Myrrh—an aromatic, rich, precious resin—was widely used in ancient times throughout the Middle East, but especially in Egypt, for incense, perfumery, medicine, and as a preservation ingredient in the embalming process. It was particularly prized as a remedial aid for infections of the respiratory tract, mouth, and skin and as a digestive stimulant. Myrrh was also one of the three gifts said to have been brought by the three wise men to the baby Jesus to support a state of grace and preserve divine essence. The name “myrrh” derives from the Arabic “murr,” meaning “bitter.”
Myrrh (Commiphora myrrha) essential oil is valued for many of the same uses as the resin. Known for its rejuvenating and revitalizing effects on the skin, it is often used in natural antiaging products to delay wrinkling and improve the skin’s texture and tone. I swear by myrrh essential oil’s “youthifying” effects and often add a few drops to my facial oils and creams. A little goes a long way. It also successfully promotes the healing of all manner of minor wounds, inflamed skin conditions (such as weeping eczema and psoriasis, hemorrhoids, and acne), and environmentally damaged, dry, chapped, cracked skin.
Myrrh essential oil has a superb reputation as a remedy for inflammatory and infectious conditions of the mouth and throat (bleeding gums, gingivitis, ulcers, bad breath, pyorrhea, receding gums, thrush, general sore throat, laryngitis, and tonsillitis). It also serves as a most useful respiratory antiseptic with drying and purifying properties that help alleviate infection and loosen and expectorate mucus during cases of bronchitis, sinusitis, asthma, coughs, and colds.
From Herb To Oil
The scrubby, thorny myrrh tree has knotted branches, small three-part leaves, and white flowers. When pierced or incised, the trunk and larger limbs yield a pale-yellow liquid that hardens into the reddish-brown drops known as myrrh or myrrh gum resin. These are dried to be distilled into essential or used as incense. The tree is native to the Middle East, northeast Africa, and southwest Asia, though its growing range has been extended by cultivation. The essential oil is primarily distilled in Somalia, Ethiopia, and Sudan.
Myrrh essential oil is produced by steam distillation of the crude gum oleoresin. A lovely, sweeter CO2 is also produced in lesser quantity, as is a resinoid and resin absolute. It is an oily, pale yellow-to-amber, viscous liquid with a rather unique odor: warm, sweet-balsamic, slightly spicy-medicinal-astringent, smoky-musty.
Important note: The myrrh tree belongs to the same plant family (Burseraceae) as frankincense (Boswellia carteri, B. sacra, B. frereana, and multiple other Boswellia species). Both species grow slowly in arid climates, and due to the popularity of their resins, the wild trees cannot sustainably produce enough to fill the global demand. They are both considered vulnerable and near-threatened. I ask that you use the beloved myrrh and frankincense products judiciously and sparingly. Frankincense and myrrh are now being cultivated to help satisfy demand, but as I said, their growth is very slow.
Psychological Benefits: The centering, grounding scent of myrrh is beneficial i n cases of apathy, emotional coldness, weakness, and lack of motivation. It cools heated emotions and calms states of fear, panic, and hysteria. It also fortifies and revitalizes the spirit, building confidence in those who are afraid to speak up about their feelings. It promotes spiritual awareness and is recommended for meditation and prayer; it can also be used to ease the anguish of grief.
Essential Properties In A Nutshell: Tones and tightens skin tissue: highly antibacterial; astringent; anti-inflammatory; best remedy for mouth, gum, and throat irritations and infections; powerful respiratory antiseptic and expectorant; stimulating; warming; strengthens and fortifies the emotions; grounding and centering to the mind.
Safety Data & Usage Information
Generally nonirritating and nonsensitizing. Avoid during pregnancy, while breastfeeding, and use with children under 2 years of age.
Always dilute essential oils properly – according to age, health, medication intake, and skin condition – prior to application. My book, Stephanie Tourles’s Essential Oils: A Beginner’s Guide(Storey Publishing, c2018), is a good reference, complete with safety guidelines and dilution charts.
The following recipe highlights the therapeutic nature of myrrh essential oil with regard to its benefits for oral health. Combined with peppermint essential oil, it works like a charm!
Soothing Myrrh-Mint Mouthwash & Gargle Recipe
With a combination of warm, resinous notes and stimulating, sharp mint, this bracing, mouth-tingling blend offers antibacterial, astringent, analgesic, and anti-inflammatory properties that help tone and tighten gum tissue, neutralize bad breath, soothe a sore throat, relieve laryngitis, and aid in alleviating mouth ulcers and inflamed gums. It is tasty and effective! Note: This recipe is safe for folks 12 years of age and older.
• 1 drop myrrh (Commiphora myrrha) essential oil
• 1 drop peppermint (Mentha piperita) essential oil
• 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
• 1/4 cup purified water, hot or tepid (hot water is more soothing for sore throats and laryngitis)
To Make The Mouthwash: Combine the sea salt with the drops of myrrh and peppermint essential oils in a small mug. Pour in the water and stir to blend. Use immediately.
To Use: First, rinse your mouth thoroughly with plain water, then gargle and swish with half of the mouthwash for up to 30 seconds (or for as long as you can tolerate). Spit it out in the sink (do not swallow). Repeat with remaining mouthwash., If you are suffering from a sore throat or laryngitis, mouth ulcers, bleeding gums, or pyorrhea, repeat several times per day until the condition improves, making a new batch each time.
Yield: Single use
Photos by Mars Vilaubi
Recipe excerpted from Stephanie Tourles’s Essential Oils: A Beginner’s Guide, (c2018 by Stephanie Tourles). Used with permission from Storey Publishing.