Commiphora myrrha (Myrrh) is a very famous plant particularly in the bible during the dawn of the Christian era. Remember, gold, frankincense and myrrh were the gifts of the wise men for the birth of Christ. The aromatic resin of myrrh was valued at least 2,000 years before Christ (Kowalchick, 1987). There is a Syrian legend, later adopted by the Greeks, associates myrrh with the goddess Myrrha, daughter of Thesis, the king of Syria; she was forced by Aphrodite to commit incest with her father and then escaped being murdered by him when the gods transformed her into a myrrh tree (Kowalchick, 1987). The drops of gum resin that come from cuts on the tree are said to be Myrrha's tears (Kowalchick, 1987).
According to the Bible, Moses was instructed to anoint priests with an oil that used myrrh as an ingredient (Kowalchick, 1987). The Egyptians employed myrrh in embalming fluids. It also was used as a cure for cancer, leprosy and syphilis (Kowalchick, 1987). Although such is the stuff of legend, myrrh does have some verifiable medicinal properties. It is also still valued as a perfume and incense ingredient (Kowalchick, 1987). The name comes from an ancient Hebrew and Arabic word, mur, meaning bitter (Houdret, 2002).
Myrrh has antiseptic, anti-inflammatory properties and encourages healing when applied to wounds, ulcers, boils and bleeding gums. A preparation is made from the bark for treating skin diseases (Houdret, 2002). In parts of Africa some species are chewed as a source of moisture and used for chewing teeth (Houdret, 2002). Myrrh also finds specific use in the treatment of infection in mouth as well as the catarrhal problems of pharyngitis and sinusitis (Hoffmann, 1996). It may also help with larygitis and respiratory complaints and it is often used as part of the treatment of the common cold (Hoffmann, 1996).
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Myrrh has been used as a stimulating tonic and to promote peristalsis (Kowalchick, 1987). It contains constituents that stimulate gastric secretions and relax the smooth muscles, but evidence of its effectiveness as an aid to digestion, a carminative, or an aid in chest or menstrual problems is either in doubt or unknown (Kowalchick, 1987). There is no experimental evidence to support claims made for it as an expectorant (Kowalchick, 1987).
Kowalchick, C., Hylton, W. H. (1987) Rodale's Illustrated Encyclopedia of Herbs. (United States: Rodale Press, Inc), 396.
Houdret, J, (2002) Herbs (New York, NY - Hermes House, Anness Publishing Inc.) pp 136
Hoffmann, D. (1996) The Complete Illustrated Herbal. (New York, NY: Barnes & Noble Inc,), 81