Myrrh (Commiphora myrrha) is one of the mildest and safest essential oils (EO) in the aromatherapy repertoire. It has a sweet balsamic fragrance note, the female counterpart to masculine frankincense. Mo Yao is in the Invigorate Blood category of the Chinese material medica, used for traumatic injury, bi syndromes and to heal wounds. In western herbal medicine it is used frequently in dental products for it anti-inflammatory effect on gingival tissue. I researched again into this beautiful aromatic resin to find out what underused properties it might have. A pilot study, by Amad et al (2001), shows that Commiphora molmol (same as C. myrrha) is anti-parasitic against a liver fluke that afflicts millions in underdeveloped countries.
Study Participants, Method & Results
Seventeen individuals participated in this study; 7 with fascioliasis and 10 healthy individuals. Participants were referred from hospitals. Three infected participants were from the same family. A formula of 8 parts myrrh resin to 3.5 parts myrrh essential oil was given orally in a dose of 12mg/kg daily for 6 days in the morning on an empty stomach. Various blood tests were done to assess for toxicity, liver function and inflammatory markers. Stool sampling; assessing patients’ reported symptoms; and an antibody titer were how the researchers determined the effectiveness of the treatment. The IHAT antibody titer is used to assess the permanence of the therapy over time, with follow-ups occurring at 3-weeks and 3 months. The researchers concluded that there were no parasite eggs in the stool after treatment. All symptoms of infection, antibodies, inflammatory & liver damage markers were normal or normalizing.
“Our therapy caused pronounced improvement of the general condition and amelioration of all symptoms and signs. The mean egg count in the infected group was 36 eggs per gram of stool. At the end of treatment (6 days), dramatic decrease in the egg count occurred, and eggs disappeared completely from stools 3 weeks after treatment and remained so for 3 months after treatment … A mild to moderate degree of anemia in infected patients was nearly corrected 3 months after treatment. High erythrocyte sedimentation rate, leukocyte count, and eosinophilia returned to normal 3 months after treatment. Elevated alkaline phosphatase and gamma glutamyl transpeptidase in patients with fascioliasis were normalized 3 months after treatment…No signs of toxicity or adverse effects were observed…. [At the 3-month follow-up, the IHAT titers were significantly decreased]” (Ahmed et al 2001).
Study Analysis & Significance
This study appears to be fairly well designed & reproducible and the researchers found a 100% cure rate. This is probably why it was published in the Journal of Tropical Medicine. Publication in a peer-reviewed journal is the gold standard of research. However, it is inconclusive by strict research standards. These researchers can only acknowledge, “Despite the small number of patients in this pilot study, Myrrh has proven to be an effective drug in the treatment of fascioliasis”. The small number of participants in the study is what ultimately renders it inconclusive. A pilot study is not basis for clinical practice; it is only basis for further study using higher research design.
Nevertheless, the significance of the study (albeit small and dated) is certainly implied. Myrrh is perhaps underused as an anti-parasitic agent. This study reinforces the adage that says, “The Medicine Is In The Back Yard Of The Afflicted”. Myrrh is an indigenous natural resource for medicine in areas or close to areas where fascioliasis may be endemic. The study reveals that C. comiphora offers (1) an inexpensive & short course of treatment via a once-a-day regimen. (2) No side effects or toxicity. (3) A 100% cure rate that endured over several months. All this provides affordability, accessibility to, and assurance of compliance with treatment. These are very important community & public health principles for infectious disease management. However, pharmaceutical companies do not patent natural products. Therefore large funds are not going to be spent on researching myrrh or its essential oil. It is left to small studies like this.
Myrrh is not an endangered species and is a sustainable “genuine” natural resource. Meaning it is passively extracted; the plant is not harmed in any way to procure the resin. Making medicine from Myrrh would have minimal impact upon indigenous ecosystems and may in fact benefit economies. The expense of manufacturing myrrh to treat Fascioliasis would occur in the harvesting and purifying. This may prove profitable to indigenous economies where myrrh grows. For example, a community could have an industry of C. molmol tree cultivation and raw material processing. The community would self-treat with portion of the formulation; selling the remaining raw material or formulation for profit or trade for other products and services.
The caveat is that over the course of history cultures surely have discovered the medicinal properties of their indigenous herbs. Why has not this novel medicinal property of myrrh resin been already herald? There must be reason why this “Holy Anointing Herb” was not used as antiparasitic medicine. At least I have found no documentation of it being purposely used as such.
* Check your sources for cautions & considerations, and route & dosing before using EOs. Especially during pregancy; on small children & infants; the elderly & weak; and those with epilepsy & neuro-muscular diseases.