This weekend I found myself listening to an amazing presentation on essential oils. It brought me back full circle to where I started in my journey of breaking free from the sickness model and moving into wellness.
Starting out as a skeptic, I read the Essential Oils Desk Reference two times thoroughly. Honestly, I was looking to debunk the “validity of medicinal oils” by studying and cross-referencing their biochemical mechanisms of action. When they proved scientific, my life did a 180 degree turn. I revoked my enrollment plans to enter pharmacy school and began studying natural healing modalities. Shortly after, I became a chiropractor assistant for my first mentor. Dr. Quinn demonstrated that I could merge the best of natural methods with conventional techniques, depending on what was best for the client. He supported me in a world of skeptics blinded to geniuses until his passing in 2011. Since then, I have been blessed by mentors that have influenced my journey from naturopathic school and into functional medicine, the medicine of the future.
Highlights in Health Topics
Another trigger of my trip down memory lane was that I had back pain during my trip, the originating condition that proved essential oils efficacy to me. I was fortunate to have my oils and nutritional supplements to get me through a 6 hour car ride and 8 hours of learning.
Many of the topics verified how our food supply and environment is deteriorating our health. New research on genetically modified organisms (GMOs), hybridization, stress, and the link between environmental exposures and diseases were reviewed.
What really inspired me was when I caught a tidbit when it was mentioned the use of frankincense, myrrh, and sandalwood for DNA repair, epigenetics! Being a lover of side-kicks, I started exploring some research on myrrh, wondering why frankincense (Boswellia) has gotten most of integrative medicine’s attention in studies for inflammatory and pain conditions. My belief is, without Robin, Batman would be mediocre, so myrrh had to have a similar enhancing story.
So, this Sunday, after I caught up on sleep and stretched my back with yoga, I started digging into PubMed and researching more on Myrrh essential oil. Below is my review.
For the Love of Myrrh Essential Oil
Myrrh belongs to the genus, Commiphora which is composed of over 200 species (1). The active constituents of Commiphora species are terpenoids (especially furanosesquiterpenes), not surprisingly found highest in the essential oil.
In ancient times, frankincense and myrrh were commonly used in combination to relieve post-partum pain and anxiety, lessen the probability of post-partum depression, and to reduce bleeding after delivery. Hence, it may be why legends refer to its presentation for anointing the Christ child and why frankincense didn’t travel alone. (2)
Other traditional uses for myrrh herb include:
1. Discomfort relief
2. Skin conditions
3. Inflammatory conditions
5. Dental issues (3)
Recently, Commiphora is being touted to possess properties that assist with modulating discomfort, preventing microbes from thriving, and decreasing microbial growth (1). More studies are emerging and are focusing on validating its use in modulating tumor growth, preventing parasites from making residence in our bodies, and as an adjunct in healing wounds (2, 3).
According to Mayo Clinic, Commiphora demonstrated benefits in a study for anti-tumoral activity along with the chemotherapy agent cyclophosphamide in solid tumor-bearing mice. Furthermore, myrrh gum had tumoricidal effect against a malignant neuroblastoma cell line in an in vitro rodent study (4).
One study also demonstrated its ability to act as a singlet oxygen quencher, to protect squalene from photo oxidation (3). This may make it effective in protecting the skin’s lipid layer in the sun.
The Dynamic Duo
A 2012 study demonstrated that among three essential oils samples of frankincense species and two essential oils samples of myrrh and sweet myrrh, the two together are better than one for their shared property to protect the body from microbes.
The researchers reported:
Frankincense and myrrh essential oils have been used in combination since 1500 bc; however, no antimicrobial investigations have been undertaken to confirm their effect in combination. This study validates the enhanced efficacy when used in combination against a selection of pathogens. (5)
Another study that used a combination of the two herbs also demonstrated a stronger dual effect in regards to decreasing inflammatory mediators. The researchers showed this by using mice models. Through measuring the inflammatory chemicals PGE2 and nitrates, they found the combination of these herbs to be as effective when referenced to control drugs. Pain relief was also achieved as evidence by a comparison to oxytocin-induced models. (6)
Interesting, in a previous study Myrrh alone was also found to be effective as an anti-inflammatory remedy in mice with inflamed paws. :O (7)
According to a review of traditional Iranian medicine for irritable bowel disease, both frankincense and myrrh were effective on relieving some of the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome in several trials.
Specifically, Commiphora mukul was found to be effective in relieving symptoms in a study with those with irritable bowel disease (IBD). The researchers believe this was due to its immunomodulatory and antioxidant properties and prevention of microbial growth. It’s mechanisms included its ability to decrease inflammatory mediators NF-KB, NO, and Cox-2.
Boswellia gum resin (frankincense) also had evidence to be supportative in studies with participants in IBD. It was shown to demonstrate a rate of remission slightly higher than sulfsalzaine, a common drug used to treat IBD. The study showed improvements in a group of ulcerative colitis patients on all tested parameters of IBD which included stool properties, histopathology, scanning microscopy of rectal biopsies, blood parameters including hemoglobin, serum iron, calcium, phosphorus, proteins, total leukocytes and eosinophils (9).
Sniffing to improve brain function isn’t just for frankincense and sandalwood lovers anymore. Yup, those little constituents known on sequiterpenes contained in myrrh have an ability to cross the blood-brain barrier, offering protection from damage and memory enhancement.
