What is Myrrh Essential Oil?
Myrrh essential oil is a substance extracted from a very aromatic oleo-gum-resin with sandy texture, which is obtained from the stem of different species of Commiphora.
There are several species of myrrh, but only some of them have been studied for their therapeutic properties. The most commonly used are Commiphora myrrha (also known as Commiphora molmol), Commiphora guidotti, and Commophora wightii (also known as “guggul” in the traditional medicine of India).
This resin is yellow and sticky, and when it dries, it becomes solid and reddish. With water, it forms an emulsion.
The myrrh tree is common in Africa and the Middle East. Myrrh is botanically related to incense, and is one of the most used essential oils in the world.
Myrrh is one of the oldest known medicines, which has been widely used by ancient Egyptians. Nowadays, myrrh oil is commonly used as a remedy for a wide variety of ailments.
Researchers have been interested in myrrh due to its potent antioxidant properties and its potential as a cancer treatment. Also, it proved to be effective against certain types of parasitic infections.
Thanks to its great aromatic properties, myrrh is a perfect ingredient in the manufacture of perfumes and fragrances, since it helps to fix the aromas and prolong its duration.
Curiously, myrrh is known as one of the gifts (along with gold and incense) that the three Magi brought to Jesus. In fact, myrrh is mentioned in the Bible 152 times.
Also, myrrh was extremely important in biblical times, since it was used as a spice, natural remedy, or to purify the dead.
Chemical Compounds of Myrrh Essential Oil
The main chemical components of myrrh oil are a-pinene, cadinene, limonene, cuminaldehyde, dipentene, eugenol, m-cresol, heerabolene, acetic acid, formic acid and other terpenes, sesquiterpenes and acids.
Characteristics of Myrrh Essential Oil
Myrrh essential oil has a smoky, sweet or sometimes bitter, and balsamic aroma and its color varies between golden yellow and brown. Myrrh oil is thick and sticky, similar to the consistency of honey.
The word myrrh comes from the Arabic word “Murr”, which means bitter.
This oil has the ability to lengthen the aroma of other oils without neutralizing them, which enhances its quality.
Myrrh essential oil has multiple healing properties and is an excellent anti-stress because it improves mood thanks to the effect of sesquiterpenes (62%) on the hypothalamus, pituitary gland and amygdala.
The myrrh tree is characterized by its white flowers and its knotted trunk. Sometimes, the tree has few leaves, due to the dry conditions of the desert where it grows. Sometimes it can take a strange and twisted shape due to the harsh weather conditions and the wind.
To harvest myrrh, the trunks of the trees must be cut to obtain the resin. The resin is allowed to dry and begin to look like tears along the entire trunk of the tree. Then the resin is collected and the essential oil is made by steam distilling the sap.
Two primary active compounds are found in myrrh, terpenes and sesquiterpenes, which have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.
The sesquiterpenes have an effect on our emotional center, specifically, in the hypothalamus, which helps us to remain calm and balanced. Both of these compounds are under investigation for their antibacterial, anti-cancer, as well as other potential therapeutic uses.
History of Myrrh Essential Oil
Myrrh essential oil has been used for thousands of years in traditional healing therapies and religious ceremonies. The uses of myrrh oil, historically included:
- Flavoring for food
- Treatment for hay fever
- As an antiseptic to clean and heal wounds
- As a paste to help stop bleeding
In China, it is still a part of traditional medicine to this day. On the other hand, the Egyptians used myrrh oil mainly for embalming.
The Jews also included it to make the anointing oil that was used in the worship cults.
However, the most common use of myrrh oil in ancient times was to burn the resin on the embers. This released a mysterious spiritual presence in any room before a religious ceremony.
It has also been used in aromatherapy for its qualities for meditation or prayer, usually combined with incense.
The smell of myrrh has traditionally been used as a symbol of suffering, burned at funerals or other solemn events. But, sometimes, myrrh is mixed with citrus oils to produce a more edifying aroma. These lighter blends help to promote inspiration and emotional intuition.
Properties of Myrrh Essential Oil
Myrrh essential oil owns the following properties: anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antimicrobial, anti-diabetic, astringent, antiseptic, anti-catarrhal, antibacterial, antifungal, emmenagogue, cicatrisant, expectorant, digestive, sedative, anticancer, cytotoxic, analgesic, antispasmodic, uterine stimulant, hypocholesterolemic and antiparasitic properties.
