MYRRH GUM (Commiphora myrrha)

Latin: Commiphora myrrha, Commiphora molmol
Sanskrit: Daindhava
Chinese: Mo yao

WHAT IT DOES: Myrrh gum is bitter in taste, aromatic, and cooling in action.  It invigorates the blood and reduces pain and swelling caused by blood stasis.


SAFETY ISSUES: Do not use if pregnant.  Do not use with excessive uterine bleeding.  Do not use in high doses with evidence of kidney disease or stomach pain. Best used as 5% or less of a comprehensive formula with other herbs.
• Dried gum powder: one to three grams per day
• Concentrated dried decoction extract: 250-750 mg per day

Myrrh gum has an intense dark color, reflecting its medicinal potency.  It exerts a strong and certain action against specific types of pain and swelling, such as that of rheumatoid arthritis.  It is strong enough to soften hard swellings,  carbuncles and fibrosis.  Like all plant resins, myrrh can also lower blood cholesterol levels by binding to lipids (Michie and Cooper, 1991; reported in Bensky and Gamble, 1993).  Biblical references to “frankincense and myrrh” refer to this herb along with boswellia gum, which is another useful resinous anti-inflammatory.  Eclectic physicians considered myrrh tincture to be the most effective topical medicine for treating sore and spongy gums.  The tincture is diluted down to 10-15% with water and applied directly to the gums.  It is also useful as a gargle for spongy enlarged tonsils (Felter, 1922).  They use it for similar applications in India, with the addition of honey and rose petals to the solution (Nadkarni, 1954).

At our clinic we use both of these plants frequently when there is painful swelling in the joints or severe congestion in the tissues.  The action is often broader and more satisfying than that of aspirin and other NSAID compounds alone, which have numerous side effects.  I do not use myrrh by itself.  It’s simply too strong.  I prefer to use it as a smaller part of a comprehensive formula with other supportive herbs,  This is my general practice for all strong herbs.

The importance of using groups of herbs and nutrients in an integrated fashion cannot be over-stated. The practice of using single strong anti-inflammatories, which block chemical actions, can often create side effects of the most severe nature, as the Cox-2 scandals (Vioxx, Bextra, Celebrex) have now shown. 

We are now beginning to gain a scientific understanding of why the common practice of mixing anti-inflammatory herbs, found in all herbal cultures, is so effective.  If you completely block a chemical pathway the body is using for some purpose, like ridding itself of a toxin, it will often express its displeasure by creating a side effect, a chain of chemical events.  The different herbs work in a myriad of ways, with actions on many different chemical pathways.  If you gently moderate several of these pathways, the result will often be a significant reduction of pain and swelling without side effects.  Hopefully, then, by working in concert with changes in diet and lifestyle, the body can overcome the original imbalance or causative factors and come to a more complete resolution.

Research Highlights

• In an attempt to determine the cause of its effectiveness, researchers examined the individual ingredients of an herbal formula used traditionally by Kuwaiti diabetics to lower blood glucose.  Only myrrh and aloe gums effectively improved glucose tolerance in both normal and diabetic rats (Al-Awadi and Gumaa, 1987).

• Mixing myrrh gum into vinegar increases its ability to remove blood congestion and relieve pain (reported in Yeung, 1983).