A 2011 study found 10 new classes of furanosesquiterpenoids and four additional sesquiterpenes, myrrhterpenoids were isolated from the resin of Commiphora myrrha in 2012 (9-10). That’s a lot of compounds to assist our brain health!
Making Microbes Unwelcome
A recent study further supported the microbe inhibiting effect of myrrh and the essential oils cabreuva, cedarwood, and Juniper berries, against eleven different strains of Gram-positive and Gram-negative bacteria. All of the essential oils had considerable inhibitory effects against all tested organisms, except Pseudomonas, with higher activity against Gram-positive strains in comparison with Gram-negative bacteria (11).
I’ll be excited to see how more information will be revealed as this essential oil begins to come out from behind Frankincense’s shadow.
Due to the fact that myrrh is soothing it’s fine to use on the skin and apply on location. I take it internally for an immune and brain boost. It’s also great to smooth out skin wrinkles, but don’t use too much topically, it has a slightly yellowish tint.
For other tips on how to safely use myrrh and its sidekick essential oils, listen to my teleseminars.
Spring Cleaning Your Insides? You May Want to Read this First
Cleansing safely and a review of products with essential oils left all attendees of the essential oils training this weekend excited in their seat for solutions. I have always used essential oils in my clients’ protocols, as they are a wonderful delivery method to make all their supplements more effective and protect them from toxins.
When the presenter discussed the topic of enzymes and sulfur deficiency I became excited, especially when I thought about its correlation with genetic differences in enzymes. Specifically, I’m talking about single nucleotide polymorphisms, SNPs.
Here’s a quick 2 min video on what that means.
What does this have to do with safe cleansing?
Read the rest here on what I look for when suggesting a cleansing protocol for my clients.
Disclaimer: This information is applicable ONLY for therapeutic, Grade A essential oils. This information DOES NOT apply to essential oils that have not been AFNOR and ISO standardized. There is no quality control in the United States and oils labeled as “100% pure” need only contain 5% of the actual oil. The rest of the bottle can be filled with fillers and sometimes toxic ingredients that can irritate the skin.
These studies are not specific for any specific company, please check the original study article for the source.
This information is for information purposes only and is not intended to diagnose, treat, or prescribe for any illness.
1. Wenk, G. Why did they bring frankincense and myrrh? In ancient times frankincense and myrrh were helpful after birth. Psychology Today: Your Brain Food. November 24, 2014.
2. Nomicos EY. Myrrh: medical marvel or myth of the Magi? Holist Nurs Pract. 2007 Nov-Dec;21(6):308-23.
3. Tonkal AM1, Morsy TA. An update review on Commiphora molmol and related species. J Egypt Soc Parasitol. 2008 Dec;38(3):763-96. PMID: 19209761
4. Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. Myrrh. mskcc.org. June 10, 2013. Accessed April 13, 2014.
5. de Rapper S1, Van Vuuren SF, Kamatou GP, Viljoen AM, Dagne E. The additive and synergistic antimicrobial effects of select frankincense and myrrh oils–a combination from the pharaonic pharmacopoeia. Lett Appl Microbiol. 2012 Apr;54(4):352-8. doi: 10.1111/j.1472-765X.2012.03216.x. Epub 2012 Feb 20.
6. Su S, Hua Y, Wang Y, Gu W, Zhou W, Duan JA, Jiang H, Chen T, Tang Y. Evaluation of the anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties of individual and combined extracts from Commiphora myrrha, and Boswellia carterii. J Ethnopharmacol. 2012 Jan 31;139(2):649-56. doi: 10.1016/j.jep.2011.12.013. Epub 2011 Dec 13.
7. Su S, Wang T, Duan JA, Zhou W, Hua YQ, Tang YP, Yu L, Qian DW. Anti-inflammatory and analgesic activity of different extracts of Commiphora myrrha. J Ethnopharmacol. 2011 Mar 24;134(2):251-8. doi: 10.1016/j.jep.2010.12.003.
8. Rahimi R, Shams-Ardekani MR, Abdollahi M. A review of the efficacy of traditional Iranian medicine for inflammatory bowel disease. World J Gastroenterol. 2010 Sep 28;16(36):4504-14. Review. PMID: 20857519
9. Xu J, Guo Y, Zhao P, Guo P, Ma Y, Xie C, Jin DQ, Gui L. Four new sesquiterpenes from Commiphora myrrha and their neuroprotective effects. Fitoterapia. 2012 Jun;83(4):801-5. doi: 10.1016/j.fitote.2012.03.016. Epub 2012 Mar 20. PMID: 22465505
10. Xu J, Guo Y, Li Y, Zhao P, Liu C, Ma Y, Gao J, Hou W, Zhang T. Sesquiterpenoids from the resinous exudates of Commiphora myrrha and their neuroprotective effects. Planta Med. 2011 Dec;77(18):2023-8. doi: 10.1055/s-0031-1280087. Epub 2011 Aug 9.
11. Wanner J, Schmidt E, Bail S, Jirovetz L, Buchbauer G, Gochev V, Girova T, Atanasova T, Stoyanova A. Chemical composition and antibacterial activity of selected essential oils and some of their main compounds. Nat Prod Commun. 2010 Sep;5(9):1359-64.