coconut oil to avert the oil fading out quickly.
Marsha McCulloch(2019) suggested that one has to use 3–6 drops of essential oil per 1 teaspoon (5 ml) of jojoba, almond, grapeseed, or coconut oil for adults. This is regarded as a 2–4% dilution. In the aspect of children, one has to use 1 drop of essential oil per 1 teaspoon (5 ml) of those oils, which is a 1% dilution.
Also one can add a drop or two of myrrh oil to odorless lotion or moisturizer before you apply it to your skin. Some people add myrrh oil to products used for massage.
Avoid applying the oil to sensitive areas, including your eyes and inner ears. Wash your hands with soapy water after handling essential oils to avoid accidental exposure to delicate areas.
Marsha McCulloch(2019) recommended that one add 3–4 drops of myrrh oil to a diffuser to dispense the oil as a fine mist into the surrounding air.
Alternatively, one can place a few drops of the oil on a tissue or cloth and inhale occasionally or add a few drops to hot water and inhale the steam.
One simple trick is to apply a few drops of myrrh oil to the cardboard tube inside a roll of toilet paper. When someone uses it, a bit of the aroma will be released.
Marsha McCulloch(2019) also suggested that myrrh oil blends well with spicy, citrus, and floral essential oil, such as frankincense, lemon, and lavender, respectively.
The combination of myrrh and frankincense is especially popular — not only because of their complementary scents but also because of their synergy, or interaction that produces even greater benefits.
For instance, one test-tube study by Rapper et al.(2012) found that myrrh combined with frankincense oils enhanced their effectiveness against infectious bacteria and other microbes. About 11% of this improvement was due to synergistic interactions of the oils.
Myrrh oil is highly concentrated, hence a few drops at a time. Avoid diffusing it close to babies and young children. One study by Jamal Albishri(2017) revealed that swallowing myrrh oil could be dangerous.
Tsai et al.(2013) study found that pregnant and breastfeeding mothers should avoid myrrh oil as it can cause uterine contractions and may trigger miscarriage.
Also, those on blood-thinning drugs should avoid myrrh oil. Furthermore, those with heart issues, and diabetes on medication should be careful as it could further lower it. Finally, Myrrh may interfere with blood sugar control during and after surgery.
Biblical myrrh has several health benefits. Most of these benefits have been shown in test tubes. It is effective against harmful bacteria, parasites, and other microbes. It may also support oral health, help heal skin sores, and ease pain and swelling. No wonder it was part of the gifts the wise men presented when Jesus was born.
The writer is a professor of naturopathic healthcare, a medical journalist, an author, and a science writer. E. mail: [email protected]. For more about me, Visit: profnyarkotey.com