Myrrh is a resinous secretion of the trees, which belongs to Commiphora species and Burseraceae family. Eastern Africa, Arabia, and India are the native place of Commiphora species and more than 150 different variety of this same species tress have abundantly grown in this area. Commiphora myrrha is one of such tress which has a rich source of Myrrh resin. The term Myrrh may derive from the Arabic word, 'murr' which means bitter. Native users have collected the resin from myrrh by making incisions into the bark. A yellowish oleoresin exudated from these bark incision marks. Exposure to air makes the resin dry and hardens, which then gradually turns to reddish-brown.
Myrrh is a common herbal medicinal ingredient in different cultural traditional medicinal systems. Traditional medicinal practitioners recommended myrrh to treat a variety of diseases including fever, skin infections, skin burn, ulcerative colitis, gall bladder ailments, amenorrhea, dysmenorrhea, chest ailments, and tumors. Usually, a combination of myrrh and frankincense resins together formulate different dosage form and used in different traditional medicinal systems, including Indian, Chinese, Babylon, Greek, Roman and many more.
- In different cultural practice, myrrh is used as a perfumery ingredient and added to incense.
- In the period of A.D. 600, Chinese traditional medicinal system had mentioned the usage of myrrh to treat inflammation, wound healing purposes, pain relief, and regularize menstrual flow and lessen the menstrual cramp occurs due to stagnation of blood flow.
- Since the time of Bible Myrrh is an important and common natural ingredient used to treat would healing purposes. Myrrh is often used in the dressing of wounds and also use in the rituals of the health purification of women.
- In Greece, soldiers had applied a poultice of myrrh on the wounds emerged during the war and they continue fighting in the battlefield.
Mechanism of action and Phytochemicals present in Myrrh
Myrrh containing resin, which is also known as myrrhin contains 23% to 40%. Myrrh also contains gum and the composition is almost 40% to 60%. The essential oil present in Myrrh is volatile. Myrrhol (the concentration varies from 2% to 8%) is one of the primary volatile oil. A bitter constituent of myrrh belongs to 10 to 25%.
All these phytochemicals serve different mechanism of action and exert many medicinal properties. Researchers acknowledged that terpenoids (especially furano-sesquiterpenes) and sesquiterpenoids combination exerts several beneficial effects.
The immunomodulatory effect and wound healing property of myrrh are obtained due to treatment with this herbal remedy significantly increase the total WBC count. The elevation of leukocyte, monocyte, lymphocyte, eosinophil, and neutrophil is gradually elevated during the treatment period with myrrh. Animal researchers concluded after conduction of a research study on rats that Myrrh has a potent immunomodulatory effect.
The anti-inflammatory effect of Myrrh occurs due to interference with cell signaling pathways and alter the release of selective cytokines.
The cytotoxic effect of myrrh against tumor cells leads to a reduction of one/more leukocyte cell types before instigation of injury. A recent research finding reported that the gum present myrrh has a potent anti-cancer against neuroblastoma cells.
Several terpenes containing phytochemicals like mansumbinone, 3,4-seco-mansumbinoic acid, β-elemene, and T-cadinol present in Myrrh have antibacterial effects. Presence of these constituents also provides antiseptic benefit.
Myrrh also has ulcer protective effect due to raising of mucus production at the gastro-intestinal site and also increase the non-protein sulfhydryls level at the ulcer site to heal the wound.
Myrrh contains a 2 to 8% volatile oil (myrrhol), 23 to 40%, resin (myrrhin), 40 to 60% gum, and a bitter principle 10 to 25%.
Different Dosage Forms
Myrrh is an essential ingredient of many herbal mixtures. There are traditional natural medicines, which contain different herbal mixture to treat pain relief. One of such herbal mixture contains Frankincense (9 g), Myrrha (9 g), Cassia Twig (9 g), Danshen Root (15 g), Cattail Pollen (10 g), Draconis Resin (6 g), Tangerine Seed (10 g). Following are some Chinese traditional medicines, which are locally available contain Myrrh as an active ingredient. These are as follows:
Yi Wei San (YWS)
Draconis Resin (30 g), Sanchi (30 g), Coix Seed (240 g), Appendiculate Cremastra Pseudobulb (240 g), Myrrha (80 g), Danshen Root (120 g), Thunberg Fritillary Bulb (150 g), Red Peony Root (150 g).
Qing Yi decoction
Danshen Root (20 g), Bulb Thunberg Fritillary (10 g), Frankincense (6 g), Myrrha (6 g), Sargentodoxa cuneata (30 g), Patrinia (15 g), Cassia bark (6 g), Yanhusuo (12 g), Tuber (12 g), Red Peony Root (12 g), Chinese Angelica (12 g), Peach Seed (10 g).
Uses of Myrrh
Extract of Myrrh having a high concentration of its bioactive phytochemical furanodienes has the potency to alleviate a headache. A clinical trial conducted in both male and female participants reported that Myrrh reduces the pain score of the subjects with a headache. This clinical trial also described that a minimum dose of Myrrh is effective to control headache.
Phytochemicals present in Myrrh is considered as a nutraceutical. Combination of Myrrh with other nutraceuticals obtained from different natural sources like ginkgo extracts Q10, vitamin B6, and riboflavin recommended for more than 6 months period can significantly reduce the headache intensity and frequency.
Joint Pain alleviation
Application of Myrrh extract to treat joint pain including osteoarthritis is an effective treatment. The analgesic property of Myrrh not only effective to control pain in the joints also reduces the stiffness. Therefore, patients with mild osteoarthritis get benefitted by application of Myrrh oil. Calcium is an important trace mineral required for bone health. Myrrh extract contains a sufficient amount of calcium which also helps to maintain bone health.
In China, Alternative medicine clinics are using a combination of Frankincense and Myrrh to treat pain symptoms. This combination also improves blood circulation and effective to treat inflammatory diseases including rheumatoid arthritis. The combination of Frankincense and Myrrh has synergistic pain reliving property and can suppress the progression of arthritis. This combination has a potent anti-inflammatory property which can modulate inflammatory cytokines expression level.
Muscle ache with joint pain symptom is a common distressing condition often associated with other ailments like a fever. This type of pain also occurs after strenuous physical activity. A clinical trial result reported 400mg of Myrrh extract is effective to treat muscle ache.
Apart from these, essential oil collected from myrrh has a potent analgesic property and combination of Frankincense essential oil blended with Myrrh oil provides a synergistic effect in pain-relieving effect.
Lower back pain
Back pain becomes a common pain symptom of this generation may arise due to improper postural issues, or strenuous physical activity. Instead of using frequent synthetic analgesic medication, Myrrh extract is an effective alternative treatment of lower back pain. The clinical trial result reported 400 mg of Myrrh extract is effective to treat the condition.