"Natural Healing with Herbs for a Healthier You"
THE BENEFITS OF THE USE OF MYRRH
IN HERBAL PREPARATIONS
MEDICINAL QUALITIES OF MYRRH
Traditionally, myrrh has been used orally to treat arthritis, digestive complaints, painful menstruation, respiratory infections, leprosy, syphilis, cancers, sore throats, asthma, coughs, and bad breath. Topically, myrrh has been used to treat muscular pains, arthritis, ulcers, sores, wounds, weak gums, loose teeth, bacterial and fungal skin infections and acne (Innvista)(E Drug Digest). Myrrh has often been mixed with golden seal powder and sprinkled on the umbilical chord stumps of newborn babies. This application is still used today. It has also been used in tincture form to treat abscesses (Christopher and Gileadi 68, 158). Traditional Chinese use of myrrh includes treatment for many of these conditions as well as for pain and stiffness, swelling, bruising, blood stagnation, and as a dissolvent for masses and fibroids (ABC). In Ayurvedic medicine, myrrh is used as a blood cleanser and for improving the intellect (Innvista).
Today, use of myrrh is very similar although scientists are discovering a few of the reasons why myrrh works as it does. Myrrh is thought to stimulate the production of white blood cells, making it a possible treatment of conditions where an antimicrobial agent is needed. One source suggests using myrrh as a specific treatment for “infections in the mouth such as mouth ulcers, gingivitis, pyorrhea, as well as the catarrhal problems of pharyngitis and sinusitis. Myrrh may also help with laryngitis and respiratory complaints. Systemically, it is of value in the treatment of boils and similar conditions as well as glandular fever and brucellosis (a widespread infectious febrile disease affecting cattle, swine, and goats and sometimes man). It is often used as part of an approach to the treatment of the common cold. Externally it is healing to the skin and an antiseptic for wounds and abrasions (Hoffmann). Commission E, a body of scientists that set standards for herbal usage in Germany, has endorsed the use of powdered myrrh as a treatment for mild inflammations of the mouth and throat due to myrrh’s tannin content
In a letter to the journal Nature, researchers from the University of Florence gave a report on their study of myrrh as an analgesic. They tested its effect on mice that had been set on a hot metal plate to see if their level of pain tolerance increased. Their findings showed that myrrh did have an analgesic affect on the mice. The researchers also isolated three sesquiterpenes from myrrh and tested them on the mice. These sesquiterpenes were: furanoeudesma-1,3-diene, curzarene and furanodiene. They found that furanodiene was not effective, but that furanoeudesma-1,3-diene and curzarene increased the amount of pain tolerance in the mice. Further testing done by these researchers “…suggested that furanoeudesma-1,3-diene may affect opioid receptors in brain membranes, which influence the perception of pain” (Herbalgram). Another research group came up with similar results. In this study, researchers found that when a dose of 500 mg/kg body weight of the petroleum extract of the oleo-gum resin of Commiphora molmol was given, carrageenan induced inflammation was significantly reduced. The extract also showed significant antipyretic activity in mice (Tariq M. et al. 381-382).
Research shows that a group of compounds known as sesquiterpene lactones, show strong antibacterial and antifungal activity against Staphylococcus (involved with myriad infections, internal and external), Candida albicans (commonly responsible for yeast infections), and pathogenic strains of E. coli (often involved with food poisoning and diarrhea) (Upton). In an issue of Planta Medica, myrrh was studied for its anesthetic, antibacterial and antifungal properties. The researchers reported that after extracting and purifying eight sesquiterpenes from Commiphora molmol, they found that a “mixture of furanodiene-6-one and methoxyfuranoguaia-9ene-8-one showed antibacterial and antifungal activity against standard pathogenic strains of Escherichia coli, Staphylococcus aureus, Pseudomonas aeruginosa and Candida albicans…” “These compounds also had local anesthetic activity, blocking the inward sodium current of excitable mammalian membranes”(Dolara et al. 356-358).
The Department of Pharmacology in Saudi Arabia reported research which showed that pretreatment with myrrh oleo-gum resin before introducing 80% ethanol, indomethacin, or a mixture of both into the stomach, provided dose-dependent protection against ulcergenic effects. It also protected against depletion of stomach wall mucus, reduction in protein and nucleic acid concentrations and protected against histopathological lesions on the stomach wall lining including necrosis, erosion, congestion, and hemorrhage. The researchers attribute these affects to myrrh’s free radical-scavenging, thyroid-stimulating and prostaglandin-inducing properties
(al-Harbi et al., Anti-ulcer 141-150).
Out of six indigenous African plants studied to prevent thrombosis in mice, myrrh exhibited the strongest antithrombotic activity. The other plants screened in this study were Azadiractha indica, Bridelia ferruginea, Garcinia kola, and Curcuma longa (Olajide 231-232).
Myrrh and aloe gums were shown to effectively increase glucose tolerance in normal and diabetic rats in a study done with plants that Kuwaiti diabetics use (A-Awadi and Fumaa 37-41).
