Myrrh is the dried resin of the tree Commiphora myrrha. Native to Somalia and eastern Ethiopia, myrrh has a long history of traditional use in perfumes and incense. Additionally, it has perhaps an equally long history as a medicinal treatment, primarily for conditions of the mouth, such as canker sores, gum disease, halitosis, and sore throat.
Modern herbalists continue to use myrrh for its traditional uses related to the mouth. In addition, it has been advocated for treatment of eczema and stomach ulcers. However, there is no meaningful scientific evidence that the herb provides any benefits when used for these or any other purposes.
Beginning in 2001, a pharmaceutical-grade myrrh product known as Mirazid was marketed for treatment of the disease schistosomiasis. Caused by a type of flatworm, schistosomiasis is common in Africa as well as parts of Asia and South America. It is a seriously debilitating illness, and considerable attention has been devoted to addressing it. China, for example, eliminated the illness within its borders by means of a massive countrywide effort involving much of the country’s human population—working by hand, the Chinese people destroyed the entire population of the snail species that carries schistosomiasis. However, while this approach was successful, use of myrrh was not. It appears that the marketing of Mirazid as a schistosomiasis treatment was premature. A few highly preliminary studies had shown benefit, but subsequent full-scale trials found it to be far less effective than conventional treatment, and perhaps not effective at all.1,2
When used for mouth conditions, tincture of myrrh may be applied directly to canker sores or inflamed gums. It can also be diluted in water and used as a gargle. When taken internally, a typical dose of myrrh is 1 g of resin 3 times daily.
In studies of myrrh for treatment of schistosomiasis, no significant side effects were identified. However, comprehensive safety studies have not been performed. Maximum safe doses in pregnant or nursing women, or people with severe liver of kidney disease have not been determined.
1. Barakat R, Elmorshedy H, Fenwick A. Efficacy of myrrh in the treatment of human Schistosomiasis mansoni. Am J Trop Med Hyg. 2005;73:365-367.
2. Botros S, Sayed H, El-Dusoki H, et al. Efficacy of mirazid in comparison with praziquantel in Egyptian Schistosoma mansoni-infected school children and households. Am J Trop Med Hyg. 2005;72:119-123.
Last reviewed December 2015 by EBSCO CAM Review Board Last Updated: 12/15/2015