Myrrh Essential Oil
Myrrh (Commiphora myrrha) is a yellow, fragrant oleo-gum resin with a famous and historic past. It originates from the Burseraceae plant family, which includes over 200 species native to India, Africa, and the Arabian Peninsula.1
Myrrh essential oil is derived from the damaged bark of Commiphora genus.1 After cutting the bark of the tree, the exposed resin is allowed to solidify and is then harvested off the bark. Myrrh essential oil is then produced by the steam distillation of the collected resin.
Traditionally, myrrh is known as one of the three things (frankincense, gold, and myrrh) that the three wise men brought to baby Jesus. Myrrh essential oil has been valuable for many centuries due to its wide variety of uses.
In more recent times, several studies have reported the therapeutic powers of myrrh essential oil, including exhibiting cytotoxic, anti-inflammatory, anticancer, antimicrobial and anesthetic activities.1
Myrrh Essential Oil Uses
Myrrh essential oil is valuable and has a long history of use in aromatherapy, massage, and topical application. While many of these are still prevalent today, below, we highlight some modern takes on myrrh’s traditional uses.
The aromatic scent of myrrh essential oil has been reported to help relieve stress and provide relief for upper respiratory infections. Add 3-5 drops of the essential oil into a diffuser. It can be used by itself or blended with frankincense, lavender, or sandalwood essential oil.
Alternatively, place a few drops of myrrh essential oil into your hands and place them over your nose and inhale. Avoid contact with eyes.
Known to have anti-inflammatory properties, myrrh essential oil can be used to make a homemade, massage oil. Mix 1-4 drops of myrrh essential oil with a carrier oil like jojoba, almond, grapeseed, or coconut before massaging. The essential oil can also be mixed with unscented, commercial body moisturizer instead of a carrier oil.
Help relax and soothe muscles by blending a few drops of myrrh essential oil into your next bath. Add one cup of Epsom salt for a therapeutic experience. For showering, add 1-2 drops to an unscented body wash and apply over the skin.
With both antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties, add a 2-4 drops of myrrh essential oil to a cool, wet towel to create a homemade compress. A cold compress can be utilized to cool an injured area and may help relieve skin sores and wounds.
Benefits of Myrrh Essential Oil
As an emerging field of research, myrrh essential oil has been shown to have anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antifungal, antiviral, antibacterial, anti-parasitic and anti-cancer properties that benefit human ailments.
While further research is required to understand the full range of mechanisms and benefits, there are several studies which have shown promising results for the essential oil. Below are the benefits of myrrh essential oil based on the recently published studies.
Possible Inflammatory Bowel Disease Relief
Due to its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, myrrh essential oil is commonly used for the treatment of inflammatory bowel diseases, such as ulcerative colitis (UC) and Crohn’s disease. A 2016 study published in Experimental and Therapeutic Medicine studied the effects of myrrh on an animal model.
They concluded that the potent therapeutic value of myrrh helped protect against oxidative and inflammatory responses common with UC. Myrrh’s antioxidant properties also helped block free radical production.2 These positive results show promise for more research on the properties of myrrh essential oil, and how they may be used to potentially benefit human IBD.
The composition and potential anti-cancer activities of myrrh essential oil was investigated in a study published in Oncology Letters in 2013. 76 components were identified in myrrh essential oil and some specific components are capable of inducing cancer cell apoptosis.3 Apoptosis is a process of programmed cell death, a normal process by which cells die and are eliminated from tissue.
Another study published in 2011 suggested that the extracts and compounds from myrrh might be useful for preventing human gynecologic cancer disease.1
Note: While this preliminary research shows promising results, essential oils still require more scientific research prior to being considered for use in alternative cancer treatments. Patients should not use essential oils to replace mainstream cancer treatments.
In 2014, researchers in Republic of Korea conducted the screening of 83 essential oils and found that black pepper essential oil, ylang ylang essential oil, and myrrh essential oil were most effective against persistent Staphylococcus aureus infections. The S. aureus bacteria is the common cause of several unpleasant skin infections and food poisoning.4
Over 20 years ago, myrrh was one of the most common antibiotics used to treat acne in India. Gugulipid, a resin extract from the mukul myrrh (Commiphora wightii) tree, was tested alongside tetracycline on 20 patients with acne. The average reduction in the inflammatory lesions was similar, but patients with oily faces responded remarkably better to the natural gugulipid.5
In a 2016 study, researchers noted myrrh essential oil demonstrated antifungal activity against the most common cause of fungal infections, Candida spp. Candida albicans, also known as a Candida yeast infection, is most commonly found in the mouth, intestinal tract, and vagina. It is a leading cause of vaginal yeast infections and oral thrush. The genus Candida may cause infections and can be life-threatening to patients with AIDS, cancer and diabetes.6
Another study published in 2015, confirmed the antifungal activity of myrrh essential oils against skin dermatophytes. Dermatophytes are the fungi that can cause infections of the skin, hair, and nails. These fungi require keratin for growth and are spread by direct contact from other people, animals, and soil.7
Results indicate that myrrh essential oil was able to inhibit growth against several fungus strains by 43.1–61.6%. The topical use of myrrh may help decrease the inflammation of infected skin.7
As fungus infections grow more resistant to traditional antimicrobials, essential oils may prove to a be a promising field for future alternative approaches.
