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~HERB OF THE MONTH~ > MYRRH ~ Herb of the Month ~ December


   (Commiphora myrrha)


    Myrrh is barely ever thought of without Frankincense as they are bound in our memory as Christmas herbs, gifts to the baby Jesus from the Magi. Both are resins and both great healers, though with differing properties.

     Myrrh (and various species) come from the Middle East, Ethiopia and Somalia and is a tree sap which once hardened, becomes a resin. It is usually sold in hardened rock like form or as a powder. It is never a food and it never tastes food as a medicine either, but is an herb of choice for a wide variety of stubborn chronic and some acute illnesses. I end up using it once or twice a year for medicine, and frequently during the winter as an incense mixed with other herbs. As with many herbs used for keeping infections at bay, Myrrh was used as money and valued as gifts because maintaining health has always been considered important and practical. It was probably first widely used for embalming and became a popular funerary herb to honor the dead. Why used for embalming? It's extreme ability to kill bacteria, helped preserve bodies--and make them smell better too! Today, it is still used in many parts of the world for religious observation, but is also used for more mundane health concerns. As is the case with many Christmas herbs, they just happen to be infection fighters--during the time of year we NEED them. Myrrh is prime among them.


    Myrrh must be taken in medicinal form as it is too bitter to add to foods/drink. Even tea, my favorite choice for medicine taking,  is not a good form to take it as the resin does not release its contituents well into water. Capsule form of the powder is used, but I find it too irritating on the stomach lining to take for extended periods or for those with severe ulcers or digestive difficulties--even though it does have a beneficial affect on the digestive tract. So, tincture form is the best medicinal form, in my opinion. Steeped in vodka or brandy, you can take less and get a better result--though, NOT better tasting. It is oily, strong, bitter, it can stain-- and does not go down easy! But, for accute illness, 1-2 doses are usually sufficient and for chronic problems, 1 dose per day. For proper dosing, please seek professional advice or look to a good herbal--but standard practice is to put th etincture in a small cup of water and drink (in this case, quickly) and then drink more water to get the taste out of your mouth! 

     Myrrh is known as a "blood mover"/stimulant,  meaning that it increases circulation, thereby getting medicinal qualities to tissues and acting as a purifyer and a decongestant of tissues that are stagnant. Stagnant tissues are hot beds of inflammation and host to pathogens. Its high percentage of essential oil causes it to be antibacterial and able to ease digestive issues. It is also an astringent-which causes it to tighten tissues, expelling mucos. for those with chronic lung or reproductive or mucos membrane problems, Myrrh is a tonic-which will help maintian healthy tissue.

Colds/Flu ~ When you feel a cold or flu coming on, take a large/double dose of tincture. If you are quick enough, it can knock it out before it gets started--or can lessen and shorten symptoms and illness. Take another dose several hours later--even if you already feel better as Myrrh can build immunity, not just kill bacteria.

Sinusitis ~ Once you've had one sinus infection, you are forever prone to more. These are deep/dark/damp caverns that are affected by foods and environment. Where I live in Central New York, is known as "Sinus Valley", where practically everyone suffers to some degree because we have a damp/cool environment. Eating and sniffing horseradish is a good way of controlling sinus problems, but for chronic sufferers, Myrrh works well. For all "catarrhal "conditions, myrrh tincture may be a daily component of health maintainence.

Gum Disease ~ Gingivitis, boggy tissues, loose teeth all benefit from a mouth wash of myrrh. Typically, tinctured in brandy or witch hazel and used as a mouthwash 2-3 times per day.

Appetite Stimulant ~ For those who have any type of lingering illness that has affected appetite and caused undue weight loss, myrrh can stimulate digestive juices and allows for easy digetion.

Reproductive Issues ~ Some women have excessive discharge-unrelated to yeast infections or normal secretions. Some women are never regular--or are regularly late, or have suppressed menses.This variety of issues is due to some sort of stagnation of energy/circulation to the pelvic area as well as hormonal dysfunction. Myrrh helps spur on  stuck energy and dislodge blockages. Tinctures and compresses on the pelvic region work best--and internal and external approach.

BOILS ~ While these are a systemic problem, usually a form of a staph infection, it is also considered one of stagnancy. Sorry to be so repetitive, but this plant resin is strong and its forte is spurring movement in sluggish tissues. A tincture of myrrh 2-3 times a day is needd to relieve boils, along with other healing modes- including diet and fluids. In old medical books--this was called a "Scroffulous" condition. Anyone who has had a boil, knows how painful they are coming on and until they resolve. Myrrh powder is also an astringent and can be helpful as a compress on growing boils to bring them to a head and alieve the possibility of further infection.

Coughs ~ As an ingredient in honey based cough syrups--with a dash of ginger/thyme, myrrh acts as an expectorant--loosens mucos and allows a good wet cough.

Skin Conditions ~ Skin ulcers, oozing sores--especially in areas where healing is difficult (like the shin/feet area) benefit from compresses of myrrh. It cleans the sore, tightens tissues, relieves inflammation. It can be helpful with excema--but that condition also needs to be addressed internally as well.

First Aid ~ Its antiseptic properties make myrrh--especially in powder form and good wash/compress on cuts/abraisions/athelete's foot/bruises

Aches/Pains ~ Pain, whether caused by over activity or arthritic tendencies, an oil of myrrh (myrrh steeped in olive/apricot oil) acts as a great rub or linament (powder steeped in rubbing alcohol-used externally only).


Oral Care ~     Regular use of myrrh as an ingredient in mouthwash and toothpaste, leaves breat fresh and teeth whiter.

Prerfume ~ Myrrh smells nice on it's own or as a note in a multi-layered perfume--or deoderant.

RITUAL USE ~ Along with Frankincense, myrrh is burned as incense around the holidays, or by itself, anytime. Incense was traditionally used to drive away evil spirits (and bad smells too!) from temples or during ceremonies. Evil spirits can be construed to mean those things that can cause harm--like germs-which were unknown. Strong smelling plants-including Myrrh-could sweeten the air, deliver an air of mystery and kill germs. Pretty impressive.

Today, we can burn it to create an atmosphere of celebration, but it still serves to kill germs that family members can bring into the home. Here, use Myrrh in its pure form of hard, resinous nuggets. Place on top of a lit incense charcoal (not charcoal meant for grills), light and let smoulder, adding more as it burns.

     This isn't a very exciting herb, doesn't have lots of lore around it, but it is an age old and way underused remedy, with a great track record of effectiveness. Its lure for me, is that it is powerful in its role as spiritual tool in ceremonies and equally so in some of the widespread, health problems--it truly combines the esoteric with the mundane.


     * Read More About MYRRH


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