Myrrh is a sacred oil and herb, used through centuries of life, love, divinity and death. In the western collective memory, it’s indelibly entwined with frankincense, thanks to the Christian story of the magi bestowing frankincense and myrrh upon a newborn Jesus. Still, as much as the western world knows the name “myrrh”, a select few really know of its beautiful, earthy scent or its healthful uses.
The Magic of Myrrh
Myrrh is actually a resin that comes from the myrrh tree, so it’s a tree extract rather than a flower or fruit extract. To create myrrh essential oil, the tree must first be wounded or cut so that the sap seeps out. The sap forms waxy, sticky droplets that are harvested and dried, becoming glassy and hard, darkening as they age. In ancient times, it was at this hardened stage that resin was transported across land and sea to be used in traditional Chinese medicine, Ayurveda, Egyptian embalming, perfumery, facial treatments, dental health, early Jewish anointing rituals and ancient Greek medicine. Hippocrates frequently wrote about myrrh and its use in medicine.
Today, myrrh is most commonly used as an essential oil that is steam distilled from the hardened resin droplets. It’s an incredibly versatile essential oil, serving to calm health problems, maintain dental health and beautify your life and body. Its use as a healing aromatherapy dates back centuries, but that use, too, continues as a popular modern-day ritual.
Myriad Myrrh Uses
Here’s an overview of just some of the many beneficial uses for myrrh essential oil.
- Relieves Pain. A study two decades ago showed that myrrh essential oil blocks some pain stimuli. More recently, in 2016, myrrh’s effectiveness as an analgesic was tested again, this time with frankincense. The study showed that the two oils combined had a positive effect in alleviating pain responses. Myrrh is also commonly used in China, Greece and India clinics to relieve pain.
- Reduces Inflammation. Terpenoids in myrrh reduce inflammation, giving relief to a number of painful conditions. Especially when used in concert with frankincense, myrrh essential oil eases inflammatory diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis.
- Kills Parasites. Myrrh is an effective ingredient in an anti-parasitic medication developed to relieve the symptoms and presence of fascioliasis infection.
- Cleans Wounds. Myrrh seems to have an antiseptic and antibacterial effect, cleaning sores and wounds and preventing infection. Myrrh has been used in this way for more than 2,000 years, and it remains a useful tool today.
- Stops Free Radicals. Myrrh essential oil was recently proved in one study to have antioxidant properties. In the study, the resin’s antioxidants prevented liver damage in rabbits. More study is needed to determine the full scope of myrrh antioxidant abilities in humans.
- Dental Health. Myrrh has been used for centuries to ease mouth sores, toothache and a host of painful oral and dental conditions. It remains a useful tool today, too, helping to maintain oral health with its antiseptic, antibacterial and anti-inflammatory benefits.
- Relaxation. The deep earthy scent of myrrh is a relaxing base note in aromatherapy oil blends for massage. Myrrh contains sesquiterpenes, a compound that may be responsible for the relaxation effect of myrrh. More study on the subject needs to be completed to verify the oil’s effectiveness, but we already know from anecdotal and first-hand experience that a massage with myrrh aromatherapy is a peaceful, relaxing experience.
- Root and Throat Chakras. Myrrh aromatherapy helps connect you to the earth, grounding you and giving you the spiritual peace you need to align your root chakra. The scent is also beneficial for balancing the Throat Chakra.
- Protection. Grounding, earthy myrrh helps protect your energy from negative forces.
Some people do ingest myrrh, but it should only be taken internally after clearing the practice with a personal physician or trusted health practitioner. Also, make sure you’re using a grade of myrrh oil that is suitable for consumption as myrrh oil can cause stomach irritation. Myrrh may lower blood pressure and glucose levels, so use only in moderation and under a physician’s supervision. As with all other essential oils, those with sensitive skin should dilute the essential oil in carrier oil before using on skin. They also should conduct a patch test on their skin before using more broadly.
- Botanical Name: Commiphora myrrha
- Common Method of Extraction: Steam distilled
- Plant Part Typically Used: Resin
- Colour: Golden brown
- Consistency: Medium
- Perfumery Note: Base
- Strength of Initial Aroma: Medium to Strong
- Aromatic Description: A sweet smell infused with smokiness and a hint of bitterness