What is Myrrh?
What are the benefits of myrrh? Along with Frankincense, Myrrh has been known to humans for its beautiful essence and and healing properties for thousands of years. Myrrh is a resin derived from the tree known as Commiphora myrrha (the Myrrh Tree), and which is common in Africa and the Middle East. The myrrh tree is adapted to arid desert conditions and like many such trees, can have a contorted and seemingly tortured appearance.
Tears of Myrrh
As with all harvesting of resin, the bark is cut open to release the substance, which is then permitted to dry as it seeps down the trunk having the appearance of tear drops. Most of us first became aware of Myrrh when we heard the biblical tale of the three wise men bringing gifts of Frankincense (to which myrrh is botanically related), Gold and Myrrh to the birth of Jesus the Christ.
Of these gifts, myrrh was recognized as the anointing oil of kings. It has been used throughout history as a perfume, incense and medicine. It can also be ingested by mixing it with wine and is mentioned in the Old Testament as a very rare and intoxicating perfume. It’s quite possible that the ancients got ‘high’ on this substance.
Obliviously, to be borne as a gift by three kings, we infer that myrrh is extremely valuable…why? We can infer from history that myrrh was very rare, and a good deal of its value was tied to that rarity. But we don’t know altogether what it was used for apart from rituals for kings. Modern medicine gives us some clues – here’s what Wikipedia says:-
Myrrh is used as an antiseptic in mouthwashes, gargles, and toothpastes Myrrh is currently used in some liniments and healing salves that may be applied to abrasions and other minor skin ailments. Myrrh has also been recommended as an analgesic for toothaches, and can be used in liniment for bruises, aches, and sprains.
Myrrh is a common ingredient of tooth powders. Myrrh and borax in tincture can be used as a mouth-wash. A compound tincture, or horse tincture, using myrrh is used in veterinary practice for healing wounds. Meetiga, the trade-name of Arabian Myrrh, is more brittle and gummy than that of the Somalian variety and does not have the latter’s white markings. Liquid Myrrh, or Stacte, spoken of by Pliny, also an ingredient of Jewish holy incense, was formerly obtainable and greatly valued but cannot now be identified in today’s markets. Myrrh gum is used for indigestion, ulcers, colds, cough, asthma, lung congestion, arthritis pain, and cancer.
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10 Proven Benefits of Myrrh Oil & its Uses
Myrrh oil has a smoky, sweet or sometimes bitter smell. The word myrrh comes from the Arabic word “murr” meaning bitter. The oil is a yellowish, orange color with a viscous consistency. It is commonly used as a base for perfume and other fragrances.
Two primary active compounds are found in myrrh, called terpenoids and sesquiterpenes, both of which have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects.(2) Sesquiterpenes specifically also have an effect on our emotional center in the hypothalamus, helping us remain calm and balanced. Both of these compounds are under investigation for their anticancer, antibacterial benefits as well as other potential therapeutic uses.(3)
Myrrh Oil History
Myrrh essential oil has been used for thousands of years in traditional healing therapies and in religious ceremonies. Common myrrh oil uses historically, include:
- Flavoring for food
- Treating hay fever
- As an antiseptic to clean and heal wounds
- As a paste to help stop bleeding
The Chinese frequently used myrrh as a medicine, and it remains a part of traditional Chinese medicine to this day. The main myrrh oil use by the Egyptians was for embalming and the Jews used it to make the holy anointing oil that was used in worship services.(4)
The most common historical myrrh oil use was to burn the resin over hot coals. This would release a mysterious, spiritual presence into any room before a religious ceremony. It has also been used in aromatherapy for its meditative quality or for prayer, usually in combination with frankincense.
The smell of myrrh has been traditionally seen as a symbol of suffering, burned at funerals or other sad events. But, at times myrrh is blended with citrus oils to help produce a more uplifting aroma. These lighter blends have been used to help promote inspiration and emotional insight.
Myrrh Oil Benefits
Myrrh oil has many potential benefits, although further research is needed to determine exact mechanisms of how it works and dosages for therapeutic benefits. Here are some of the main benefits of myrrh oil use:
1. Potent Antioxidant Benefits of Myrrh
A 2010 study in the journal of Food and Chemical Toxicology found that myrrh could protect against liver damage due to its high antioxidant capacity. Although this particular study was conducted with rabbits, there is some potential for uses in humans also.(5)
2. Anti-Cancer Benefits of Myrrh
Myrrh has also been found to have anti-cancer benefits. A 2011 found that myrrh was able to reduce the proliferation or replication of human cancer cells. Researchers found that myrrh inhibited growth in eight different types of cancer cells, specifically gynecological cancers. Although further research is needed to determine exactly how to use myrrh for cancer treatment, this initial research is promising.(6)
3. Anti-Bacterial and Anti-Fungal Benefits of Myrrh
Historically, myrrh was used to treat wounds and prevent infections. It can still be used in this manner on minor skin irritations such as athlete’s foot, ring worm, and acne. Apply a few drops to a clean towel first before applying it directly to the skin.
4. Anti-Parasitic Benefits of Myrrh
A medication has been developed using myrrh as a treatment for fascioliasis infection, a parasite that has been infecting humans worldwide. This parasite is generally transmitted by ingesting aquatic algae and other plants. A medication made with myrrh was able to decrease symptoms of the infection, as well as a drop in parasite egg count found in the feces.(7)
5. Skin Health Benefits of Myrrh
Myrrh can help maintain healthy skin. It can help soothe chapped or cracked skin. It is commonly added to skin care products to help with moisturizing and also for fragrance. Ancient Egyptians used it to prevent aging and maintain healthy skin.
6. Relaxation Benefits of Myrrh
Myrrh is commonly used in aromatherapy for massages. It can also be added to a warm bath or applied directly to the skin.
Myrrh Oil Uses
Essential oil therapy has been used for thousands of years and is the practice of using oils for their health benefits. Each essential oil has its own unique benefit and can be incorporated as an alternative treatment to a variety of ailments.(8)
Generally, oils are inhaled, sprayed in the air, massaged into the skin, and at times taken by mouth. Fragrances are strongly connected to our emotions and memories as our scent receptors are located next to the emotional centers in our brain, the amygdala and hippocampus.
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