Thursday, July 28, 2016
MYRRH: Commiphora Myrrha, Balsamodendron Myrrha, Myrrha Herdbol, Commiphora Abyssinica, Commiphora Gileadensis
Also known as: Guggul, Karam, Bisabol, Bdellium
Parts Used: gum resin
Systems/Organs affected: heart, liver, spleen, oral, structural, blood, circulatory, immune
Properties: antiseptic, antispasmodic, emmenogogue, astringent, expectorant, stimulant, carminative, anti-carcinogenic, anti-inflammatory, tonic, vulnerary, purgative (in large doses), anti-fungal, analgesic, oral
Myrrh is a part of the Burseaceae family (just like Frankincense). This class of plants are actually trees that produce resins-also known as oleoresins. True myrrh comes from a tree common to the Middle East and Africa. It is a relative of frankincense. The tree trunk is often twisted and gnarled with lovely white flowers. The resin is harvested through cuts in the trunk. The resin seeps through and hardens in teardrop shapes along the trunk. It is then collected and steam distilled to make the essential oil. Myrrh oil is a yellowish-red color with a balsam or camphor-like scent.
There are several species of myrrh native to North Africa, India and the Middle East. It also is now found in Ethiopia, Libya, Somalia and Iran. However, true myrrh is actually known as Turkey myrrh or karam as it is known in Arab countries. This kind of myrrh is considered to be superior to all others and its oil is highly prized. There are also other classes of plants referred to as myrrh such as sweet cicely, otherwise known a myrrhis odorata, which is NOT a myrrh at all. There also is a tree in West Africa from which 'myrrh beads' are harvested. These beads are worn around the hips of married women in Mali. Again, this is NOT a myrrh either. The commiphora gileadensis is believed to be the Balm of Gilead spoken of in the Bible.
Myrrh has a lengthy history dating back close to 1500 years before Christ. The word itself comes from the Aramaic/Arabic 'murr/mur' which means'bitter'. References to myrrh have been found recorded in early Egyptian papyrus which listed over 700 remedies including instructions on use for embalming. It was a heavily traded item among the caravans anciently before ever being spoken of in a Biblical sense. It is one of the most talked about herbs in the Bible, , having been mentioned 152 times! (it was mixed with wine and offered to Christ before his crucifixion. Apparently this was common practice to offer such a drink to condemned prisoners as it was believed to dull the mental anguish they would suffer having been condemned to death. In fact, Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea used a 100# mix of aloe and myrrh to anoint Christ's body before burial).
Myrrh was often used as a perfume or as a fixative for other scents. The Egyptians called it 'phurl', and aside from using it for embalming and perfume, it was used for hay fever. The Hebrews would mix it with wine and consume it to raise their consciousness before religious rituals. Moses was told to take it with him when leaving Egypt so the Hebrews could use it for their worship. It is mentioned in the Quran, the Old and New Testaments, in both Roman and Greek texts, in Chinese papers and Ayurvedic texts aside from Egyptian papyrus. Pliny and Dioscorides both used it in salves. Young Persian women preparing to be introduced at court would use myrrh as part of their purification while the Israelite women would wear sachets of it to help mask body odor. Aphrodite, in Greek mythology, was believed to have forced her daughter Myrrha to have inappropriate relations with her father. The father was angered and turned his daughter into a myrrh tree. When the tree bloomed their child Adonis was born and the resin that exuded from the bark was said to be Myrrha's tears. (Only the Greeks can give us such lovely tales of life and love....sigh...:D).
Alexander the Great was said to be obsessed with myrrh and burned it iin his court almost incessantly. The essence of myrrh was distilled as early as 1540 and being used in ointments for wounds. The French created something similar to use it on cuts and burns but they also used it as a fumigant, an expectorant and for bronchitis and mucus discharge. Nicholas Lemery said it was good as an emmenogogue and to facilitate childbirth. He also used it for hernias. In 1765, Cartheuser reported in 'Matiere Medicale' that it was useful for skin problems and ulcers. It was also mixed with sage to strengthen gums and as an antiseptic for bad teeth. Ayurvedic medicine still uses it for that. Perhaps in modern times what it is most well known for is teeth and gums. Pharmaceutical medicine uses it in toothpastes, mouthwashes and various compounds. Vets use a compound tincture of it to heal wounds in horses. The gum has been used for colds, asthma, arthritis, coughs, indigestion, cancer, etc.
