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Myrrh, also known as guggul, possesses strong anti-inflammatory and anti-infective components


Commiphora mukul Burseraceae

Myrrh contains resin, volatile oils and gums as its primary constituents. Myrrh provides particular protection for the blood vessels against the onset of conditions such as atherosclerosis.

Sustainability Status

Sustainability status

At risk from overharvesting and habitat loss. Read more about our sustainability guide.

Key benefits
  • Digestive remedy
  • Supports blood vessels
  • Reduces cholesterol
  • Skin inflammation
  • Detox
  • How does it feel?

    Myrrh is a small thorny tree that grows in dry, arid areas and is native to India. The tree exudes a resinous sap out of incisions in the bark. It is this resin that is known as ‘guggul’. On an annual basis, each plant will produce between 0.5–1kg of resin which is collected for medicinal purposes. According to the Bhavaprakasha there are five varieties. The dark brown (mahishaksha) and yellow brown (kanaka) Guggulu varieties are preferred for their medicinal values.

  • What can I use it for?

    Myrrh contains resin, volatile oils and gums as its primary constituents. Myrrh contains one particular component which is the steroid guggulsterone. It is this particular compound that is responsible for the plants ability to lower LDL (low density lipoprotein) based cholesterols and to lower levels of blood based triglycerides. This herb also demonstrates antioxidant activity which provides particular protection for the blood vessels against the onset of conditions such as atherosclerosis. Consequently, this herb is often used in weight maintenance programmes and to improve digestive metabolism.

  • Into the heart of myrrh

    Myrrh has a very specific ability to support the body’s natural ability to metabolise and process fat and is traditionally used to help reduce excessive levels of cholesterol and fat in the blood stream. Its ability to enhance digestive metabolism has made guggul particularly popular in weight management programmes where individuals are trying to loose excess weight. The impact of guggul upon metabolism means that it has the ability to support other organs highly dependent upon an efficient metabolism, such as the thyroid.

    Myrrh will effectively ‘scrape-out’ any toxic accumulations within the body, indicating it in any condition characterised by accumulation such as diabetes, atherosclerosis, arthritis, endometriosis and generalised inflammation.

    Myrrh also possesses particularly strong anti-inflammatory and anti-infective components that make it excellent at treating any form of infection characterised by pain and inflammation. Myrrh has displayed particular effectiveness in dental and skin infections.

    Myrrh reduces cholesterol (LDL) and prevents accumulation. It has a property that ‘scrapes’ deposits from the channels, joints and tissues. Myrrh is a specific herb for obesity and excessive weight; this works via its ability to enhance thyroid function and regulation of fat metabolism.

    Myrrh displays strong anti-inflammatory and detoxifying action, with a particular affinity for arthritic pain and swelling.

    Myrrh is indicated in ischaemic heart disease, angina and congestive heart failure. It increases the blood flow, reduces blood clots and clears atherosclerosis. It scrapes toxic deposits and accumulations from the body.

    It can clear endometriosis, polycystic ovarian syndrome and clots, through reducing all accumulations of the lower abdomen. It also regulates the cycle and is a strong emmenagogue.

    Myrrh can be used to treat skin inflammations. Clinical trials have proven efficacy in acne as opposed to antibiotic treatment. It is used in stubborn skin lesions that are chronic, ‘stuck’ and resistant to other treatments. It also benefits general inflammations of the mucus membranes throughout the body, mouth ulcers and lung infections. It helps to regenerate tissue granulation and enhance healing; clears tumours, dead tissue and reduces lipomas.

    Myrrh has the ability to increase the white blood cell count, which helps to clear infections, reduce sore throats and promote the immune response.

    The resinous characteristics of myrrh, traditionally indicated it in the healing of bone based fractures and the healing of deep-seated wounds.

    Myrrh can be effectively used to reduce all growths and accumulations in the body, including tumours.

