You may know myrrh from biblical stories, even if you’re not sure what it is.
Myrrh is a reddish-brown, dried sap of a thorny tree—Commiphora myrrha, also known as C. Molmol—is native to North East Africa and Southwest Asia.
The process of steam distillation is used to extract myrrh essential oil, which is amber to brown in color and has an earthy scent.
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Myrrh has been used in traditional Chinese medicine and Ayurvedic medicine for a long time. Scientists are now testing the potential uses of oil, including pain, infections, and skin sores.
Here are 11 science-based health benefits and the use of myrrh essential oil.
Kills Harmful Bacteria
Ancient Egyptians used myrrh and other essential oils to embalm mummies, as oils provide not only a sweet smell but also slow decay. Scientists now know it’s because oils kill bacteria and other microbes.
In addition, in biblical times, myrrh incense—often combined with frankincense—was burned in places of worship to help purify the air and prevent the spread of contagious diseases, including those caused by bacteria.
A recent study found that burning myrrh and frankincense incense reduced airborne bacteria by 68 per cent (6Trusted Source).
Preliminary animal research suggests that myrrh can directly kill bacteria, as well as stimulate the immune system to make more white blood cells, which also kill bacteria.
In test-tube studies, myrrh oil has strong effects against several infectious bacteria, including some drug-resistant ones.
In one test-tube study, myrrh oil at a low dilution of 0.1% killed all dormant Lyme disease bacteria, which can persist in some people after antibiotic treatment and continue to cause illness.
Still, more studies are needed to determine whether myrrh oil can treat persistent Lyme infections.
Helps Oral Health
Due to its antimicrobial properties, myrrh has traditionally been used to treat oral infections and inflammation.
Some natural mouthwashes and toothpaste contain myrrh oil, which is approved as a flavoring by the FDA (Source).
What’s more, when people with Behcet’s disease — an inflammatory disorder — used a myrrh mouthwash to treat painful mouth sores four times daily for a week, 50% of them had complete pain relief and 19% had complete healing of their mouth sores.
Test-tube studies suggest that mouthwash containing myrrh oil may also help gingivitis, which is inflammation of the gums around your teeth due to a buildup of plaque.
Yet, more studies are needed to confirm these benefits.
Keep in mind that you should never swallow myrrh oral-care products, as high doses of myrrh can be toxic.
Additionally, if you have oral surgery, it may be best to avoid myrrh mouthwash during healing. A test-tube study found that stitches — especially silk ones — can degrade when exposed to myrrh, though they held up in the doses typically found in mouthwash.
Skin Health – Help Heal Sores
Traditional uses of myrrh include treating skin wounds and infections. Today, scientists are testing these applications.
One test-tube study of human skin cells found that an essential oil blend containing myrrh helped heal wounds.
Another study noted that myrrh and other essential oils applied via baths helped mothers heal skin wounds from vaginal deliveries.
However, multiple oils were used simultaneously in these studies, so the individual effects of myrrh for wound healing are unclear.
Specific studies on myrrh oil are more telling.
A test-tube study on 247 different essential oil combinations found that myrrh oil mixed with sandalwood oil was especially effective at killing microbes that infect skin wounds.
Additionally, in one test-tube study, myrrh oil alone inhibited 43–61% of the growth of five fungi that cause skin conditions, including ringworm and athlete’s foot .
Human research is needed to confirm these benefits. However, if you want to try myrrh for general skin health, many natural ointments and soaps contain it. You can also apply diluted myrrh oil directly on your skin.
Combats Pain and Swelling
Myrrh oil contains compounds that interact with opioid receptors and tell your brain that you are not in pain. Myrrh also blocks the production of inflammatory chemicals that may lead to swelling and pain .
When people who were prone to headaches received a multi-ingredient supplement containing myrrh pain-relieving compounds, their headache pain decreased by about two-thirds in the six-month study.
Further research is needed in order to confirm these benefits. The supplement tested is not available in the US and it is not recommended to consume myrrh oil.
It is a powerful antioxidant
Myrrh may be a powerful antioxidant, a compound that fights oxidative damage.
Oxidative damage caused by free radicals contributes to aging and some diseases.
A test tube study found that myrrh oil was more effective than vitamin E, a powerful antioxidant, in the fight against free radicals.
In addition, in an animal study, myrrh oil helped protect the liver from lead-induced oxidative damage in direct proportion to the amount of myrrh given prior to lead exposure.
It is not known whether inhaling myrrh oil or applying it topically—which are two safe uses of myrrh oil for humans—helps protect your body from oxidative damage.
