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Myrrh Essential Oil

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General Description

Myrrh essential oil is extracted from the aromatic oleo-gum resin of Commiphora, [1] droughttolerant thorny tree species native to the tropical forest, desert, and woodland areas of Africa, Arabian Peninsula, India, and South America. [2] Commiphora trees, especially the species C. myrrha (or C. molmol), are deliberately wounded through the bark and into the sapwood to let the tree bleed a resin, which is the yellowish waxy myrrh gum that becomes hard and glossy post-harvest. [1]

Myrrh essential oil is distinctively appreciated for its warm, medium-strength, spicy, balsamic aroma and uplifting, revitalizing, and soothing effect. It varies in color from yellow, to amber, to greenish-brown and is used in aromatherapy as an aid in meditation or before healing, owing to its spirituality-enhancing effect. [3]



Uses and Reported Benefits

The use of myrrh for its medicinal properties dates back to biblical times. Myrrh has long been cherished for its circulatory, disinfectant, analgesic, antirheumatic, antidiabetic, and schistosomicidal properties. [4] But the list just doesn't stop here. Myrrh essential oil is also known for its putative antimicrobial, antifungal, astringent and healing, tonic, carminative, stomachic, anti-catarrhal, expectorant, diaphoretic, vulnerary, immune stimulant, anti-inflammatory, and antispasmodic actions. [3] More than just one of the gifts to the then-infant Jesus Christ by the biblical Three Wise Men from the east, as mentioned in the Gospel of Matthew, myrrh holds a centuries-old medical reputation in being a natural drug to treat pain, skin infections, inflammatory conditions, diarrhea, and periodontal diseases. [5] It is also perfect as treatment for indigestion, ulcers, colds, cough, asthma, lung congestion, arthritis pain, and syphilis and can be orally applied for soreness and swelling, inflamed gums, loose teeth, canker sores, bad breath, and chapped lips. It is also used as a stimulant and as an agent to increase menstrual flow. [6]

In traditional Chinese medicine, myrrh is referred to as "mo yao" and is used to invigorate the blood; reverse blood stasis; and lessen the swelling and diminish the pain from trauma, sores, carbuncles, abdominal masses, painful obstruction, and amenorrhea. By improving the circulation and promoting excellent blood flow, myrrh is said to be able to treat a variety of conditions according to Chinese beliefs. [7]

Ayurveda, the traditional medicine system of India, which holds distinction in being one of the oldest surviving comprehensive herbal medicine systems on Earth, claims myrrh to be an effective treatment for gingivitis, digestive disorders, athlete's foot, mouth ulcers, cold sores, common cold or sore throat, ulcerative colitis, and amenorrhea. Myrrh is referred to in Ayurvedic medicine as "bola" and is described in the said herbal medicine system as "of hot temperature" with bitter, astringent, and pungent characteristics. [8]



Contraindications and Safety

The use of myrrh essential oil is generally safe for most people, particularly when used in small recommended amounts. However, incorrect doses or large doses may result in skin rash and diarrhea; in fact, amounts exceeding 2-4 g may lead to kidney irritation and abnormal alterations in heart rate. [6]

A few special group of individuals need to be cautious in using myrrh essential oil. At best, a medical practitioner or expert should be consulted prior to use for safety's sake. Pregnant and breast-feeding women must not use myrrh essential since harmful effects have been documented during pregnancy and not much is known about the safety of myrrh application when lactating. Myrrh is thought to stimulate the uterus and hence to induce a miscarriage. Those who are on diabetes medications and warfarin (Coumadin) need to be aware that myrrh essential oil may interact with these drugs, causing undesirable consequences. On the one hand, myrrh might decrease one's blood sugar level. The blood sugar-lowering effect of diabetes medications - such as glimepiride (Amaryl), glyburide (DiaBeta), insulin, and pioglitazone (Actos) - may be extremely potentiated by myrrh essential oil to the point that the blood sugar level may be now too low. On the other hand, myrrh essential oil might interfere with the action of warfarin (Coumadin), an anticoagulant. [6]

Scientific Studies and Research

To date, several current studies have provided supporting evidence on the significant antiseptic, anesthetic, and antitumor properties of myrrh, and more clinical trials are yet to validate the role of myrrh as an antineoplastic and antiparasitic agent and as an adjunct to wound healing. [5]

Wanner et al. (2010) demonstrated the antibacterial and inhibitory effect of myrrh essential oil against eleven different strains of Gram-positive and Gram-negative bacteria using agar diffusion and agar serial dilution methods. [9] Myrrh essential oil alone possesses promising antimicrobial activity, but when used in combination with frankincense essential oil, such activity is dramatically enhanced, as illustrated by the study of de Rapper et al. (2012). In this study, frankincense and myrrh essential oils separately were efficacious against Cryptococcus neoformans and Pseudomonas aeruginosa. In combination however, Bacillus cereus had become most susceptible to the synergistic action of the oils studied. [10] Trichomoniasis vaginalis, the anaerobic, flagellated protozoan responsible for trichomoniasis, is susceptible as well to myrrh extracts (in vivo). [11]

At a dose of 500 mg/kg body weight, a petroleum ether extract of myrrh from the species Commiphora molmol has been found to exert inhibitory actions against carrageenan-induced inflammation and cotton pellet granuloma, not to mention significant antipyretic activity in mice. [12]