  • Traditional actions

  • Traditional energetic actions

    Herbal energetics are the descriptions Herbalists have given to plants, mushrooms, lichens, foods, and some minerals based on the direct experience of how they taste, feel, and work in the body. All traditional health systems use these principles to explain how the environment we live in and absorb, impacts our health. Find out more about traditional energetic actions in our article “An introduction to herbal energetics“.

  • Did you know?

    Myrrh is traditionally collected during the Autumn season, as it is believed to be more potent at this time of year. Interestingly, myrrh used to be purified by boiling it in milk and cow’s urine (thankfully, it is no longer purified using such methods!).

Additional information

  • Safety

    Guggulipid is reported to reduce the effect of antihypertensives such as propanolol and diltiazem and so medication should be adjusted accordingly. Caution with hypoglycaemic medication.

  • Dosage

    3–9g/day in a decoction, 250–3g/day pills, 3 x 250–750mg/day of 1:4 concentrated powder or 3–10ml/day of a 1:5 in 90% tincture. While using Guggulu, pitta aggravating lifestyle (sour foods, alcohol, anger and excessive sunlight and sexual activity) should be avoided.

myrrh illustration
An ‘aromatic’ remedy, high in volatile essential oils, was most often associated with calming and sometimes ‘warming’ the digestion. Most kitchen spices and herbs have this quality: they were used both as flavouring and to ease the digestion of sometimes challenging pre-industrial foods. Many aromatics are classed as ‘carminatives’ and are used to reduce colic, bloating and agitated digestion. They also often feature in respiratory remedies for colds, chest and other airway infections. They are also classic calming inhalants and massage oils, and are the basis of aromatherapy for their mental benefits.
Astringent taste
The puckering taste you get with many plants (the most familiar is black tea after being stewed too long, or some red wines) is produced by complex polyphenols such as tannins. Tannins are used in concentrated form (eg from oak bark) to make leather from animal skins. The process of ‘tanning’ involves the coagulation of relatively fluid proteins in living tissues into tight clotted fibres (similar to the process of boiling an egg). Tannins in effect turn exposed surfaces on the body into leather. In the case of the lining of mouth and upper digestive tract this is only temporary as new mucosa are replenished, but in the meantime can calm inflamed or irritated surfaces. In the case of open wounds tannins can be a life-saver – when strong (as in the bark of broadleaved trees) they can seal a damaged surface. One group of tannins, the reddish-brown ‘condensed tannins’ are procyanidins, which can reduce inflammation and oxidative damage.
Bitters are a very complex group of phytochemicals that stimulate the bitter receptors in the mouth. They were some of the most valuable remedies in ancient medicine. They were experienced as stimulating appetite and switching on a wide range of key digestive functions, including increasing bile clearance from the liver (as bile is a key factor in bowel health this can be translated into improving bowel functions and the microbiome). Many of these reputations are being supported by new research on the role of bitter receptors in the mouth and elsewhere round the body. Bitters were also seen as ‘cooling’ reducing the intensity of some fevers and inflammatory diseases.
Blue-purple colouring
Any fruits with a blue-purple colouring contain high levels of the polyphenols known as anthocyanins. These work 1) on the walls of small blood vessels, helping to maintain capillary structure to reduce a key stage in inflammation, and improving the microcirculation to the tissues; 2) to improve retinal function and vision; 3) to support connective tissue repair around the body.
Traditional ‘cold’ or cooling’ remedies often contain bitter phytonutrients such a iridoids (gentian), sesiquterpenes (chamomile), anthraquinones (rhubarb root), mucilages (marshmallow), some alkaloids and flavonoids. They tend to influence the digestive system, liver and kidneys. Cooling herbs do just that; they diffuse, drain and clear heat from areas of inflammation, redness and irritation. Sweet, bitter and astringent herbs tend to be cooling.
Traditional ‘hot’ or ‘heating’ remedies, often containing spice ingredients like capsaicin, the gingerols (ginger), piperine (black or long pepper), curcumin (turmeric) or the sulfurous isothiocyanates from mustard, horseradich or wasabi, generate warmth when taken. In modern times this might translate as thermogenic and circulatory stimulant effects. There is evidence of improved tissue blood flow with such remedies: this would lead to a reduction in build-up of metabolites and tissue damage. Heating remedies were used to counter the impact of cold, reducing any symptoms made worse in the cold. .
