Myrrh which is used for medicinal purpose and commonly known as Bol, Hirabola, heerabol, hirabol myrrh, Abyssinian myrrh, common myrrh, gum myrrh tree, gummi myrrh or Myrrh is the pieces of brownish-yellow sticky mass of the tree Commiphora myrrha. It is the resin that comes out of the secretory tissue in the bark of the Commiphora plant when it is get damaged or incised. This resin is sticky, insoluble in water but dissolves in alcohol. The resin hardens shortly after the secretion and can be liquefied again after heating.
Hirabola is used for medicinal purpose throughout India, Middle East, Tibet, China and. It is native to eastern Mediterranean countries and Somalia and used in African countries from ancient times. In India, it is mainly imported from Persia or Saudi Arabia.Myrrh is used either alone or with other medicinal herbs both internally and externally. It constricts mucous membrane of mouth and used as a gargle treat oral problems. Myrrh is also used topically in treatment of skin diseases, infections and wounds due to its antimicrobial action.
Myrrh is used as folk medicine to treat infections, respiratory conditions, mouth ulcers, gingivitis, pharyngitis, respiratory catarrh, dysmenorrhea, amenorrhea, menopausal symptoms, wounds and hemorrhoids. It has also been used to treat arthritis.
Myrrh shows beneficial effects in Fascioliasis (parasitic infection caused by two species of parasitic flatworms or trematodes, typically by Fasciola hepatica, which is also known as “the common liver fluke” or “the sheep liver fluke). Fascioliasis is found all over the world and especially in regions where sheep or cattle are reared. The infection reaches to people by eating raw watercress or other water plants contaminated with immature parasite larvae. The immature larval flukes goes through the intestinal wall, the abdominal cavity, and the liver tissue, into the bile ducts, where they develop into mature adult flukes, which produce eggs. Maturing results in the obstruction of bile ducts and causes biliary tract obstruction and liver damage.
In one small study, seven infected patients were treated with myrrh (1.2 gram/day for 6 days). After treatment, all symptoms and signs were cured and tests shown a dramatic drop in egg count and the eggs were no longer detected 3 weeks after the treatment. Also high-eosinophil counts elevated liver enzymes and Fasciola antibody titres returned to normal.
Various animal studies, clinical trials and field studies, concludes that myrrh is an excellent fasciolicidal drug free of side effects.
- Plant Description: Myrrh is native of arid and alpine habitats in Djibouti, Ethiopia, Somalia, Kenya, Oman and Yemen. It is small, thick-stemmed tree or shrub with a succulent trunk and spine-like twigs.
- Stem: Tree with somewhat thick trunk and spreading branches.
- Leaves: Small and sparse, generally single and grey-green, oval-shaped and trifoliate, but variable in size and shape. Leaf terminate in an acute point.
- Bark: Silver, papery and peeling, with green bark underneath.
- Fruits: Tiny and brown, with a smooth, oval shape.
- Resin: Damaging or incising the stem produces a pale yellow, oily resin.
It has aromatic bitter and acrid taste and warm, smoky scent. It turns reddish and dusty upon hardening. The size can vary from small grains up to pieces as large as an egg. It reddish brown with dusty dull surface, moist and unctuous. On breaking resin exhibit a rough or waxy fracture. Fractured translucent surface displays characteristic whitish marks.
It dissolves in alcohol, leaving angular non-crystalline particles of gum and fragments of bark.
Part(s) used for medicinal purpose: Oleo-gum-resin, Essential oil (called oleoresin), stem, leaves
Plant type / Growth Habit: Large tree
- Duration: Perennial
- Distribution: Arid regions, native of Somalia and Ethiopia
- Habitat: In India, it is found on dry hills of Central India.
How to obtain Myrrh Gum Resin
- Myrrh resin is harvested by making incisions roughly 2 inches long into the bark of the tree.
- The exudate hardens after some time and forms into pearls which are harvested around two weeks after the incision is made.
- New incisions can be made over old ones after removing the resin after making an additional scratch.