Fascioliasis is a disease caused by Fasciola parasite (a liver fluke). A 2001 study noted that myrrh essential oil was an effective tool in the treatment of fascioliasis. Patients orally ingested a formulation of myrrh that combined the oil and resin for three weeks.
Results noted that both side effects and symptoms were eliminated, liver enzymes returned to normal levels and an overall improvement in the condition of patients.8
Myrrh has also been tested as an alternative remedy for Trichomoniasis vaginalis infection. In a 2011 clinical study involving 33 women, researchers concluded that the Commiphora molmol (myrrh) extracts demonstrated therapeutic effects and may one day be valuable agents against the infection.9
Note: The myrrh-based treatment was given only after a thorough assessment of a patient’s medical history and performing a careful clinical examination. It is not recommended to ingest essential oils unless under the direct supervision of a qualified professional.
Gastric Ulcer Protection
The myrrh extract of Commiphora opobalsamum was evaluated against various gastric ulcers in animal models. The extract showed protective effects in all the ulcer models without any apparent adverse effects.10
Side Effects of Myrrh Essential Oil
The use of myrrh essential oil is generally considered safe and well-tolerated by most individuals. For topical application, myrrh essential oil should always be diluted in a carrier oil or cream.
Essential oils are highly concentrated, and can be toxic if ingested. Never consume essential oils unless under the direction supervision of a health care provider.
Pregnant and breastfeeding women should not use myrrh essential oils as it may overstimulate the uterus, potentially inducing miscarriage.11 Do not use myrrh essential oil on small children as side effects are currently unknown.
Scientific Research Referenced in this Article
- Su, S., Wang, T., Chen, T., Duan, J.A., Yu, L., & Tang, Y. (2011). Cytotoxicity activity of extracts and compounds from Commiphora myrrha resin against human gynecologic cancer cells. Journal of Medicinal Plants Research, 5(8), 1382-1389. http://academicjournals.org/article/article1380545334_Su%20et%20al.pdf
- Fatani, A.J., Alrojayee, F.S., Parmar, M.Y., Abuohashish, H.M., Ahmed, M.M., & Al‑Rejaie, S.S. (2016). Myrrh attenuates oxidative and inflammatory processes in acetic acid-induced ulcerative colitis. Experimental and Therapeutic Medicine, 730-738. DOI: 10.3892/etm.2016.3398
- Chen, Y., Zhou, C., Ge, Z., Liu, Y., Liu, Y., Feng, W., Li, S., Chen, G., & Wei, T. (2013). Composition and potential anticancer activities of essential oils obtained from myrrh and frankincense. Oncology Letters, 1140-1146. DOI: 10.3892/ol.2013.1520
- Lee, K., Lee, J.H., Kim, S.I., Cho, M.H., & Lee, J. (2014). Anti-biofilm, anti-hemolysis, and anti-virulence activities of black pepper, cananga, myrrh oils, and nerolidol against Staphylococcus aureus. Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology, 98(22), 9447-9457. DOI: 10.1007/s00253-014-5903-4
- Thappa, D.M., & Dogra, J. (1994). Nodulocystic Acne: Oral Gugulipid versus Tetracycline. The Journal of Dermatology, 21(10), 729-731. DOI: 10.1111/j.1346-8138.1994.tb03277.x
- Nikolic, M., Smiljkovic, M., Markovic, T., Cirica, A., Glamoclija, J., Markovic, D., & Sokovic, M. (2016). Sensitivity of clinical isolates of Candida to essential oils from Burseraceae family. EXCLI Journal, 15, 280-289. doi: 17179/excli2014-621
- Mahboubi, M., & Kashani, L.M.T. (2015). The anti-dermatophyte activity of Commiphora molmol. Pharmaceutical Biology, 720-725. http://dx.doi.org/10.3109/13880209.2015.1072831
- Massoud, A., Sisi, S.E., Salama, O., & Massoud, A. (2001). PRELIMINARY STUDY OF THERAPEUTIC EFFICACY OF A NEW FASCIOLICIDAL DRUG DERIVED FROM COMMIPHORA MOLMOL (MYRRH). J. Trop. Med. Hyg., 65(2), 96–99. Retrieved from http://www.ajtmh.org/content/65/2/96.long
- El-Sherbiny, G.M., & El-Sherbiny, E.T. (2011). The Effect of Commiphora molmol (Myrrh) in Treatment of Trichomoniasis vaginalis infection. Iran Red Crescent Med J., 13(7), 480–486. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3371981/#R52
- Al-Howiriny, T., Al-Sohaibani, M., Al-Said, M., Al-Yahya, M., El-Tahir, K., & Rafatullah, S. (2005). Effect of Commiphora opobalsamum (L.) Engl. (Balessan) on experimental gastric ulcers and secretion in rats. Journal of Ethnopharmacology, 98(3), 287-294. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jep.2005.01.034
- Mazzio, E.A., & Soliman, K.F.A. (2009). In Vitro Screening for the Tumoricidal Properties of International Medicinal Herbs. Phytother Res., 23(3), 385-398. doi: 1002/ptr.2636