Uses of Myrrh Essential Oil
The use of myrrh oil in aromatherapy is as a regulator of respiratory functions, it works as an expectorant and anti-inflammatory of the nasal passages.
In aromatherapy treatments for ulcers and wounds, it is effective, since it accelerates healing.
Fragrances are strongly connected to our emotions and memories since our olfactory receptors are next to the emotional centers in the brain, amygdala and hippocampus.
It helps to connect with personal intuition, activate the frontal chakra and stimulate the conscience, producing relaxing spiritual elevation.
Great for massages
Strengthens the body through emotional stimulation, inducing calm and a sense of wellbeing simply for enjoying its aroma for a while.
On the other hand, due to its remarkable antioxidant effects, it is particularly effective for aged skin exerting a refreshing and luminous effect on the skin.
In addition, when performing a massage, it helps relieve arthritis and joint pain and stimulates blood flow thus, improving cellular nutrition.
Since one of the most common uses of myrrh oil today is on the skin, people with sensitive skin should be cautious. Cases have been reported in which myrrh has caused dermatitis or skin inflammation.
Always test first in a small area before applying on the entire skin, to make sure you do not have any allergic reaction.
Myrrh oil is used in lotions to improve the appearance of the skin, dryness and loss of elasticity, among others.
Thanks to its components, it represents a powerful anti-aging agent, making it a perfect natural product to help prevent premature aging, appearance of wrinkles and blemishes.
Myrrh essential oil is also used in cosmetic preparations for treatment of hair and scalp, since it is an excellent tonic for hair health, avoiding the fall, preventing dandruff and giving it a healthy appearance.
Benefits of Myrrh Essential Oil
Myrrh oil can help promote tissue repair, eliminate toxins and prevent infection. It has several therapeutic properties, so it can be beneficial for the healing of specific ailments.
Although, it has many potential benefits, more research is needed to determine the exact mechanisms of how it works and the doses of its therapeutic benefits.
Here are some of the main benefits of using myrrh essential oil:
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 carried out with rabbits, there is
some potential for uses in humans too.
Benefits against cancer
Recently, the cytotoxic and antitumor activity of myrrh essential oil has proved to be equivalent to those of the standard cytotoxic drug cyclophosphamide.
Thus, treatment with myrrh oil (250 and 500 mg/kg/day), was found to be cytotoxic in Ehrlich carcinoma tumor cells in mice. Other treatment (125–500 mg/kg), showed no mutagenicity.
It caused a highly significant and dose-dependent mitodepressant effect in the femoral cells, as well as reduction of RNA levels in hepatic cells as compared with the control (cyclophosphamide).
In 2011 it was found that myrrh oil was able to reduce the proliferation or replication of human cancer cells.
The researchers found that myrrh inhibited growth in eight different types of cancer cells, specifically gynecological cancers. Although more research is needed to determine exactly how to use myrrh for cancer treatment, this initial research is promising.
Anti-bacterial and anti-fungal effects
One of the main uses of myrrh oil is as a fungicide or antiseptic. It can help reduce fungal and bacterial infections, such as athlete’s foot, ringworm and acne when applied directly to the affected area. It can also be used on small scrapes and wounds to prevent infection.
In addition, the sesquiterpene fractions from myrrh oil, showed antibacterial and antifungal activity against standard pathogenic strains of Escherichia coli, Staphylococcus aureus and Pseudomonas aeruginosa,
A drug has been developed using myrrh as a treatment for infection with fasciolosis, a parasite that infects humans worldwide. This parasite is usually transmitted by the ingestion of algae and other aquatic plants.
A medicine made with myrrh was able to decrease the symptoms of the infection, as well as reducing the count of egg parasites found in the feces.
Stimulates uterine bleeding
Myrrh essential oil stimulates uterine bleeding, reason why it is useful to regulate the menstrual period. If you have uterine bleeding condition, use myrrh oil with caution, since it might make this condition worse.
It helps to restore cracked, damaged and dry skin. It is commonly found in skin care products to moisturize. Also, due to its antiseptic effects it is useful to treat acne conditions.