Vernacular names / Synonyms
- Scientific name: Commiphora myrrha
- Ayurvedic: Bola, Bola, Heerabola, Hirabol, Gandhrasa, Surasa, Barbara
- English: African Myrrh, Arabian Myrr, Bitter Myrrh, Commiphora, Commiphora molmol, Diddin, Didin, Male Myrrh, Malmal, Mohmol, Molmol, Murr, Myrrh, Somali Myrrh, Yemen Myrrh
- Hindi, Bengali, Gujrati: Mur, Bol
- Kannada: Bola
- Marathi: Balata-bola
- Siddha: Vellaibolam
- Tamil: Vellaip-polam
- Telugu: Balimtra-polam
- Unani: Mur Makki, Murmakki, Bol
- Tehran: Khak-i-mugl, Mun-e-makki
- Persia: Myrrha mechensis
All plants are scientifically classified into main 7 levels. These levels are Kingdom, Division, Class, Order, Family, Genus and Species. A genus comprise of many species and botanical name consists of Genus (uppercase) followed by Species (lowercase). Genus consists of many species which are closely related and have lots of similarities. Species is the lowest level and represents the group of same plant.
The botanical name of Myrrh is Commiphora myrrha. It belongs to plant family Burseraceae. There are over 150 species of Commiphora plants. Each species has its unique constituent profile, and hence specific therapeutic actions. The three species which are used medicinally are:
- Commiphora mukul (Known as Guggul or Guggulu in Ayurveda, it is native to India)
- Commiphora molmol (commonly farmed species)
- Commiphora myrrha (It is native to Yemen, Somalia, Eritrea and Ethiopia)
Taxonomical classification of plant
- Kingdom: Plantae (comprising all living or extinct plants)
- Subkingdom: Tracheobionta (have lignified tissues or xylem for conducting water and minerals)
- Superdivision: Spermatophyta (produce seeds)
- Class: Magnoliopsida (flowering plant producing an embryo with paired cotyledons)
- Subclass: Rosidae
- Order: Sapindales
- Family: Burseraceae – Frankincense family
- Genus: Commiphora Jacq. – myrrh
- Species: myrrh
Balsamodendron myrrha Nees.
Constituents of Myrrh
Myrrh contains three main components, gum resin 30–60% (containing polysaccharides and proteins), alcohol soluble resins 20–40% and volatile oils (2–10%) (Composed of steroids, sterols and terpenes).
- Steroids: Campesterol, cholesterol, b-sitosterol
- Terpenoids: a-Amyrin, Furanosesquiterpenes, furaneudesma- 1, 3-diene, furaneudesma-1,4-diene-6-one, lindestrine, curzerenone, furanodiene, 2-methoxyfuranodiene and 4,5- dihydrofuranodiene-6-one
- Volatile oils: 1.5–17% containing furanosesquiterpenes, Dipentene, cadinene, heerabolene, limonene, pinene, eugenol, m-cresol, cinnamaldehyde, cuminaldehyde, cumic alcohol etc.
Important Medicinal Properties
Myrrh is rich in medicinal properties. The understanding of these properties will help us to better utilize this herb. These also indicate the conditions in which we should avoid it.
Below is given medicinal properties along with the meaning.
- Anti–inflammatory: Reducing inflammation by acting on body mechanisms.
- Antipyretic/antifebrile/febrifuge: Effective against fever.
- Astringents: Constrict tissues; styptic on mucous membranes.
- Antimicrobial: Active against microbes.
- Antidiabetic: Controls blood sugar level. For this purpose it can be taken along with Aloe juice. It works as anti-diabetic medicine by decreasing gluconeogenesis and increasing peripheral utilization of glucose.
- Analgesic: Relieve pain.
- Anticatarrhal: Reduces catarrh.
- Anti-tumor: In mice an aqueous suspension of myrrh (250 or 500 mg/kg, orally) produced significant decreases in tumor weight.
- Antiseptic: Capable of preventing infection by inhibiting the growth of infectious agents.
- Carminative: Preventing the formation or causing the expulsion of flatulence.
- Cytoprotective: Protects cell. Oral administration provide significant and dose-dependent protection to gastric mucosa against various ulcergenic agents.
- Expectorant: Promotes the secretion of sputum by the air passages, used to treat coughs.
- Emmenagogue: Used for irregular menstruation and painful periods, and to cleanse the womb
- Lipid-lowering: Lowers lipid level.
- Hypoglycemic: Lowers blood sugar level in both normal and diabetic condition.
- Wound healing: Heals wound.
Ayurvedic Properties and Action
This medicinal substance is not originally from India. In Sanskrit, it is called Bol or Vola and this word seems to be derived from Bole (meaning trunk).The ole gum resin is used in Ayurveda for fever, uterine affections and to purify the uterus. Myrrh is hot and dry, astringent and aperient. It reduces cough. Externally it is applied as a stimulant and disinfectant to ulcers, sores, etc.
Bola/Hiraboa is astringent, bitter, and pungent in taste (Rasa), pungent after digestion (Vipaka), and is hot in effect (Virya).
