Just as its name implies, Myrrh gum, also known as myrrh resin or Mo Yao in Pinyin, comes from a shrub or tree that can bleeds out fragrant resin. This substance is typically used to produce myrrh essential oil, incense, and perfumes. Besides, it is also one of extraordinary Chinese herbs. Myrrh tastes bitter and somewhat burning. That’s to say, it is not even close to being delicious. However, it was once valued by the pharmaceutical industry and used as a hemostatic drug. If blended with wine, it can also ease pain. For that reason, the drink made of wine mingled with myrrh was ever offered to the Lord Jesus Christ when he was crucified upon the Holy Cross, according to Mark 15:23. In the east, it is highly regarded as an aromatic substance, spice and drug; the ancient Egyptians burned it in the temple and used it for embalming; Jews also anointed the body with myrrh; in the eyes of the Hebrews, myrrh is a precious spice. So, medicinally what is myrrh gum used for? How to use myrrh to avoid the side effects? Read on to find out the answers.
What is myrrh?
It refers to the oleoresin seeped through the bark of Commiphora myrrha Engl. (= C. molmol (Nees). Engl.) or other species of the genus Commiphora in the family Burseraceae. Other names of it include Resina Commiphorae Myrrhae, Myrrha, aka commiphora myrrha, balasmodendron myrrha, and so on. It is wild and cultivated. The yellowish white oleoresin bled from the bark cracks usually becomes solid and reddish brown because exposed in air. In China, it is usually collected from November to following February. When used in the medical application, the impurities should be removed. And it is generally used raw (smashed) externally and processed (fried or stir-baked with vinegar) internally.
This herb is mentioned in the Bible and there it may refer to one or two different species since both of them come from the same area and look quite alike to each other. These two species are native to Arabia, Somalia, Ethiopia and the coast of Somali in the East African coast. The myrrh produced there accounts for the most of the market share all around the world. Commiphora myrrha is a lush dwarf shrub or small tree. Branches are stout, still, and thorny. It grows in rocky areas, in particular in the limestone hill. Both the tree bark and sapwood have intense fragrance and the oleoresin will ooze naturally from the trunks and twigs.
It contains 25%-35% resin, 2.5%-9% volatile oil, and approximately 57%-65% gum. Most of the resin can be dissolved in ether. Insoluble part contains a- and β-heerabomyrrholic acid. Soluble part contains a-, β-, and γ-commiphoric acid, commiphorinic acid, a-, β-heerabomyrrhol, heeraboresene, and commiferin; volatile oil is prone to resinification when exposed in air. It contains eugenol, m-cresol, cuminaldehyde, pinene, limonene, cinnamic aldehyde, heerabolene, and a variety of furan sesquiterpene compounds; gum can be hydrolysed into arabinose, galactose and xylose.
Myrrh gum benefits
Myrrh has developed a reputation medicinally thanks to its extensive medicinal uses available. Here are the top 10 health benefits of myrrh.
1. It has long been considered as a magical medicine for abdominal and intestinal pain;
2. It is good at healing skin conditions like eczema and a wound, especially chronic wounds, as it has excellent bactericidal and anti-inflammatory effects;
3. Adding a little bit of myrrh oil in face cream and hand cream can protect your hands from chapped and treat frost-cracked and chapped skin;
4. It is effective in athletic foots since it is anti-fungal;
5. Its diluent is also used as a good vaginal lavage fluid to treat vaginitis. It can quickly relieve itching and other uncomfortable symptoms. But it works on the treatment of Candida vaginitis only;
7. It is beneficial to the gums too by quickly healing mouth ulcers and gum problems. For the reason, many famous brands of toothpaste add myrrh ingredient;
8. The steam inhalation can reduce excessive mucus, which is suitable for the treatment of chest infections, nose and throat catarrh, chronic bronchitis, colds, and sore throats.
9. It is an excellent fungicide, expectorant and astringent;
10. It regulates the entire digestive system and stimulates the stomach. Its diluent can treat diarrhea by just massaging it on abdomen and stomach in a clockwise direction.
Modern pharmacological actions of myrrh
1. It shows short-lived excitement, followed by inhibition on isolated uterine;
2. The part containing oil can lower lipid and prevent the formation of atherosclerotic plaques;
3. Its water extract has inhibition on a variety of fungi and its essential oil can mildly inhibit mold;
4. It has local irritant effect, which can excite the peristalsis.
Selected myrrh resin herbal remedies
The Chinese Materia Medica indicates that it is bitter in flavor and neutral in properties. It goes to meridians of liver, spleen, heart, and kidney. Main functions are promoting blood circulation to arrest pain, detumescence, and promoting tissue regeneration. Major myrrh uses and indications include thoracoabdominal pain due to stasis, amenorrhea, pelvic mass, wounds, carbuncle and sores, appendicitis, and swollen red eyes. Recommended dosage is from 3 to 10 grams in decoction, pills or powder. According to Ben Cao Gang Mu (the Compendium of Materia Medica), frankincense and myrrh is the perfect match in Chinese herbal medicine since both of them can relieve pain, decrease swelling, and promote tissue regeneration. More importantly, they supplement each other because the former is good at activating blood circulation while the latter is adept at removing blood stasis.
1. Mo Yao San from Xuan Ming Lun Fang (An Elucidation of Formulas). It combines with Ru Xiang (frankincense resin), Chuan Shan Jia (Pangolin Scales), and Mu Bie Zi (Momordicae Semen) to cure all heart pain and abdominal pain.
2. Duo Ming San from Shang Han Bao Ming Ji (The Saving-life Collection on Typhoid Fever). It couples with Xue Jie (Dragon’s Blood) to treat postpartum fainting, delirious speech, and forgetfulness.
3. Mo Yao Wan from Tai Ping Sheng Hui Fang (Taiping Holy Prescriptions for Universal Relief). It joins hand with Nao Sha (sal ammoniac), Gan Qi (Resina Toxicodendri), Gui Xin (Cinnamomi Cortex), etc. to cure menstrual stoppage.
4. She Hua Dan from Yang Yi Da Quan (Collections of Formulas for Treating Skin Diseases). It matched with frankincense, Chen Sha (cinnabar), Bing Pian (Borneol), She Xiang (musk), etc. to treat sores and swelling of unknown origin.
5. Xiao Du Mo Yao San from Sheng Ji Zhong Lu (The Complete Record of Holy Benevolence). It unites with Ming Fan (Alum), musk, Huang Fan (Fibroferrite), etc. to treat five types of anus hemorrhoids.
Myrrh gum side effects and contraindications
Myrrh gum has strong local irritant effect. Unprocessed or improperly processed one can cause oppression in chest, restless sleep, vomiting, abdominal pain, diarrhea, and so on. And the major adverse reactions of processed myrrh are allergies, manifested as discomfort of the whole body, facial flushing, skin rash, itching, etc. Hence, caution should be exerted when used in patients with dyspepsia. In addition, it shouldn’t be used during pregnancy. If the above-mentioned symptoms occur, myrrh should be discontinued immediately and then the corresponding anti-allergic treatment should be given to the patients.