Name: Myrrh (Commiphora molmol)
Otherwise known as: Balsamodendron myrrh, Didin
Habitat: A shrub member of the Burseraceae family, it grows to about 5m with sparse, lobe-shaped leaves growing on thorny stems. It produces yellow flowers and small, cylindrical fruits. Native to North Africa, it can now be found in Asia, Arabia and Thailand, growing in thickets in well-drained soil.
What does it do: Myrrh was one of the most highly valued products of the ancient world, it featured in sacred rituals as an incense of purification, formed part of the embalming process of the Egyptians, was praised by the Jewish kings, David and Solomon, and was used by Moses in ceremonial rites. It was one the gifts bestowed on the infant Jesus by the three wise men.
“From the days of Moses, to the time of Christ and since to the twentieth century, Myrrh has proven over again to be one of the finest anti-bacterial and anti-viral agents placed on earth,” says the Science of Herbal Medicine.
Myrrh is extracted by scoring the bark or from extrusions occurring naturally in the shrub. Originally myrrh was taken for infections of the mouth, throat and gums. It is still used for these ailments in India and the Middle East. Ayurvedic practitioners give the resin as a tonic and an aphrodisiac, as a blood purifier, and a stimulant to the intellect.
Recent research suggests the resin has anti-inflammatory, anti-ulcer, antioxidant and thyroid stimulating activity. Further studies indicate that it may prove to be an anti-tumour agent. Currently being experimented with as a bacteriostatic against MRSA, which is proving to be so troublesome in British hospitals.
Myrrh is also used on suppurating wounds that prove obdurate, and for fungal infections; candida responds well to myrrh.
American and European herbalists recommend the resin for reducing cholesterol and triglycerides in coronary heart disease. It is believed that capsicum enhances the action of myrrh and they have been used together in treating chronic conditions of the alimentary canal.
Myrrh is not water-soluble and is normally taken as a powder or tincture or applied topically. The resin is drying and mildly anaesthetic and is used in Germany to treat pressure sores caused by artificial limbs.