A practical guide for nutritional and traditional health care.
Commiphora molmol syn. C. myrrha
Myrrh is indigenous to Ethiopia and Somalia in Africa as well as the Arabian Peninsula and belongs to the small trees of the family Burseraceae. Basically, myrrh is said to be an oleo-gum-resin or a combination of capricious oil, gum and resin (a semi solid substance contained in the sap secreted by plants) and hence acquired from the Commiphora myrrha, Commiphora molmol (popularly known as the Somali myrrh), Commiphora mada, gascariensis (also known as the Abyssian myrrh or syn. C. abyssinica, and other different species of Commiphora. Myrrh comprises asymmetrical masses or tear-fashioned portions that are either reddish brown or dark yellow in color. These substances either radiate involuntarily or from the openings in the bark of the plants. The different varieties of the herb, like the Somali and Arabian myrrh, are termed according to their respective sources of origin.
Most present day herbal medicine practitioners recommend the use of myrrh as an antiseptic. Myrrh forms an important ingredient of an ointment that is applied externally to cure hemorrhoids or swollen anus veins, bed sores as well as wounds. The tincture prepared by steeping myrrh in alcohol is said to be an effectual oral astringent (a substance that tightens affected tissues) and is generally used as a mouthwash or for curing painful throat and other similar problems. Although internal use of myrrh is seldom recommended as the herb cannot be easily absorbed by the intestines, it is sometimes consumed to treat indigestion, ulcers and also alleviate bronchial congestions. At times, myrrh is also used by physicians as an emmenagogue to invigorate menstrual flow in cases of delayed menstrual cycles or insufficient menstruation. There are many people who advocate the use of myrrh for therapeutic use in problems such as cancer, leprosy and syphilis (a sexually transmitted disease), but there is no scientific or whatsoever evidence in this regard.
As mentioned earlier, that myrrh is said to be an oleo-gum-resin or a combination of capricious oil, gum and resin. And hence chemical analysis of myrrh has displayed that the herb encloses approximately eight per cent of a volatile oil, 25 to 40 per cent of resin and around 60 per cent of gum. It has been found that a variety of aldehydes (organic compounds) and phenolic ingredients (poisonous caustic compounds) present in the volatile oil enclosed in myrrh blend with the acidic elements in the resin to turn out a number of astringent and antiseptic effects in the oleogum-resin. The material properties of the gum and the resin are also found to bestow a defensive action on the blend. It may be noted here that though myrrh is present as an important constituent in numerous marketable mouthwashes, the herb is more extensively used as a fragrance in the manufacture of soaps, cosmetics and colognes. In addition, myrrh is also used as an ingredient to flavor food products like candy, baked goods and other such items. Significantly, in Germany, the authorities have permitted the use of myrrh powder and tincture for relevant treatment of minor oral inflammations and pharyngeal mucosa.
Since time immemorial, people have held myrrh in high esteem for its antiseptic as well as detoxifying properties. Myrrh is sour, spicy and astringent and the primary properties include warming and stimulating the body. For people who experience exhaustion and tiredness, myrrh may be used as a tonic to revitalize their system. In addition, myrrh is also known to enhance the blood circulation, drive out cold and any feebleness arising out of it. The herb is also effectual in pushing out eruptions as it draws the blood near the skin surface enabling to treat rashes as well as eruptive infections. Moreover, myrrh is helpful in lowering the body temperature during fevers. There are numerous other aspects of the herb that include enhancing the blood circulation to the reproductive system, alleviating spasm or muscle contractions and also controlling the menstrual cycle. Many physicians use myrrh during child birth as the herb effectively encourages uterus contraction and also alleviates pain.
On the other hand, myrrh is an effective medication to cure coughs and also removes the congestion or jamming of the respiratory system. The herb is particularly beneficial for treating bronchitis, asthma, cold and catarrh or running nose. The antiseptic property of myrrh is an additional bonus as this acts actively against all viral and bacterial infections, combat all other diseases as well as invigorates the body's immune (resistance) system. The astringent property of the herb aids in apprehending releases or discharges from the body, phlegm and persistent running nose.