The ancient Egyptians used it to prevent aging and maintain healthy skin
Myrrh is commonly used in aromatherapy for massage. It can also be added to a hot bath or applied directly on the skin blended with a carrier oil.
Helps treat hypothyroidism
Myrrh is a natural remedy for hypothyroidism, or a decline in the functioning of the thyroid. Since it helps reduce stress, it can also help reduce stress on an overloaded thyroid.
Put 2-3 drops directly on the thyroid area every day to help decrease symptoms.
Myrrh essential oil effectively decreases the absolute increment of blood glucose above the fasting concentration at all times of the oral glucose tolerance test in both, normal and diabetic rats, and may prove to be a useful therapeutic agent in the treatment of non-insulin dependent diabetes mellitus.
It can help treat skin cancer
As discussed above, myrrh is being studied for its potential cancer benefits. It has been shown to be beneficial for skin cancer.
Consider the possibility of using it, in addition to other traditional treatments, if you have been diagnosed with skin cancer. Apply a few drops a day directly where cancer is located, always testing first on a small area.
Heals ulcers and wounds
Myrrh has the power to improve the function of white blood cells, which is essential for healing of wounds.
In addition, a 2010 study published in the Journal of Immunotoxicology, found that myrrh decreases the incidence of ulcers and improves healing time.
Alleviates digestive problems
Another use of myrrh oil is to relieve digestive problems such as stomach pain, diarrhea and indigestion.
Myrrh oil is useful in chronic gastritis and atomic dyspepsia with full pale tongue and membrane, as well as frequent mucous stouts accompanied by flatulence. Besides, tincture of myrrh is used for the therapy of aphthous ulcers (Aphthous stomatitis or recurrent mouth ulcers).
Extract of myrrh is used as digestive aid drug, and it is approved by the FDA for the use in food and oral healthcare drug products. It was given GRAS status as a flavor ingredient by FEMA.
Relieves respiratory ailments
It can function as a natural expectorant to help soothe the symptoms of cough, flu and colds. Also, myrrh essential oil can be used to relieve congestion, help eliminate phlegm, and ease catarrhal problems of pharyngitis, laryngitis and sinusitis.
Myrrh essential oil is successfully used in chronic bronchitis, bronchial asthma, and pulmonary tuberculosis.
Prevents mouth and gum infections
Because of its anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties, myrrh can help relieve inflammation of the mouth and gums caused by diseases such as gingivitis, canker sores, cold sores and aphthae.
It can also be used as a mouthwash to prevent gum disease. In addition, it refreshes the breath, for that reason it is used as an ingredient in toothpaste and mouthwash.
The topical use of myrrh essential oil, provides relief in the contractions or spasms produced by muscle cramps. Also, it helps to soothe spasms in various types of tissue that may be caused by stress, medication, and overexercise.
Strengthens the immune system
Myrrh oil is a great ally for general health, because it helps strengthen the immune system preventing infections, diseases, promoting the nervous system and good heart health. On the other hand, it revitalizes and stimulates the digestive, stomach and respiratory system.
One of the properties of myrrh oil is that it is diaphoretic, that is, it controls the level of perspiration, allowing toxins to be drained from the body in a natural way.
Inhibits microbial growth
Myrrh essential oil has been used as an effective antimicrobial agent, it is one of the most effective herbal medicines in the world for sore throats, canker sores and gingivitis.
It acts against the formation or proliferation of bacteria or microbes that cause a condition in the organism such as intoxication, fever, measles, mumps and smallpox, among others.
In addition, it prevents any wound from becoming infected or complicated.
It strengthens the gums, the layers of the skin, muscles, intestines and other internal organs. It also strengthens the grip of the scalp on the hair roots, thus preventing hair loss.
One of the most important aspects of its astringent property, is that it helps stop bleeding in wounds.
In other words, Myrrh oil causes the blood vessels to constrict and regulate blood flow, in this way, we can control cases of hemorrhage when they occur.
Improves blood circulation and cardiovascular health
The use of myrrh essential oil helps increase blood circulation, allowing nutrients and oxygen to provide benefits to the body.
