Myrrh is a small, spiky tree/large bush in the Burseraceae family native to the southern end of the Arabian Peninsula and nearby Eastern Africa. It grows at low altitudes, in thin, dry soils high in limestone. It has angular, sharp branches and small, unevenly distributed oval shaped trifoliate leaves. Myrrh is harvested for its resin by cutting into its dull grey bark and collecting the yellow oil that exudes and hardens. With age, the sap hardens and turns redder in color. The highest quality Myrrh is thought to come from Somalia. It has been traditionally used as a sacred incense and medicine since ancient times.
The ancient Egyptians used myrrh as an embalming agent and for treating wounds, and the ancient Greeks, Christians, and Arabs also used it for sores, infections, and as an incense and perfume. Later, European healers used myrrh primarily for infections and sores of the mouth and lungs. Early American folk healers used myrrh similarly, but also for indigestion, gonorrhea, cavities, and bad breath. It’s used today in bitter but refreshing mouthwashes and toothpastes an anti-microbial, useful against gingivitis, bad breath, gum disease, tooth decay, and mouth sores. Some studies have shown it to be a useful pain reliever as well.
Myrrh is an anti-microbial, anti-catarrhal, expectorant, and a vulnerary. It stimulates the production of white blood cells while having an anti-microbial effect, aiding the body’s natural defense processes in a wide range of situations. It is specifically used for infections of the mouth and nasal passageways, such as gingivitis, ulcers, periodontitis, sinusitis, and pharyngitis. It can also help with laryngitis and respiratory issues. It’s used to treat the common cold, glandular fever, and brucellosis. Externally, it is also a healing antiseptic useful for wounds and abrasions, especially when combined with witch hazel. In traditional Chinese medicine, it is thought to help move stagnant blood from the uterus, making it useful for menopause, amenorrhea, dysmenorrhea, and uterine tumors. It has also been shown to help arthritic and poor circulatory conditions. Similarly, in Aryuvedic medicine, myrrh is used for rheumatism and treatment of circulatory problems. It has not shown to induce uterine contractions, but because it stimulates the uterus, it should be avoided by pregnant women.
It’s not easy to dissolve myrrh into water unless its powdered and hot water is used. To improve it’s taste, it can be combined with lemon and honey. It can also be tinctured, mixed into toothpastes and perfumes, or burned as an incense.
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Myrrh is a primary ingredient in the Herbal Kloss Liniment for disinfecting, pain relief, insect bites, swellings, boils, skin eruptions, and bruises. This liniment is easy to make and should be a part of everyone’s herbal first aid kit. The recipe below has been updated by Rosemary Gladstar in her book A Family Herbal. Jethro Kloss was a famous herbalist, born in 1863 as the son of northern Wisconsin farmer on a self-sustaining farm. Believing health came from remaining close to the Earth, his family foraged, produced, and provided for all their needs. Kloss became deathly ill after he moved away from home, and although he sought the care of many doctors, his health was only restored and revitalized when he returned to the natural remedies found in nature. Many of his other home remedies can be found in his book Back to Eden.
Herbal Kloss Liniment for Weepy, Infected Wounds
-1 ounce Echinacea powder
-1 ounce goldenseal root powder
-2 ounces myrrh gum powder
-1/2 ounce cayenne pepper powder
-rubbing alcohol to cover (approximately 1 quart)
1. In a glass jar combine all of the powders.
2. Pour rubbing alcohol over herbal powders to fill jar, leaving 1-2 inch of space towards the top. Mix thoroughly.
3. Place the lid tightly on jar and let mixture stand in a warm location for at least 4 weeks, shaking well every day.
4. After 4 weeks strain the liniment well using a piece of cheesecloth and re-bottle.
5. Apply the liniment every few minutes for an hour or two in acute instances, or use freely until desired results are achieved.
Be sure to clearly label For EXTERNAL USE ONLY.