Myrrh is a small shrub-like tree that grows to a height of 20-30 feet (6-9 meters). Belonging to the family Burseraceae, it is indigenous to Arabia, in particular Yemen, and to parts of northeast Africa, including Somalia and Ethiopia. The tree has white flowers and aromatic leaves. The trunk exudes a yellow liquid resin that hardens into solid reddish-colored droplets. Resin collectors make incisions in the trunk of the tree to encourage it to produce larger quantities. (Myrrh oil)
Myrrh, one of the gifts that the three wise men brought from the East for the Christ child, has been used since ancient times in religious ceremonies and is an ingredient of incense. The ancient Egyptians used myrrh for embalming their dead. In herbal medicine, myrrh has a history of use as a tonic, with astringent and healing properties. It was also used as an expectorant and as a treatment for various gastric and oral problems and skin problems.
Myrrh oil is obtained by steam distillation from the resin that is exuded from the tree. It is golden to amber in color and has a sweetish spicy, medicinal smell. It has strong antiseptic and healing properties. When used in the treatment of respiratory disorders, either in massage or in steam inhalation, its anti-inflammatory, anticatarrhal and expectorant properties can benefit coughs, bronchitis and sore throats. It can also be used in mouthwashes and gargles to treat gingivitis, mouth ulcers and oral thrush.
The effects of myrrh oil on the digestive system are stimulating. Used in massage, myrrh can help ease flatulence and stimulate appetite. It can also be used in the treatment of diarrhoea.
In skin care, either in the bath or in lotions or compresses, myrrh can be used as an antiseptic and anti-inflammatory agent. It works well on cracked and inflamed skin and can be used as a treatment for fungal infections such as athlete’s foot and ringworm. In baths it can be used for the treatment of leucorrhoea and vaginal thrush. Myrrh is also thought to benefit ageing skin.
Myrrh oil is warming and relaxing and can be useful in the treatment of stress and depression. It is also used as an aid to meditation.
Myrrh oil is used in the cosmetics industry as an ingredient in soaps, cosmetics and perfumes. The pharmaceutical industry uses it in the production of oral preparations such as toothpastes and mouthwashes. It is also used in dentistry.
Suitable methods of use
- Skin care
Myrrh oil is nonirritant and nontoxic when used externally. Warning: Do not swallow mouthwash. Not to be used in pregnancy.