It is an Ushna Virya herb. Ushna Virya or hot potency herb, Kapha (Mucus) and increases Pitta (Bile). It has property of digestion, vomiting and purging, and gives feeling of lightness. It is considered bad for sperms and fetus.
- Rasa (taste on tongue): Kashaya (Astringent), Katu (Pungent), Tikta (Bitter)
- Guna (Pharmacological Action): Laghu (Light), Ruksha (Dry),
- Virya (Action): Ushna (Heating)
- Vipaka (transformed state after digestion): Katu (Pungent)
Bola is pungent in both the initial and post-digestive tastes (Rasa and Vipaka). It is a Katu Vipak herb. Vipak refers to post-digestive (effect after digestion / cooking of Rasa) effect of tastes after its mixing with digestive juices. It is the long term effect of herb.
Katu Viapk herbs, increases dryness in body. Such foods reduce fertility and Kapha. Katu vipaak has catabolic effect on body.
- Deepana: Promote appetite but do not aid in digesting undigested food
- Pachan: Assist in digesting undigested food, but do not increase the appetite
- Kaphahara: Pacifies Kapha Dosha
- Garbhashaya Shodhana: Uterus / womb cleansing
Ayurvedic Medicines Containing Bola
Chief Indications of Bola or Mur Makki
- Arthritis, lumbago
- Infections, wounds
- Oral Problems (mouth ulcers, gingivitis, pharyngitis)
- Respiratory Ailments (Cold-cough-catarrh, chronic bronchitis, chest infections)
- Menstrual Problems (Amenorrhea, dysmenorrhea, menopausal symptoms)
Medicinal Uses of Myrrh
Bola is traditionally used in treatment of blood impurities, biliousness, catarrh, and cures uterine affections, aphthous ulcers, pharyngitis, respiratory catarrh, common cold, amenorrhea, abrasions, atonic dyspepsia, diarrhea, fever, worms, wounds etc. It is specifically used for mouth ulcers, gingivitis and pharyngitis. It is topically used for mild inflammation of the oral and pharyngeal mucosa. Myrrh oil is used in gingival inflammation associated with gingivitis and periodontitis.
Bed sores, open wound, chronic ulcer, skin cracks, minor wounds and haemorrhoids
Myrrh is applied topically on such skin conditions due to its antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, astringent and local anesthetic properties.
Resin + bee wax + jaggery are heated with ghee and applied.
Bola + jaggery + rock salt + Bee wax + Khus + ghee is applied topically on affected body part.
Fungal infections of the nails and skin
Tincture of myrrh mixed with calendula is applied.
It is dissolved in breast milk and dropped into the eye in purulent ophthalmia (inflammation of the eye).
Rheumatism, nervine pain
Punarnava + Bhallataka Semecarpus anacardium kernels + Jungli erandi Jatropha curcas root are crushed, made into a decoction and then into a thick paste by adding Commiphora myrrha gum resin. This is given twice a day for rheumatism and nervine pain.
Please note Bhallataka and Jatropha curcas are poisonous plant.
Scabies, itches, all types of wounds
Bola + Kali mirch + Vidang + Sarson ke daane + Motha + Gandhak + Kushtha + Pencil cactus + Haldi + Kapur + Suhaga + Nila- tutiya sulphate of copper are taken in equal amount and powdered. This is mixed in coconut oil and kept in sunlight. This is further heated in iron vessel and applied on affected areas.
It is used as food flavoring and added in limited amount.
In USA it is used in alcoholic beverages.
In Europe it is added to toothpastes.
Dosage of Myrrh
- The ole gum resin can be taken in dose of 500 mg to 1.25 grams.
- This medicinal dosage can be added to hot boiling water and steeped for fifteen minutes. This can be taken twice or thrice day.
- Or the powdered resin is taken, once or twice a day.
- Myrrh Tincture 2.5–5.0 mL is mixed with one glass of water and used several times daily as a gargle or a mouthwash.
Contraindications, Interactions, Side-effects and Warnings
- The raw Myrrh can be taken orally in very small quantities.
- Myrrh should not be given to children under 2 years. For older children and people over 65 a lower strength is prescribed initially.
- It is not easily absorbed by the intestines.
- Intake in large amount can upset the stomach.
- Do not use during pregnancy due to its abortifacient and emmenagogue properties.
- In case of diabetes, it is important to monitor changes in serum glucose.
- It may increase bruising and bleeding.
- People with sensitive skin should avoid topical applications containing myrrh, as it may cause contact dermatitis.
- It is not a toxic substance and does not show hepatotoxic, genotoxic and carcinogenic effects, even after long-term use.