Myrrh oil reduces cholesterol and triglycerides. It is used as a hypolipidaemic agent. Hypolipidemic agents, or anti-hyperlipidemic agents, are a diverse group of pharmaceuticals that are used in the treatment of high levels of fats (lipids), such as cholesterol, in the blood (hyperlipidemia). They are called lipid-lowering drugs.
In addition, the essential oil of myrrh, in more than one study has exhibited a strong antithrombotic activity.
How is Myrrh Essential Oil applied?
In general, oils are inhaled, sprayed in the air, massaged into the skin, and sometimes taken orally.
Therefore, the administration of myrrh essential oil is similar to that of other aromatherapy oils:
Diffuse or inhale
You can buy an essential oil diffuser to use throughout the house when you are looking to achieve a certain mood. You can also add a few drops in hot water and inhale the steam or inhale directly from the bottle.
Myrrh oil can be inhaled to help improve the symptoms of bronchitis, colds or cough.
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It is best to blend the myrrh oil with carrier oils such as jojoba, almond or grape seed oil before applying it on the skin. It can also be mixed with an unscented lotion and used directly on the skin.
Due to its antioxidant properties, it is ideal for anti-aging, skin rejuvenation and wound healing.
Use as a cold compress
Myrrh oil has many healing properties, therefore, add a few drops to a cold compress and apply directly to any infected or inflamed area to feel relief. It is anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, and helps reduce swelling and inflammation.
Be careful when consuming essential oils internally. A common use is to use it as a mouthwash to help prevent dental infections. Although myrrh has been approved as a safe food additive, taking its concentrated forms or high doses can have unwanted side effects. It is best to ask a doctor or health professional to avoid any complications.
Contraindications and risks of Myrrh Essential Oil
The myrrh oil has some risks and side effects that must be taken into account before using it therapeutically. As always, it is best to talk with your doctor or trusted health professional first.
- Myrrh oil should not be used directly on the skin because it can cause irritation. Always dilute or mix it with carrier oil, such as jojoba, almond or grape seed oil and apply it on the area of the skin to be treated.
- Contact with mucous membranes and eyes should be avoided.
- Avoid oral intake because it can be toxic, cause stomach pain, diarrhea or dehydration. Although it is usually not serious, chronic diarrhea can lead to dehydration, so you should stop using it if you experience gastrointestinal problems.
- Do not use it in case of pregnancy because it can cause uterine contractions.
- Another potential side effect of myrrh essential oil is heart irregularities and low blood pressure. However, this is mostly seen in high doses of more than 2-4 grams per day. Anyone with medical problems related to the heart should consult a doctor before using myrrh essential oil.
- Myrrh oil can reduce blood sugar, therefore, it is not recommended for people with diabetes or other similar disorders. Since it interacts with blood glucose.
- It is also not recommended for people undergoing surgery. If you are using myrrh oil, stop using it for at least 2 weeks before surgery.
- People using anticoagulants such as warfarin should avoid using myrrh oil, as it may have potential interactions with this medicine.
- Finally, it is not recommended for people who take medications for diabetes, since there is a potential for drug interaction.
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Toxicity of Myrrh Essential Oil
Myrrh essential oil may be possibly toxic in high concentrations and should not be used during pregnancy.
Where to buy Myrrh Essential Oil?
Generally, good quality oils, that is, 100% pure and not mixed with other substances, can be found in specialized natural herb stores.
If you can not reach a trusted naturist or herbalist shop near you, here are some online products recommendations:
Scent Characteristics: Warm, earthy, woody, balsamic, with a slightly spicy medicinal scent.
Our 100% Pure Essential Oils are extracted from the root, bark, wood, seed, fruit, leaf, or flower of a freshly harvested plant.
We source only the finest quality essential oils from highly regarded suppliers and distillers from around the world, many with whom we’ve worked with for decades.
Many of our oils are steam-distilled or cold-pressed, therefore retaining the essential odor, aroma, taste, medicinal, and therapeutic properties of the plant, resulting in a superior quality, and highly concentrated essence. Shop here.
Tips for a better performance and duration of your oils:
- Store them in a dark glass bottle, never plastic, not even when blended with a carrier oil.
- Keep them in cool, dark places, away from sources of heat and light.
- Maintain the container that holds it tightly closed, since they are very volatile and also, their properties would be lost or modified.