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Myrrh

Scientific Name(S): Commiphora molmol Engl. Synonymous with C. myrrha, C. abyssinica and other Commiphora species are used in commerce. Family: Burseraceae

Common Name(S): African myrrh, Somali Myrrh (C. molmol), Arabian and Yemen myrrh (C. abyssinica), myrrha, gum myrrh, bola, bal, bol, heerabol.

Botany: The Commiphora species that serve as sources of myrrh are trees that grow to heights of 30 feet. They are native to Africa and are found in the Red Sea region. A pale yellow-white viscous liquid exudes from natural cracks in the bark or from fissures cut intentionally to harvest the material. This exudate hardens into yellow-brown tears that weigh up to 250 g that form the basis of myrrh resin.

History: Myrrh has been used for centuries for diverse effects as an astringent, antiseptic, emmenagogue and antispasmodic. It also has been used to treat a variety of infectious diseases (including leprosy and syphilis), and to treat cancers. Myrrh played a key role in the religious ceremonies of the ancient Egyptians. It finds use in African, Middle Eastern and Chinese traditional medicine. Today, myrrh is used as a component of fragrances, and as an astringent in mouthwashes and gargles. It is sometimes used to flavor beverages and foods.

Uses of Myrrh:

Myrrh has been used as a fragrance, flavoring, astringent, antiseptic, emmenagogue, antispasmodic, and treatment for cancer and infectious diseases.

Side Effects of Myrrh:

It has reportedly been associated with dermatitis.

Toxicology: Although myrrh is generally considered to be nonirritating, nonsensitizing and nonphototoxic to human and animal skins, several cases of dermatitis due to myrrh have been reported.

Summary: Myrrh is a fragrant plant exudate that has been used in traditional medicine and as part of religious ceremonies for thousands of years. Today, myrrh is used in fragrances and as a food flavoring. Myrrh posseses potentially useful pharmacologic activity, although the components that exert these actions have not been well characterized.


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