Health Benefits of Myrrh Essential Oil

Myrrh essential oil is a type of essential oil that has long been used in aromatherapy. Sourced from the gum of the Commiphora myrrha tree (a plant native to the Arabian peninsula and Africa), myrrh essential oil is said to offer a variety of health benefits.

Myrrh essential oil contains several compounds that may help enhance health, including terpenoids (a class of chemicals with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects).

How Does Myrrh Essential Oil Work?

In aromatherapy, inhaling the aroma of myrrh essential oil (or absorbing myrrh essential oil through the skin) is thought to transmit messages to the limbic system, a brain region involved in controlling emotions that also influences the nervous system. Aromatherapy proponents suggest that essential oils may affect a number of biological factors, including heart rate, stress levels, blood pressure, breathing, and immune function.

Uses for Myrrh Essential Oil

When used in aromatherapy, myrrh is said to help treat or prevent the following health problems:

  • colds
  • cough
  • insomnia
  • sore throat

In addition, myrrh essential oil is said to reduce inflammation, stimulate the immune system, alleviate pain, and promote wound healing.

Sometimes used as an ingredient in skincare products, myrrh essential oil is also purported to reduce the appearance of wrinkles.

Health Benefits of Myrrh Essential Oil

Although several preliminary studies indicate that myrrh essential oil may offer certain health benefits, there is currently a lack of research testing the health effects of aromatherapeutic use of myrrh essential oil.

For instance, a laboratory study published in Letters in Applied Microbiology in 2012 found that a combination of myrrh essential oil and frankincense essential oil may help fight infection by acting as an antimicrobial (a substance that destroys or suppresses the growth of microorganisms, including bacteria and fungi).

In addition, two studies published in Toxicology in Vitro suggest that myrrh essential oil may protect against gum disease. In tests on cells, researchers determined that myrrh essential oil may help reduce inflammation in gum cells.

It's important to note that none of the above studies tested the aromatherapeutic use of myrrh essential oil, and that more research is needed before myrrh essential oil can be recommended in treatment of any health condition.

How to Use Myrrh Essential Oil

When combined with a carrier oil (such as jojoba, sweet almond, or avocado), myrrh essential oil can be applied directly to the skin or added to baths.

Myrrh essential oil also can be inhaled after sprinkling a few drops of the oil onto a cloth or tissue, or by using an aromatherapy diffuser or vaporizer.

Caveats

Myrrh essential oil should not be taken internally without the supervision of a health professional. Internal use of myrrh essential oil may have toxic effects.

In addition, some individuals may experience irritation or an allergic reaction when applying myrrh essential oil to the skin.

A skin patch test should be done before using any new essential oil. 

The oil should not be applied at full-strength to the skin or used in excessive amounts.

Pregnant women and children should consult their primary health care providers prior to using essential oils.

Learn more about how to use myrrh essential oil safely.

Alternatives to Myrrh Essential Oil

Several other types of essential oils have been found to offer health effects similar to purported benefits of myrrh essential oil. For example, lavender essential oil and chamomile essential oil may help promote healthy sleep and protect against insomnia.

If you're seeking a natural remedy for colds, studies suggest that taking herbal remedies like echinacea and astragalus as soon as cold symptoms set in may decrease the duration and severity of colds. In addition, eating garlic and sipping green tea may help boost your cold defense.

Where to Find It

Here are some tips on purchasing essential oils.

Widely available for purchase online, myrrh essential oil is sold in many natural-foods stores and in stores specializing in self-care products.

Using Myrrh Oil for Health

Given the lack of science behind myrrh oil's purported health benefits, it cannot currently be recommended as a standard treatment for any condition. If you're interested in using myrrh oil for health purposes, make sure to consult your physician before beginning treatment. Self-treating and avoiding or delaying standard care can have serious consequences.

Sources

de Rapper S, 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.

Nomicos EY. "Myrrh: medical marvel or myth of the Magi?" Holist Nurs Pract. 2007 Nov-Dec;21(6):308-23.

Tipton DA, Hamman NR, Dabbous MKh. "Effect of myrrh oil on IL-1beta stimulation of NF-kappaB activation and PGE(2) production in human gingival fibroblasts and epithelial cells." Toxicol In Vitro. 2006 Mar;20(2):248-55.

Tipton DA, Lyle B, Babich H, Dabbous MKh. "In vitro cytotoxic and anti-inflammatory effects of myrrh oil on human gingival fibroblasts and epithelial cells." Toxicol In Vitro. 2003 Jun;17(3):301-10.

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