Myrrh has been used in aromatherapy since antiquity as an incense to inspire prayer and meditation and to fortify the spirit. This small, scrubby, spiny tree from the semidesert regions of the Middle East and North East Africa is not very handsome, but it makes up for its looks with the precious gum it exudes.

An important trade item for several thousand years, myrrh was a primary ingredient in ancient cosmetics and incenses. The Egyptians mummified their dead with it, while other cultures burned it in cremations. Believed to comfort sorrow, its name means “bitter tears.” This may also refer to the bitter-tasting myrrh sap, which oozes in tearlike drops when the tree’s bark is cut. Myrrh was added to wine by both the Greeks and Hebrews to heighten their sensual awareness. The yellow to amber-colored essential oil is distilled from the gum and frequently added to toothpastes and gum preparations to help alleviate mouth ulcers, gum inflammation, and infection.

Principal constituents of myrrh: Pinene, dipentene, heerabolene, limonene, cadinene, formic acid, acetic acid, myrrholic acid, eugenol, cinnamaldehyde, cuminaldehyde, plus resins

Scent of myrrh: It has a warm, spicy, bitter odor, with smoky and musky undertones.

Therapeutic properties of myrrh: Antiseptic, anti-inflammatory, antibacterial and antifungal, decongestant, astringent; heals wounds, brings on menstruation

Uses for myrrh: Myrrh is an expensive but effective treatment for chapped, cracked, or aged skin, eczema, bruises, infection, varicose veins, ringworm, and athlete’s foot. Included in many ointments, it dries weepy wounds. It is a specific remedy for mouth and gum disease and is found in many oral preparations, as it fights candida infections such as thrush. It is very helpful applied on herpes sores and blisters: Add it to a lip balm, using about 25 drops per ounce. Lozenges or syrup containing myrrh treat coughs. As an additional bonus, it increases the activity of the immune system. Herbalists and aromatherapists use myrrh to gradually regulate an overactive thyroid. It can also increase menstrual flow.

Warnings about myrrh: Due to a possible increase of thyroid activity, do not use myrrh if you have an overactive thyroid.

To learn more about Aromatherapy and other alternative medicines, see:

  • Aromatherapy: Learn about aromatherapy, how it works, what part essential oils play, and how to use aromatherapy.
  • Essential Oils Profiles: We have collected profiles of dozens of plants that are used to produce essential oils. On these pages, you will learn the properties and preparations for the most popular essential oils.
  • How to Treat Common Conditions With Aromatherapy: Aromatherapy can be used to treat a number of conditions, from asthma to depression to skin problems. Here you will learn how to treat some common medical problems with aromatherapy.
  • Home Remedies: We have gathered over a hundred safe, time-tested home remedies for treating a wide variety of medical complaints yourself.
  • Herbal Remedies: Herbal remedies and aromatherapy can be very similar, and they stem from similar historic roots. On this page, you will find all of our herb profiles and instructions for treating medical problems with herbal remedies.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Kathi Keville is director of the American Herb Association and editor of the American Herb Association Quarterly newsletter. A writer, photographer, consultant, and teacher specializing in aromatherapy and herbs for over 25 years, she has written several books, including Aromatherapy: The Complete Guide to the Healing Art and Pocket Guide to Aromatherapy, and has written over 150 articles for such magazines as New Age Journal, The Herb Companion, and New Herbal Remedies.

This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.