Essential oils such as myrrh oil often fly under the radar, but they are extremely important for your overall health. A great deal of solid scientific evidence shows that myrrh essential oil, in particular, can help the body in many different ways. It’s used every day across the globe, as it has been for centuries.
What is Myrrh Essential Oil?
Myrrh essential oil, in its natural form, is a resin that has the consistency of sap. It comes from the Commiphora myrrha tree, which is commonly found in the Middle East. Myrrh and frankincense oil are closely related, and are used throughout the world.
The Commiphora myrrha is known for its distinctive white flowers and knotted trunk. It often has a very limited number of leaves because it grows in the desert – where the harsh conditions can sometimes result in the tree growing in a twisted, almost grotesque shape. In order to obtain myrrh resin, the trunk has to be cut. When the resin is released and starts to dry, it looks as if the trunk is forming tears. Steam distillation is used to make the essential oil after the resin is collected from the tree.
The word “myrrh” comes from the Arabic word “murr,” which means bitter. While myrrh essential oil usually has a sweet smell, it can sometimes have a somewhat acrid aroma. This essential oil is extremely thick, and it has a color that is a mix of orange and yellow.
You might know that myrrh was one of the gifts presented to baby Jesus, but you might only recognize the name because you probably hear it every Christmas, along with frankincense oil. You probably didn’t know, for example, that the Egyptians used myrrh essential oil in the mummification process. In fact, there are records documenting its use going all the way back to 450 B.C. The Chinese still use myrrh essential oil in medicine to this day, and several other cultures use it in rituals.
Historically, the most common ritualistic use for this essential oil was in religious ceremonies. Burning the resin over hot coals was believed to produce a spiritual presence throughout the room where the ceremony was being held, and it was used in combination with frankincense oil to produce a calming, meditative environment.
Myrrh oil has been used in both somber as well as uplifting events. Some cultures use it during funerals, for instance, because they see myrrh as a symbol of suffering. Others, however, mix myrrh with oils made from citrus fruits to produce an uplifting aroma believed to help promote inspirational insights.
From a health standpoint, myrrh essential oil is just as vital today as it was thousands of years ago. Here are just a few reasons why:
Why Myrrh Essential Oil is So Therapeutic
Two of the most important chemical properties of myrrh essential oil are terpenoids and eugenol. Both of these chemicals have potent medicinal properties. For example, terpenoids play a large role in protecting plants from the effects of oxidation. While we need oxygen to breathe, of course, oxidation can actually do substantial damage to plants, humans, and just about everything else. When you see a rusted pipe, for instance, that’s a byproduct of oxidation.
Oxidation not only damages the membranes of cells, but other important structures, such as lipids and proteins. There are several different circumstances that lead to oxidation in the body. For example, it occurs when cells need to convert glucose into energy, as well as when the immune system creates inflammation in a certain area of the body to fight off an invasion of harmful bacteria. It also happens when the body has to detoxify a pollutant, such as cigarette smoke.
What is a Terpenoid?
Terpenoids are antioxidants, substances that help protect the body from the damage that can be done by dangerous molecules known as free radicals. Oxidation stimulates the production of free radicals, which often cause chemical chain reactions that lead to the development of several different harmful diseases. Terpenoids have been shown to not only help protect our vision, but also to help keep the immune system functioning properly.1
Eugenol has been shown to help inhibit the growth of harmful bacteria that can lead to tooth decay.2 In fact, eugenol is, according to one study, as good at reducing dental pain as benzocaine. If you’re in a pinch, you can place some eugenol on a Q-tip and put it on a painful tooth or on painful gums.3 Eugenol has also been shown to be as effective as the drug nystatin in helping to stop yeast infections.4
Myrrh essential oil has been used for years in a wide range of medical applications, helping to not only relieve pain and reduce inflammation, but also to boost intestinal health and fight skin infections.5 And research continues to uncover even more uses – for example, studies indicate that myrrh can help protect the liver from oxidation.6
The Importance of Antioxidants
It’s hard to overemphasize the importance of antioxidants to the body, like the ones found in myrrh essential oil. They’re not the “be all, end all” that you might have heard or read about – they can’t cure cancer and they can’t keep you from getting older. But they do play vital roles in helping you maintain your overall health.
When it comes to free radicals, antioxidants don’t completely inhibit their development. And that’s actually a good thing. The body needs a certain amount of these molecules in order to be able to function. For example, immune system cells use free radicals to help kill harmful bacteria. The problem occurs when there are too many free radicals in the system. Antioxidants keep excess free radicals from forming.7
Fighting Against Free Radicals
Taking an essential oil such as myrrh can go a long way toward inhibiting excess free radical growth, but so can cutting out harmful lifestyle habits, including smoking, drinking too much alcohol, and absorbing too many ultraviolet rays from the sun.
A lot of food manufacturers claim their products contain antioxidants, and technically, they do. However, a lot of processed foods only have tiny amounts, and usually just one or two types. In order for your body to obtain the full benefits of antioxidants, you need to have a wide variety of them. Make sure you not only use myrrh essential oil, but also get plenty of fruits and vegetables into your diet as well.