Multiple studies have been done on this herb. Science Daily did a test on myrrh using it for cancer in lab dishes. In 2001 they released their findings. The information stated that:
"As part of a larger search for anti-cancer compounds from plants, researchers obtained extracts from a particular species of myrrh plant (commiphora myrrha) and tested it against a human breast tumor cell line (MCF-7) known to be resistant to cancer drugs. Research data indicated that the extract killed ALL the cancer cells in laboratory dishes." (emphasis mine)
Yang Yifan (author of Chinese Herbal Medicines Comparison and Characteristics) stated that, "Myrrh is neutral and enters the liver meridians. Compared with frankincense, it is more bitter and its dispersing action is stronger. This herb is stronger than frankincense for breaking up congealed blood and is used not only in trauma and fracture, but also for hard masses, such as tumors."
Dr. Jiao Shude, a well known 20th century Chinese herbal doctor said that, "Myrrh, by contrast, (to frankincense) dissipates stasis to quicken the blood and also disperses swelling and settles pain." (In Chinese medicine myrrh and frankincense are almost always used together.)
Myrrh contains a substance called guggulsterones, which is reportedly effective on cholesterol. Guggulsterones inhibit the receptor FXR, a gene in the nucleus of liver cells, making cholesterol less absorbable by the intestines and easier to excrete by the liver.
Researchers from the University of Florence found myrrh to be an analgesic. They put mice on hot metal plates to test their pain tolerance. They found that the mice given myrrh did indeed have a higher pain thresh hold. They stated in their letter to 'Nature' that the tests, "...suggested that furanoendesma 1,3-diene may effect opiod receptors in brain membranes, which influence the perception of pain." Another group of scientists had similar findings. In that study, mice were given 500 mg/kg body weight of the extract oleo-gum resin from the commiphora molmol variety. That extract was also found to be antipyretic.
The Saudi Arabian Dept. of Pharmacology reported that taking myrrh before ingesting alcohol or NSAIDS protected the stomach from ulcergenic effects. It also protected against stomach lesions, the depletion of stomach wall mucus and hemorrhages.
Myrrh contains a hefty amount of sesquiterpenes which have been found to be effective against staph, candida, E. coli, and more.
In 2004, a study was conducted in Egypt on 1019 people who had parasitic infections. These particular parasites are resistant to a lot of modern treatments used for parasitic infestations. In this pilot study, a drug called Mirazid, derived entirely from myrrh, composed of eight parts resin and three point five parts oil, was given to the test subjects. They were given two capsules of 600 mg on an empty stomach one hour before breakfast for six days. They were examined three months after the treatment and were found to have a significant reduction in parasites (96-97%) as well as a marked reduction in eggs produced by said parasites. A similar study conducted on a different parasite showed the same results.
Another study, this one in New Jersey, found that myrrh inactivates the protein Bcl-2, which is overproduced by cancer cells in the breast and prostate. It also was found that myrrh inactivated MCF-7, another protein found in breast tumor cells and is resistant to traditional treatments. A similar study found myrrh to be comparable to the standard cytotoxic drug cyclophosphamide. (al-Hablai, et al., Anti-carcinogenic 337-347).
Research has shown myrrh to increase glucose tolerance in diabetics as well. It has been used for the many different maladies including rheumatism, arthritis, amenorrhea, dysmenorrhea, uterine tumors, circulatory issues, menopause, nervous system disorders, gingivitis, athlete's foot, eczema, hemorrhoids, ringworm, bronchitis, diarrhea, hypothyroidism, viral hepatitis, thrush, asthma, candida, etc. Something one should obviously consider for a home first aid kit.
WebMD cautions against using myrrh if pregnant or nursing as it can stimulate the uterus. WebMD also cautions those with diabetes on its use as myrrh can lower blood sugar and interfere with diabetic medications. Those with heart issues also are cautioned, as myrrh can increase one's heart rate. DO NOT TAKE MYRRH if scheduled for any surgical procedure (stop taking it at least two weeks prior to having surgery), have systemic inflammation, uterine bleeding or fever. Always consult a physician before using any herbal product.
As is customary with my posts I am including some links below for your perusal. Stay strong and healthy!