Mucilages are complex carbohydrate based plant constituents with a slimy or ‘unctuous’ feel especially when chewed or macerated in water. Their effect is due simply to their physical coating exposed surfaces. From prehistory they were most often used as wound remedies for their soothing and healing effects on damaged tissues. Nowadays they are used more for these effects on the digestive lining, from the throat to the stomach, where they can relieve irritation and inflammation such as pharyngitis and gastritis. Some of the prominent mucilaginous remedies like slippery elm, aloe vera and the seaweeds can be used as physical buffers to reduce the harm and pain caused by reflux of excess stomach acid. Mucilages are also widely used to reduce dry coughing. Here the effect seems to be by reflex through embryonic nerve connections: reduced signals from the upper digestive wall appear to translate as reduced activity of airway muscles and increased activity of airway mucus cells. Some seed mucilages, such as in psyllium seed, flaxseed (linseed) or guar bean survive digestion to provide bulking laxative effects in the bowel. These can also reduce rate of absorption of sugar and cholesterol. .
New-mown hay aroma
The familiar country odour of haymaking, of drying grass and other plants, is largely produced by coumarins (originally isolated from tonka beans – in French coumarou) and widely used in perfumery. They are chemically categorised as benzopyrone lactones and are important phytochemicals, with strong antioxidant activity in the laboratory and likely effects in modulating inflammation. They were most often associated with the calming effect linked to their use in stuffing mattresses and pillows and plants, high In coumarins were commonly used for these properties.
Resins are most familiar as tacky discharges from pine trees (and as the substance in amber, and rosin for violin bows). They were most valued however as the basis of ancient commodities like frankincense and myrrh (two of the three gifts of the Three Wise Men to the baby Jesus) and getting access to their source was one benefit to Solomon for marrying the Queen of Sheba (now Ethiopia). Resins were the original antiseptic remedies, ground and applied as powders or pastes to wounds or inflamed tissues, and were also used for mummification. With alcohol distillation it was found that they could be dissolved in 90% alcohol and in this form they remain a most powerful mouthwash and gargle, for infected sore throats and gum disease. They never attracted much early research interest because they permanently coat expensive glassware! For use in the mouth, gums and throat hey are best combined with concentrated licorice extracts to keep the resins in suspension and add extra soothing properties. It appears that they work both as local antiseptics and by stimulating white blood cell activity under the mucosal surface. They feel extremely effective!
The salty flavour is immediately distinctive. A grain dropped onto the tongue is instantly moistening and a sprinkle on food enkindles digestion. This easily recognisable flavour has its receptors right at the front of the tongue. The salty flavor creates moisture and heat, a sinking and heavy effect which is very grounding for the nervous system and encourages stability. People who are solid and reliable become known as ‘the salt of the earth'.
The sharp taste of some fruits, and almost all unripe fruits, as well as vinegar and fermented foods, is produced by weak acids (the taste is generated by H+ ions from acids stimulating the sour taste buds). Sour taste buds are hard-wired to generate immediate reflex responses elsewhere in the body. Anyone who likes the refreshing taste of lemon or other citrus in the morning will know that one reflex effect is increased saliva production. Other effects are subjective rather than confirmed by research but there is a consistent view that they include increased digestive activity and contraction of the gallbladder.
In the days when most people never tasted sugar, ‘sweetness’ was associated with the taste of basic foods: that of cooked vegetables, cereals and meat. In other words sweet was the quality of nourishment, and ‘tonic’ remedies. Describing a remedy as sweet generally led to that remedy being used in convalescence or recovery from illness. Interestingly, the plant constituents most often found in classic tonics like licorice, ginseng are plant steroids including saponins, which also have a sweet taste.

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