The warming property of the herb in the digestive system invigorates the desire for food, enhances the flow of digestive juices, perks up digestion and at the same time, improves absorption. The herb has a unique quality to calm down as well as stimulate the stomach, relieve colic or stomach pain and spasm, wind and indigestion. In addition, the herb also relieves fatigue or exhaustion owing to poor digestion. The herb's action to augment digestion also helps in cleansing the digestive tract of all noxious substances as well as function as a remedy for common detoxification and anti-inflammation. This quality of myrrh is especially useful in treating arthritis, rheumatism (stiffness in joints and muscles) as well as gout (a disease that causes swollen joints). The herb's action against bacteria and fungi aids in containing infection and candidiasis (yeast infection) in the digestive system and also gets the intestines rid of all parasites.
Gum resin, essential oil.
Although scientists as well as physicians have established the astringent, antiseptic as well as the anti-microbial properties of myrrh, research into the medical actions of the herb so far cannot be said have been adequate. Since myrrh is not soluble in water, the herb cannot be used to prepare an infusion. Hence, it is usually consumed as a powder or tincture. Another important thing to remember is that myrrh also cannot be easily soaked in by the intestines and hence it is generally used externally like gargles to treat sore and inflamed throats.
Myrrh holds a place of importance in Ayurvedic medicine too. Ayurvedic medicine practitioners recommend myrrh as a tonic and also as an aphrodisiac (a substance that stimulates sexual urge). In addition, they use the myrrh to purify the blood from toxic substances. It may be noted here that myrrh is also reputed to possess properties that enhances mental power. In India as well as in the Middle East, the herb is also used to treat problems of the mouth, gum, throat and the digestive system. Myrrh is also beneficial for curing irregular and excruciating menstruation.
Herbal medicine practitioners worldwide have now accepted that myrrh is one of the most effectual medicines in the world to cure aching throats, canker sores and gingivitis (infections in the gum around the tooth). The tincture prepared with myrrh may be diluted with water to be used as a gargle to aid in combating infections and inflammations as well as make tighter the exaggerated tissues. When applied externally, myrrh's astringent (a substance that pulls tissues closer) and antiseptic properties help in treating acne and boils. It is also beneficial for treating inflammatory skin problems. In Germany, physicians use myrrh to treat pressure sores caused due prosthetic or artificial limbs owing to the herb's dehydrating and mild pain killing properties.
Other medical uses
Habitat and cultivation
The myrrh has its origin in the northeastern parts of Africa, particularly Somalia. However, over the years, myrrh is presently found in other countries like India, Saudi Arabia, Ethiopia, Iran and even Thailand. Myrrh grows naturally in dense undergrowths or thickets and thrives well where the drainage of the soil sound and prefers ample sunlight. Normally, myrrh propagates from the plant's seeds during spring. However, it also grows from the plant's cuttings at the fag end of the budding period. The semi solid substance secreted by the cut branches of myrrh is collected and dehydrated for use.
Myrrh as well its extracts can be taken in tincture form. Even capsules containing myrrh extracts are available in the drug stores now. Normally, the tincture prepared with myrrh is taken in quantities of one to two ml thrice daily. The tincture may also be applied externally to alleviate painful canker sores as well as to treat athlete's foot. It is not possible to prepare tea with myrrh owing to its sticky characteristic. Herbal practitioners also recommend usage of capsules containing one gram of myrrh resin thrice daily.
Side effects and cautions
Myrrh is said to be a safe medication and so far there has been no complaints regarding adverse affects following the use of the herb.
Myrrh is basically a useful herb and has various applications. The herb can be used as tincture, capsules, gargle or mouthwash, douche, powder, essential oils as well as a chest rub.
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