Myrrh gum is the gum obtained from trees belonging to the Commiphora genus. These trees are native to African countries, such as Ethiopia, Somalia, and also a few countries in Asia. In earlier times, myrrh was an exotic product used in incenses and perfumes made in the Middle East, and was one of the key ingredients used in embalming mummies. Myrrh is like a secondary metabolite that is released from resin ducts of the barks of trees, when they are cut on purpose or by accident. Once this gum is released from the barks while tapping, it hardens to form globules called 'tears', which are then collected for several purposes.
Properties of the Gum
It is bitter to taste and has an aromatic fragrance. It has an intense dark color. It also has antimicrobial and antiseptic properties. It consists of 25 to 40 percent resin and around 60 percent gum. When myrrh is subjected to double distillation for extracting essential oils, it is found to have organic compounds, such as, aldehydes and also phenolic compounds, which are highly corrosive.
The gum is used in many dental products, perfumes, and also as a protective agent in pharmaceuticals. Frankincense and myrrh have the same application in the cosmetics industry. The blend of the gum and the resin has bestowed it with a lot of medicinal properties. Following are its various uses, which have a biological significance.
- The basic use of myrrh is in the treatment of oral problems, such as, gingivitis, mouth ulcers, pyorrhea. It is also known to prevent tooth decay because of its antibacterial properties.
- It is an anti-aging agent that quenches free radicals generated in the body.
- The resins in the gum have a property to bind lipids. They bind the low density lipids and reduce the blood cholesterol in the body, thus preventing fat deposition that may cause plaque and lead to certain cardiac problems.
- The gum has been shown to enhance the production of white blood corpuscles that boost the immune system.
- It has also been used in the treatment of laryngitis and other respiratory problems. It is also effective in the treatment of common cold.
- It is an excellent detoxifying agent, and hence, enhances the functioning of the liver. (This does not imply that it can be used in the treatment of liver disorders).
- It helps in wound healing by preventing infections caused to cuts and wounds.
- Myrrh oil is also said to have a relaxing effect on the body, which calms down the nerves.
This gum is available in various forms, powder formulation being the most popular one. This form is generally used as an anti-inflammatory agent to treat the inflammation of mucous membranes, mostly mouth infections, such as ulcers. Herbal tonics of this gum are also available as antibacterial mouthwashes. The powder form is mostly recommended for topical use.
The dosage is different for each formulation. A mouthwash is usually diluted with water. The powder is used as a pinch and has to be ingested orally 3 times a day.
It is recommended that products containing myrrh gum should not be used during pregnancy. Higher than recommended doses may affect the kidneys and cause severe stomach pain. A 5 percent or lesser dose is advised only in conjunction with other herbs.
It is quite a miracle drug and has a range of applications, however, for now, it is widely used in oral hygiene products.