Myrrh is a powerful antioxidant that is beneficial for the immune and digestive system. I have utilized myrrh for many reasons over the last twenty years in my midwifery career and personal life. I’ve recently discovered more reasons to love this herb and wanted to share it with you.
“Myrrh can protect against PbAc-induced hepatic oxidative damage and immunotoxicity by reducing lipid peroxidation and enhancing the antioxidant and immune defense mechanisms.” Medical News Today
The New Testament mentions myrrh as one of the gifts brought to baby Jesus after his birth: gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Traditionally myrrh was known to heal herpes and to treat hay fever in Egypt. In comparison, the Greeks used it with soldiers on the battlefield as an antiseptic to clean up wounds.
Myrrh is a sap-like substance (resin) that comes out of cuts in the bark of certain trees. The Arabic word “murr” means bitter.
Reasons to use myrrh:
- Support gastrointestinal health
- For the symptoms of asthma
- Support upper respiratory health
- For coughs and sore throats
- To relieve joint pain
- Supports a healthy intestinal environment
- To relieve hemorrhoids
- To promote healthy skin
- Support healthy bowel function
- Reduce inflammatory diseases
Myrrh has been used historically for the treatment of inflammatory diseases due to its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. In a heavily scientific article, you will find information on how the use of myrrh can significantly improve the symptoms of colitis and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). If left untreated ulcerative colitis (UC) can lead to colon cancer.
Consulting with a Master Herbalist, a Naturopathic Doctor, or an Acupuncturist is a good idea when experiencing ongoing stomach upset that isn’t resolved with dietary changes and stress reduction techniques. Taking papaya enzymes after meals is a great way to support your digestive system. Drinking Know Your Gut, Trust Your Gut will rebalance your digestive tract as it contains soothing herbs and flowers such as red clover, cornflower petals, comfrey leaf, and dandelion. Read Drinking to Improve Digestion for more information.
“In conclusion, the results of the present study provided support for the beneficial effects of myrrh against AA-induced experimental colitis. The protective properties of myrrh may be attributed to its ability to inhibit free radical production and potentiate the endogenous enzymatic or non-enzymatic antioxidant system. Furthermore, myrrh was shown to decrease the levels of inflammatory mediators, thus suggesting that it may have a role as an anti-inflammatory compound. The present study results suggest that myrrh may be a promising novel candidate compound for the treatment of IBDs.”
If you are in the medical field or have a science background, you may want to know more about the compounds within myrrh to understand its genius further.
“Myrrh contains volatile oil, which in turn consists of heerabolene, a-cadinene, elemol, eugenol, cuminaldehyde, terpenes (such as furanodiene, furanodienone, curzerenone, lindestrene, 2-methoxyfuranodiene, and 3-epi-alpha-amyrin), and various other compounds (64). In addition, myrcene, a-camphorene, and various steroids, including Z-guggulsterol and guggulsterol I, II, and III, have been detected (65), while a previous study reported that tannins were also found in myrrh (66).” US National Library of Medicine/National Institutes of Health
As a Licensed Midwife, I was familiar with myrrh powder to heal wounds. Specifically for the healing of the umbilical cord stump for newborn babies. Hospitals have routinely recommended applying alcohol to cord stumps to keep them clean and free of germs until it naturally fell off in 5-15 days. This treatment had not changed in over a hundred years. A study was published in 2016 recommending dry cord care as opposed to standard alcohol cleansing to reduce the time it takes for the cord stump to fall away.
“Internationally, the World Health Organization (WHO) has advocated since 1998 for the use of dry UC care (keeping the cord clean without application of anything and leaving it exposed to air or loosely covered by a clean cloth, in case it becomes soiled it is only cleaned with water).”
From A Case-Control Study in Italy by
Rosanna Quattrin, MD, Kim Iacobucci, DSN, Anna Lisa De Tina, DSN, Letizia Gallina, DSN, Carla Pittini, MD, and Silvio Brusaferro, MD
When babies are born in free-standing birth centers or at home with licensed midwives, cross-contamination is not likely to occur when babies are kept with the parents. Midwives are typically with one mother and baby for the duration of the labor, delivery, and the immediate postpartum period. Mothers are discharged and sent home to rest within 3-6 hours after birth when delivering out of the hospital with midwifery care.
For over twenty years, I have been advising mothers to apply myrrh powder to their babies’ cord stump with each diaper change. I recommend folding the diaper under the stump to allow airflow. Baby tee shirts instead of onesies (until the cord is gone) make diaper changes easy and allow for necessary airflow to dry out the cord.
When my midwifery career started, we advised applying myrrh and goldenseal powder for the healing cord. A little packet of these powders was added to our client’s care package for postpartum care. As we learned of goldenseal being endangered and being harder to obtain (not to mention the high cost), we switched to only recommending myrrh powder.
When applying this dry powder to the stump several times a day, we noticed the cord would fall off in 3-5 days instead of the standard 10-15 days for babies where alcohol was used. Thankfully it has recently become common practice to avoid alcohol cleansing even in hospitals. Rubbing alcohol is cold and unpleasant for babies and disrupts the body’s natural ability to heal.
Over the years, I have used myrrh powder on cuts and scrapes for myself and my family and have noticed a reduction in healing time. This resin from tree bark is a miracle herb with more uses than I can fully articulate in this article. However, there are a few contraindications to be aware of.
- Avoid oral use while pregnant as it may cause miscarriage.
- Avoid use if you have heart conditions.
- Myrrh could lower blood sugar levels. Avoid myrrh if you use medication to lower your levels.
- May lower blood pressure, so use with caution if your blood pressure is already low.
- It might make fevers higher.
For more information on healing herbs, visit You, Me, and Uni for articles on health. Cornflower, ginger, green tea, and journaling are some of the topics you will find. All You, Me, and Uni teas: Trust Your Gut, Know Your Gut and Meditative State of Mind can be purchased through Amazon.
Anastacia Elizabeth Walden is a writer, editor and the owner of Walden Writes For Women.