Myrrh

Myrrh

Myrrh

Common Names

  • Mo Yao
  • Abyssinica
  • Heerabol

For Patients & Caregivers

Myrrh has not been shown to treat cancer in humans.

Myrrh is an extract of a tree gum resin that has been used as a fragrance for centuries. It has also been used medicinally, and recent laboratory studies in animals have shown certain biological activities. Myrrh extracts may protect against damage to the stomach mucus lining by substances such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and alcohol. It may also have antioxidant properties and stimulate the thyroid gland. In animal studies, myrrh reduces inflammation and fevers. There also appears to be anticancer activity based on experiments that show slowing of cancer growth in mice, and decreased proliferaton or death in isolated cancer cells. It is unknown, however, if these effects can occur in humans.

A small study showed that myrhh may be effective in treating trichomoniasis vaginalis, a sexually transmitted disease.

  • To treat asthma
    Experiments in animals suggest that myrrh might reduce inflammation.
  • To treat coughs
    No scientific evidence supports this use.
  • To treat gastrointestinal disorders and indigestion
    Myrrh extracts have been found to protect against damage to the mucus lining of the stomach.
  • To reduce inflammation
    Experiments in animals suggest that myrrh might reduce inflammation.
  • To treat sexually transmitted disease
    A small study showed that myrhh may be effective in treating trichomoniasis vaginalis.
  • You are taking warfarin: Myrrh may reduce the therapeutic effects of warfarin.
  • You have sensitive skin: Topical myrrh products can cause irritation.
  • High doses of myrrh can affect heart rate.
  • Topical myrrh products can cause skin redness, swelling, and itching.
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For Healthcare Professionals

Commiphora molmol

The oleo gum resin obtained from Commiphora species, myrrh is well known as a fragrance used in incense and in perfumes. It is also used in traditional medicine for treating inflammation, stomach problems, asthma, and other bronchial conditions.

Studies indicate that myrhh has anti-inflammatory, cytotoxic (13), anti-trichomonas (14) and antipyretic effects in vitro and in mice (2). Constituents of myrrh have also been shown to inhibit certain cancers (3)(4)(5)(12), but human data are lacking.

A small study showed effectiveness of myrrh against trichomoniasis vaginalis in affected women (15).

  • Asthma
  • Cough
  • GI disorders
  • Indigestion
  • Inflammation
  • Sexually transmitted disease

In animal studies, an aqueous suspension of C. molmol has been found to protect against gastric mucosal damage caused by non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and ethanol (7). C. molmol is thought to have free radical-scavenging, thyroid-stimulating, and prostaglandin-inducing properties. These effects are caused by increases in mucus production, and nucleic acid and non-protein sulfhydryl concentrations. Aqueous extracts of myrrh may induce hepatic microsomal enzymes, causing a more rapid metabolism of warfarin (10).

C.molmol inhibits the growth of Ehrlich carcinoma cells in mice (4). The cytotoxic activities appear to be as effective as cyclophosphamide in solid tumor-bearing mice. Results of one study reveal that the Na, K and Ca levels in cancer cells were reduced by treatment of C. molmol, leading to inhibition of cellular proliferation and tumor growth (3). Another in vitro study found that myrrh gum had tumoricidal effect against a malignant murine neuroblastoma cell line (5).  The antiproliferative activity of sesquiterpenoids ST1 and ST2 from myrhh in human prostate cancer cells may occur through androgen receptor signaling inhibition (12).

Patients who have sensitive skin should avoid topical products containing myrrh (6).

  • High doses may affect heart rate (5).
  • Topical preparations containing myrrh have been reported to cause contact dermatitis (6).

Warfarin: A published case report describes the antagonism of the anticoagulant effects of warfarin after a patient began concomitantly taking C. molmol (10).


  1. DerMarderosian A, editor. The Review of Natural Products. St. Louis: Facts and Comparisons; 1999.

  2. Tariq M, et al. Anti-inflammatory activity of Commiphora molmol. Agents Actions 1986;17:381-2.

  3. Mazzio EA and Soliman KF. In vitro screening for the tumoricidal properties of international medicinal herbs. Phytother Res. 2009;23(3):385-398.

  4. al Harbi MM, et al. Gastric antiulcer and cytoprotective effect of Commiphora molmol in rats. J Ethnopharmacol 1997;55:141-50.

  5. Brinker F. Herb Contraindications and Drug Interactions, 3rd ed. Sandy (OR): Eclectic Medical Publications; 2001.

  6. Barnes J, et al. Herbal Medicines. Second Ed. London: Pharmaceutical Press; 2002.

  7. Gruenwald J, et al. PDR for Herbal medicines, 2nd ed. Montvale (NJ): Medical Economics Company; 1998.

  8. Wang XL, Kong F, Shen T, et al. Sesquiterpenoids from myrrh inhibit androgen receptor expression and function in human prostate cancer cells. Acta Pharmacol Sin. 2011 Mar;32(3):338-44.

  9. Tipton DA, Lyle B, Babich H, Dabbous MKh. In vitro cytotoxic and anti-inflammatory effects of myrrh oil on human gingival fibroblasts and epithelial cells. Toxicol In Vitro. 2003 Jun;17(3):301-10.

  10. El-Sherbini GT, El Gozamy BR, Abdel-Hady NM, Morsy TA. Efficacy of two plant extracts against vaginal trichomoniasis. J Egypt Soc Parasitol. 2009 Apr;39(1):47-58.

  11. El-Sherbiny GM, El Sherbiny ET. The Effect of Commiphora molmol (Myrrh) in Treatment of Trichomoniasis vaginalis infection. Iran Red Crescent Med J. 2011 Jul;13(7):480-6.

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