Schistosomiasis is a parasitic infection of a type of blood fluke that is widespread over Asia, Africa and tropical America. Currently, treatment of schistosomiasis is chemotherapy with the drug praziquantel. Resistance to this drug has now been seen, so researchers are considering alternative drugs. A study was done on 204 patients infected with the disease. All but twelve of the cases had previously been treated with praziquantel. Four of the twelve were unable to undergo the praziquantel treatment due to vomiting immediately after ingesting the drug. Two different types of parasites were found in these cases, S. haematobium and S. mansoni. Some of the patients were infected with one type of parasite and some had both. Myrrh was given at 10 mg/kg body weight for three days to all the patients, with a cure rate of 91.7%. In the twelve cases that had received no prior chemotherapy treatment, the cure was 100% effective. Re-treatment with the same dose was given to the cases that did not respond from the first treatment with a cure rate of 76.5%, increasing the overall cure rate to 98.09%. The treatment was tolerated well with only mild side effects reported in 11.8% of the cases of which giddiness, somnolence, or mild fatigue were the most common. Twenty healthy patients were also given the same treatment simultaneously with no reported side affects (Sheir et al. 700-704). Another study done at the Cairo University, Egypt, in 2004 consisted of 1019 individuals infected with the same two parasites as the above study, S. haematobium and S. mansoni. In this pilot study, Mirazid, a drug completely derived from myrrh consisting of 8 parts resin and 3.5 parts volatile oils, was given to all the patients. The dosage was 2 capsules of 600 mg given on an empty stomach an hour before breakfast for six days. Upon examination three months after the treatment, it was found that Mirazid was 97.4% effective on S. haematobium and 96.2% effective on S. mansoni with no reported side effects. Those that did not respond showed a marked reduction of egg intensity. The researches concluded that Mirazid was a safe and effective treatment (Abo-Madyan, Morsy and Motawea 423-426).
A similar problem today especially in Egypt, is the infection of fascioliasis, a liver fluke which infects sheep, goats and cattle. Humans can become infected by this parasite through eating contaminated meat. Researchers at Cairo University, Egypt, studied myrrh’s effect on seven patients infected with this disease. The drug extract Mirazid was given to all the cases in doses of 12 mg/kg body weight per day, for six consecutive days. The patients showed a dramatic drop in fecal egg count at the end of three weeks and had a complete cure with no sign of eggs three months after treatment. The researchers that piloted this study feel that although their study was done on a small scale, they were able to prove that myrrh was an effective treatment for this disorder (Massoud et al. 96-99).
Another study was done on the efficacy of myrrh on the larvae of S. littoralis, the cotton leafworm. The results showed that although myrrh is not as effective as the chemical insecticides on the market today, it was effective in killing many of the larvae and when added to the chemical insecticides, it increased their effectiveness (Shonouda, Farrag and Salama 347-356).
Exciting new research on myrrh has been published in the last couple years, supporting ancient use of myrrh as a cancer cure. Co-researcher, Mohamed M. Rafi, Ph.D., is Assistant Professor in the Department of Food Science at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey. Rafi and his colleagues believe myrrh works by inactivating a protein called Bcl-2 which is overproduced by cancer cells found particularly in breast and prostate cancers. This action in myrrh may be due to the high number of sesquiterpenes myrrh contains. Rafi reports, “The myrrh compound definitely appears to be unique in this way; it is working where other compounds have failed.” “It’s a very exciting discovery,” says Rafi, “I’m optimistic that this compound can be developed into an anticancer drug.” In his laboratory research he also found that the myrrh compound inactivated MCF-7, a protein found in many breast tumor cells that has been resistant to traditional treatment. Although myrrh is estimated to be 100 times less potent as other anticancer drugs such as paclitaxel, vinblastine and vincristine, it seems to be able to kill cancer cells without killing healthy cells, something the other treatments aren’t able to accomplish. It also doesn’t build up resistance as the other drugs do. Rafi says, “This is very exciting news; the fact that something that is so safe…can actually kill cancer cells - this could be the basis for a very important new treatment.” Skeptics are cautious however, and Rafi warns, “The research is still much too new to make any recommendations of any kind about myrrh supplements.” Mohamed Rafi’s studies were published in the Nov. 26, 2001 issue of the Journal of Natural Products (Rutger’s News)(Bouchez). Earlier, in 1994 another study showed the anti-carcinogenic potential of Commiphora molmol. The study took mice that had Ehrlich-solid-tumors and evaluated the total count and viability of the tumors before and after 25 and 50 days of treatment. 250 and 500 mg/kg body weight per day was given to the mice. The anti-tumor potential of myrrh was found to be comparable to the standard cytotoxic drug cyclophosphamide (al-Harbi et al., Anticarcinogenic 337-347).
“Myrrh oil may help asthma, athlete’s foot, Candida, coughs, eczema, digestion, fungal infection, gingivitis, gum infections, hemorrhoids, mouth ulcers, ringworm, sore throats, skin conditions (chapped and cracked), wounds and wrinkles.” It is also indicated for use in “…bronchitis, diarrhea, dysentery, hypothyroidism, stretch marks, thrush, ulcers, vaginal thrush and viral hepatitis” (Essential Oils Desk Reference). A study done by the Dental Research Center at the College of Dentistry, University of Tennessee, determined that myrrh oil has cytotoxic activity on human gingival fibroblasts and epithelial cells (Tipton et al. 337-347).
by Rebecca Joy Knottnerus