Beans, seeds, grains, and nuts are all good sources of antioxidants – in fact, they are rich in these important allies to our health. Again, plants need antioxidants as well to not only fight off the harmful effects of oxygen, but also to protect themselves against the sun’s UV rays. Eggs and dairy products have antioxidants, as do certain types of meat – thanks mainly to the plants that animals feed upon. The meat of grass-fed animals tends to contain more antioxidants, as do eggs from hens raised in pastures, rather than indoor environments.
Other Applications for Myrrh
The potential for myrrh essential oil is almost limitless. These are just a few more ways it can be used as remedies for certain health issues:
· Fighting harmful microbes –
While not all types of bacteria are bad – in fact, we have a large number of beneficial bacteria in our body – there are a lot of harmful ones as well. Bad bacteria, as well as other microbes such as viruses and fungi, can wreak havoc. Myrrh essential oil has been shown to have antimicrobial properties that can help protect us from not only bacterial infections, but fungal and viral infections as well.8
· Helping to heal wounds –
Myrrh not only possesses antimicrobial properties, it also helps relieve inflammation and pain – making it great for wound healing. One study involving postpartum women showed that myrrh essential oil helped to ward off potential infections caused by the Enterococcus faecalis and Escherichia coli bacteria, and also helped heal the perineum after birth.9
· Oral health –
As noted before, myrrh oil has been used for centuries – along with frankincense oil – to help protect oral health. It has been shown to be effective in fighting problems such as gingivitis, sore throat, and canker sores.10
· Fighting bodily parasites –
While it’s not necessarily a pleasant topic, the fact is that we live with many different types of parasites that have taken up residence inside our bodies. Myrrh essential oil, according to research, can help fight certain parasites without the discomfort associated with other anti-parasitic treatments.11 Myrrh has also been used to fight a parasite known as fascioliasis, which can enter the body when we accidentally swallow water that has been contaminated with algae.12
How to Use Myrrh Essential Oil
There are many different ways that you can use myrrh essential oil. It’s not only found in topical creams that are placed directly on the skin, it’s also available in capsules, sprays, and more. Here are just a few ways to get the benefits of this incredible substance:
· Inhalation/diffusion – You can add some drops of myrrh oil to some hot water and inhale the steam, or you can purchase a distiller that will send its fragrance throughout your home.
· Using it topically – Myrrh can be mixed with a carrier oil such as coconut oil, jojoba oil, grapeseed oil, or jojoba oil to create an ointment that can be massaged into the skin. Many people use it for wound healing, as well as fighting the effects of age. You can also make a cold compress and add a few drops of myrrh to it if you have a skin infection or inflammation.
· Internal use – You always need to be careful when using any type of essential oil (coconut oil, frankincense oil, etc.) internally, with or without a carrier oil, and myrrh is no exception. Some people use this essential oil as a mouthwash in order to stave off an oral infection. Talk to your doctor before you try this, however, because if you take it in a concentrated form, or you take a high dose of myrrh essential oil, you might be at risk of side effects.
Getting Creative with Mixing Essential Oils
People can get somewhat creative when it comes to mixing myrrh essential oil with other oils such as coconut oil, frankincense oil, and others. Here are just a few examples:
· Get a 10-milliliter container that has a rollerball applicator and fill it with a few drops of myrrh essential oil, along with clove oil, lemongrass oil, frankincense oil, and peppermint oil. Add a few drops of coconut oil to the applicator and roll it across your neck. This could help improve the function of your thyroid gland if you have hypothyroidism.
· Combining lavender oil, myrrh essential oil, and a carrier oil such as coconut oil or almond oil could help soothe the irritation and itching associated with a poison ivy rash.
· Mixing myrrh essential oil and lavender essential oil (about 15 drops each) with two vitamin E capsules and an ounce of a carrier oil and applying them to your fingernails could make them stronger.
The topic of essential oil and how it interacts with certain medications is somewhat complex. Unfortunately, there’s not a lot of scientific research into the subject. So it’s important that you use common sense before you take myrrh essential oil or anything similar, especially if you are suffering from any sort of serious condition that requires you to take prescription medications.
There have been some side effects associated with myrrh essential oil. One of the most common involves the use of topical agents, which can cause some minor inflammation in people with skin conditions such as dermatitis. Make sure you try it first on a small area of your skin before you spread it over your arms, legs, hands, or face to make sure you don’t have any sort of reaction.
In some cases, internal use of myrrh essential oil has been associated with minor side effects such as diarrhea and mild stomach upset. Stop using it if you are experiencing diarrhea or any other type of gastrointestinal problem. If you are pregnant, there is a chance that using myrrh could stimulate contractions.
Some people have also reported reduced blood pressure and heart rhythm irregularities after using myrrh essential oil. However, this is usually only the case when people take high doses, around 2-4 grams each day. Again, if you have any sort of circulatory or cardiovascular problem, talk to your physician before you use myrrh.
Diabetics, or people with other types of blood sugar issues, should not take myrrh due to the possibility that it could lower blood sugar levels. If you are preparing for surgery, stop using myrrh a couple of weeks before your procedure because it can, in some instances, negatively interact with blood glucose. If you are on a blood thinner such as Warfarin, you should avoid using myrrh because it could cause a potentially harmful interaction with your medication.
And while there are some potential side effects of myrrh essential oil, if you are in generally good health, you should be able to use it with no concerns.
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