Myrrh: Uses, Health Benefits, Precautions

Myrrh is a resin that comes from trees belonging to the genus Commiphora – which grow in Northern Africa and the Middle East.

The sap-like substance, which has a unique sweet and smoky aroma, has a wide range of uses.

Myrrh is mainly used:

  • as a fragrance
  • for embalming
  • to flavor food products
  • for its potential therapeutic properties.

The essential oil has been part of medical practice in traditional therapies for millennia.

The word myrrh comes from the Arabic word “murr” which translates into “bitter”.

In Ancient Egypt, myrrh was used to treat hay fever and herpes. The ancient Greeks used it as an antiseptic for soldiers to clean up battle wounds – myrrh was commonly carried into the battlefield.

Myrrh is mentioned in the New Testament as one of the three gifts the three wise men brought to Jesus when he was born (Gold, Frankincense, and Myrrh).

Potential health benefits of myrrh

MyrrhEssentialOil
A vial of myrrh essential oil.

 

Modern scientific research is beginning to find evidence suggesting that myrrh may offer some health benefits. However, it is important to note that many of these claims require further studies.

Antioxidant benefits

A study published in the prestigious journal Food and Chemical Toxicology found that myrrh (Commiphora molmol) emulsion was able to protect against lead (PbAc)-induced hepatotoxicity.

The authors of the study concluded that myrrh (Commiphora molmol) emulsion is a “powerful antioxidant” that can “protect against PbAc-induced hepatic oxidative damage and immunotoxicity by reducing lipid peroxidation and enhancing the antioxidant and immune defense mechanisms.”1

Possible anticancer properties

A group of Chinese researchers revealed that extracts and compounds from Commiphora myrrha resin may be effective against human gynecologic cancer cells.2 Their findings were published in the Journal of Medicinal Plants Research.

Other possible uses of myrrh

Man applying cream to his face.
Myrrh features in many products that are used to maintain healthy skin.

 

Many people use myrrh for treating:

  • Cough
  • Asthma
  • Indigestion
  • Ulcers
  • Sore throat
  • Congestion
  • Hemorrhoids
  • Joint pain
  • Maintaining healthy skin.

Side effects of myrrh

People are advised not to consume high amounts of myrrh as it can potentially cause severe heart irregularities, according to a study published in the journal Phytotherapy Research3.

In addition, people who have sensitive skin may develop allergic contact dermatitis. The finding was reported in a study published in Contact Dermatitis.4

Women who are pregnant should avoid taking myrrh by mouth as it may be a cause of miscarriage.

Side effects of Myrrh may include:

  • Making a fever worse
  • Heart Problems
  • Lowering blood pressure
  • Uterine bleeding.