You may become infected with parasites from many sources, including pets, sexual activity and contaminated food or water.
Two common parasitic infections in the US include trichomoniasis, sexually transmitted disease, and giardiasis, an intestinal infection .
In a preliminary study, women who did not respond to standard drug treatment for trichomoniasis received an oral drug, Mirazid, made from myrrh sap and its essential oil. Approximately 85 percent of them have been cured of infection.
In addition, an animal study found that giardiasis was effectively treated with the same myrrh drug.
Some human research suggests that this myrrh drug also may be effective against the parasite Fasciola gigantica, which can cause liver and bile duct diseases. However, other studies failed to see a benefit.
Mirazid is not widely prescribed at this time.
Though more research is needed, myrrh and its oil may prove helpful for treating parasites, especially in cases of drug resistance. Ingesting myrrh oil is not advised, and long-term safety must be assessed.\
Other Potential Benefits
- Sunscreen: One test-tube study found that SPF 15 sunscreen with added myrrh oil was significantly more effective at blocking ultraviolet rays than the sunscreen alone. By itself, myrrh oil wasn’t as effective as the sunscreen.
- Cancer: Test-tube studies suggest that myrrh oil may help kill or slow the growth of cancer cells from the liver, prostate, breast, and skin. However, this hasn’t been tested in people.
- Gut health: One animal study indicates that myrrh compounds may help treat intestinal spasms related to irritable bowel syndrome. Another animal study suggests that myrrh may help treat.
- Mold: Test-tube studies note that myrrh oil may help kill mold, including Aspergillus niger, which commonly appears as mildew on damp walls, and A. flavus, which causes spoilage and mold contamination of food.
Ease of use
Myrrh oil can be inhaled, applied topically, or used for oral care. It should not be swallowed.
Due to the risk of skin irritation, it’s best to dilute myrrh oil in a carrier oil, such as jojoba, almond, grapeseed, or coconut oil. This also helps prevent the myrrh oil from evaporating too quickly.
In general, use 3–6 drops of essential oil per 1 teaspoon (5 ml) of carrier oil for adults. This is considered a 2–4% dilution. For children, use 1 drop of essential oil per 1 teaspoon (5 ml) of carrier oil, which is a 1% dilution.
You can also add a drop or two of myrrh oil to unscented lotion or moisturizer before you apply it to your skin. Some people add myrrh oil to products used for massage.
Avoid applying the oil to sensitive areas, including your eyes and inner ears. Wash your hands with soapy water after handling essential oils to avoid accidental exposure to delicate areas.
You can add 3–4 drops of myrrh oil to a diffuser to distribute the oil as a fine mist into the surrounding air.
If you don’t have a diffuser, you can simply place a few drops of the oil on a tissue or cloth and inhale periodically or add a few drops to hot water and inhale the steam.
One simple trick is to apply a few drops of myrrh oil to the cardboard tube inside a roll of toilet paper. When someone uses it, a bit of the aroma will be released.
The earthy aroma of myrrh oil blends well with spicy, citrus, and floral essential oils, such as frankincense, lemon, and lavender, respectively.
The combination of myrrh and frankincense is especially popular — not only because of their complementary scents but also because of their synergy, or interaction that produces even greater benefits.
In test-tube studies, combined myrrh and frankincense oils improved their effectiveness against infectious bacteria and other microbes. About 11% of this improvement was due to synergistic interactions of the oils.
Like other essential oils, myrrh oil is very concentrated, so you need only a few drops at a time. Avoid diffusing it close to babies and young children, because it’s uncertain how much they’re going to inhale and how much is safe.
In addition, no one should swallow myrrh oil as it may be toxic.
Some people should be particularly careful with myrrh oil and may need to avoid it completely. Bear this in mind if you are subject to any of the following conditions:
- Pregnancy and breastfeeding: Avoid myrrh oil if you’re pregnant, as it can cause uterine contractions and may trigger miscarriage. Also avoid myrrh oil if you’re breastfeeding, as its safety to your baby isn’t known.
- Blood-thinning drugs: Don’t use myrrh if you’re taking blood thinners, such as warfarin, as myrrh could decrease their effectiveness.
- Heart problems: Large amounts of myrrh may affect your heart rate, so use myrrh oil with caution if you have a heart condition.
- Diabetes: If you’re taking diabetes medication, keep in mind that myrrh may lower blood sugar. Therefore, this combination could potentially result in blood sugar that’s too low.
- Surgery: Myrrh may interfere with blood sugar control during and after surgery. Discontinue using myrrh products two weeks before surgery or as advised by your surgeon.