The antibacterial and anti-inflammatory potential of myrrh in sepsis has been explored to some extent. The results from the study of Kim et al. (2012) reveal the effect of myrrh on peritoneal macrophages and clinically relevant models of septic shock, such as cecal ligation and puncture (CLP). Lipopolysaccharide induces the production of inflammatory mediators such as nitric oxide, prostaglandin E2, and tumor necrosis factor-α, but myrrh appears to suppress such production as well as the activation of c-jun NH2-terminal kinase. In their study, Kim et al. (2012) used CLP as the septic shock model to induce mortality and liver damage. Myrrh treatment was able to decrease the mortality and bacterial counts and to ameliorate the liver damage, as evidenced by decreased infiltration of leukocytes and aspartate aminotransferase/alanine aminotransferase level. [13]

What also interests the medical profession to date about myrrh essential oil is its potential use in cancer therapy as a nonmutagenic, antioxidative, and cytotoxic agent. A Saudi Arabian study once had determined that myrrh from C. molmol has pronounced cytotoxic and antitumor activities in Ehrlich ascites carcinoma cell-bearing mice - activities that were identified as equivalent to that of cyclophosphamide, a standard cytotoxic drug. [14]

Molecular Components and Chemistry

The chief components of myrrh essential oil, as determined and quantified through gas chromatography-mass spectrometry conducted in the study of Marongiu, Piras, Porcedda, and Scorciapino (2005), are as follows: furanoeudesma-1,3-diene (34.9%), lindestrene (12.9%), curzerene (8.5%), and germacrone (5.8%). [15]

References

[1] Myrrh. Wikipedia. Retrieved 6 May 2013 from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Myrrh

[2] Daly D. C., Harley M. M., Mart"nez-Habibe M. C., & Weeks A. (2011). Burseraceae. In K. Kubitzki (Eds.), The families and genera of vascular plants (Vol. 10, pp. 76-104). New York: SpringerVerlag. Retrieved 6 May 2013 from http://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007%2F978-3-642-14397-7_7#page-2

[3] Myrrh 100% Pure Therapeutic Grade Essential Oil- 5 ml. Edens Garden. Retrieved 6 May 2013 from http://www.amazon.com/Myrrh-100-Therapeutic-Grade-Essential/dp/B005CD2A08

[4] Etman M., Amin M., Nada A. H., Shams-Eldin M., & Salama O. (2011). Emulsions and rectal formulations containing myrrh essential oil for better patient compliance. Drug Discoveries & Therapeutics, 5(3): 150-156. Retrieved 6 May 2013 from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22466245

[5] Nomicos E. Y. (2007). Myrrh: medical marvel or myth of the Magi? Holistic Nursing Practice, 21(6): 308-323. Retrieved 6 May 2013 from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17978635

[6] Find a vitamin or supplement: Myrrh. WebMD, LLC. Retrieved 6 May 2013 from http://www.webmd.com/vitamins-supplements/ingredientmono-570-myrrh.aspx?activeIngredientId=570&activeIngredientName= myrrh&source=1

[7] Mo Yao (Myrrh) - Chinese Herbal Medicine. Yin Yang House. Retrieved 6 May 2013 from http://www.yinyanghouse.com/theory/herbalmedicine/mo_yao_tcm_herbal_database

[8] Khalsa K. P. S. & Tierra M. (2008). Myrrh. In The way of Ayurvedic herbs: The most complete guide to natural healing and health with traditional Ayurvedic herbalism (p. 161). WI, USA: Lotus Press. Retrieved 6 May 2013 from http://books.google.com.ph/books?id=fOK33vv_29UC&pg=PA161

[9] Wanner J. et al. (2010). Chemical composition and antibacterial activity of selected essential oils and some of their main compounds. Natural Product Communications, 5(9): 1359-1364. Retrieved 6 May 2013 from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20922991

[10] de Rapper S., Van Vuuren S. F., Kamatou G. P., Viljoen A. M., & Dagne E. (2012). The additive and synergistic antimicrobial effects of select frankincense and myrrh oils--a combination from the pharaonic pharmacopoeia. Letters in Applied Microbiology, 54(4): 352-358. doi: 10.1111/j.1472-765X.2012.03216.x. Retrieved 6 May 2013 from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22288378

[11] El-Sherbiny G. M. & el Sherbiny E. T. (2011). The effect of Commiphora molmol (myrrh) in treatment of Trichomoniasis vaginalis infection. Iranian Red Crescent Medical Journal, 13(7): 480-486. Retrieved 6 May 2013 from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3371981/

[12] Tariq M. et al. (1986). Anti-inflammatory activity of Commiphora molmol. Agents and Actions, 17(3-4): 381-382. Retrieved 6 May 2013 from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/3485893/

[13] Kim M. et al. (2012). Myrrh inhibits LPS-induced inflammatory response and protects from cecal ligation and puncture-induced sepsis. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 2012: 278718. Retrieved 6 May 2013 from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3151005/

[14] Qureshi S. et al. (1993). Evaluation of the genotoxic, cytotoxic, and antitumor properties of Commiphora molmol using normal and Ehrlich ascites carcinoma cell-bearing Swiss albino mice. Cancer Chemotherapy and Pharmacology, 33(2): 130-138. Retrieved 6 May 2013 from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8261571

[15] Marongiu B., Piras A., Porcedda S., & Scorciapino A. (2005). Chemical composition of the essential oil and supercritical CO2 extract of Commiphora myrrha (Nees) Engl. and of Acorus calamus L. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, 53(20): 7939-7943. Retrieved 6 May 2013 from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16190653

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