One of the first aromatic substances valued on a purely sensual level, Myrrh's use has been documented as far back as 4,000 years ago. Its extraction from the solitary tree in the desert represents strength in harsh conditions. Myrrh essential oil is highly prized for both its healing and spiritual abilities; it has one of the highest sesquiterpene contents. It is an effective meditation and yoga aid, uplifting and opening, instilling a deep tranquility of the mind.
Myrrh was highly prized by the ancient Egyptians and used for many ritual and spiritual purposes, from incense in religious ceremonies to embalming. It was also an important ingredient in the famous perfume ‘kyphi’ and used in facial preparations to smooth wrinkles and rejuvenate the skin. It also has a cooling effect on the skin, which was beneficial in the hot Egyptian climate. Many people know of myrrh from the bible as one of the prized gifts given to the baby Jesus and myrrh is also mentioned in the Koran and in ancient Greek and Roman texts. Myrrh is known in traditional Chinese medicine as a remedy for pain, wounds, and bleeding conditions.1
Therapeutic Properties Described in The Aromatherapy Literature
From The Complete Guide to Aromatherapy1:
- Anticatarrhal, Anti-inflammatory, Antimicrobial, Astringent, Balsamic, Carminative, Expectorant, Fungicidal, Sedative, Digestive, Stomachic, Tonic
- Astringent properties on mucous membranes
- Beneficial for mature or chapped skin
- Imparts the spirit with “inner stillness and peace, of an awareness free from restlessness and the mundane”
From Aromatherapy for the Emotions2:
- “known as the oil of mystery and antiquity”
- Revitalizing, purifying, sedative, and restorative qualities
- Inspires positivity and boosts morale
Myrrh in Research
Myrrh and Frankincense have long been used for their medicinal properties, particularly in the realm of pain-relief. Recent research on these ancient substances has served to validate some of their traditional medicinal uses. Studies have found that myrrh certainly does have analgesic (pain-relieving) properties3, as well as antibacterial4, antioxidant5, and anti-cancer activities6.
Summary of Research Studies
- Two of the main components from myrrh essential oil, furanoeudesma-1,3-diene and curzarene, had significant pain-relieving effects in mice.3
- Myrrh oil was found to work in synergy with Frankincense (Boswelia papyrifera) as an antibacterial.4
- Myrrh essential oil was shown to have strong antioxidant and free radical scavengin activity in vitro.5
- Myrrh essential oil induced cell death in certain types of cancer cells and may have potential as a cancer fighting agent.6
Myrrh essential oil is a non-toxic, non-sensitizing, non-irritant. Physicians in ancient medicine considered it an abortifacient. It is strongly recommended that it not be used during pregnancy.
1 Battaglia, Salvatore. The Complete Guide to Aromatherapy. International Centre of Holysitc Aromatherapy, 2003.
2 Thompson, Kylie. Aromatherapy for the Emotions. Lulu.com, 2005.
3 Freese, Brett Leslie. “Medicinal Myrrh.” Archaeology: Newsbriefs, vol. 49, no. 3, 1996.
4 De Rapper, S., et al. “The Additive and Synergistic Antimicrobial Effects of Select Frankincense and Myrrh Oils - a Combination from the Pharaonic Pharmacopoeia.” Letters in Applied Microbiology, vol. 54, no. 4, Apr. 2012, pp. 352–358., doi:10.1111/j.1472-765x.2012.03216.x.
5 Mohamed, Amal A., et al. “Chemical Composition of Essential Oil and in Vitro Antioxidant and Antimicrobial Activities of Crude Extracts of Commiphora Myrrha Resin.” Industrial Crops and Products, vol. 57, June 2014, pp. 10–16., doi:10.1016/j.indcrop.2014.03.017.
6 Chen, Yingli, et al. “Composition and Potential Anticancer Activities of Essential Oils Obtained from Myrrh and Frankincense.” Oncology Letters, vol. 6, no. 4, Oct. 2013, pp. 1140–1146., doi:10.3892/ol.2013.1520.