Myrrh has long been used in traditional Chinese medicine and Ayurvedic medicine. Scientists are now testing the oil’s potential uses, including for pain, infections, and skin sores (
Here are 10 science-based health benefits and uses of myrrh essential oil.
Ancient Egyptians used myrrh and other essential oils to embalm mummies, as the oils not only provide a nice scent but also slow decay. Scientists now know this is because the oils kill bacteria and other microbes (
Additionally, in Biblical times, myrrh incense — often in combination with frankincense — was burned in places of worship to help purify the air and prevent the spread of contagious diseases, including those caused by bacteria.
One recent study found that burning myrrh and frankincense incense reduced airborne bacterial counts by 68% (
Preliminary animal research suggests that myrrh can directly kill bacteria, as well as stimulate the immune system to make more white blood cells, which also kill bacteria (
In test-tube studies, myrrh oil has strong effects against several infectious bacteria, including some drug-resistant ones (3,
In one test-tube study, myrrh oil at a low dilution of 0.1% killed all dormant Lyme disease bacteria, which can persist in some people after antibiotic treatment and continue to cause illness (
Still, more studies are needed to determine whether myrrh oil can treat persistent Lyme infections.
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Due to its antimicrobial properties, myrrh has traditionally been used to treat oral infections and inflammation (
Some natural mouthwashes and toothpaste contain myrrh oil, which is approved as a flavoring by the FDA (
What’s more, when people with Behcet’s disease — an inflammatory disorder — used a myrrh mouthwash to treat painful mouth sores four times daily for a week, 50% of them had complete pain relief and 19% had complete healing of their mouth sores (15).
Test-tube studies suggest that mouthwash containing myrrh oil may also help gingivitis, which is inflammation of the gums around your teeth due to a buildup of plaque (
Yet, more studies are needed to confirm these benefits.
Keep in mind that you should never swallow myrrh oral-care products, as high doses of myrrh can be toxic (15).
Additionally, if you have oral surgery, it may be best to avoid myrrh mouthwash during healing. A test-tube study found that stitches — especially silk ones — can degrade when exposed to myrrh, though they held up in the doses typically found in mouthwash (
Traditional uses of myrrh include treating skin wounds and infections. Today, scientists are testing these applications (
One test-tube study of human skin cells found that an essential oil blend containing myrrh helped heal wounds (
Another study noted that myrrh and other essential oils applied via baths helped mothers heal skin wounds from vaginal deliveries (
However, multiple oils were used simultaneously in these studies, so the individual effects of myrrh for wound healing are unclear.
Specific studies on myrrh oil are more telling.
A test-tube study on 247 different essential oil combinations found that myrrh oil mixed with sandalwood oil was especially effective at killing microbes that infect skin wounds (
Additionally, in one test-tube study, myrrh oil alone inhibited 43–61% of the growth of five fungi that cause skin conditions, including ringworm and athlete’s foot (
Human research is needed to confirm these benefits. However, if you want to try myrrh for general skin health, many natural ointments and soaps contain it. You can also apply diluted myrrh oil directly on your skin.
Pain — such as headaches, joint pain and back pain — is a common complaint.
Myrrh oil contains compounds that interact with opioid receptors and tell your brain you’re not in pain. Myrrh also blocks the production of inflammatory chemicals that can lead to swelling and pain (
When people prone to headaches took a multi-ingredient supplement containing myrrh’s pain-relieving compounds, their headache pain was reduced by about two-thirds during the six-month study (23).
Further research is needed to confirm these benefits. The supplement tested isn’t available in the US, and ingesting myrrh oil is not recommended.
You can buy myrrh-containing homeopathic rubbing oils and other essential oils meant to relieve pain when applied directly to sore body parts. However, these haven’t been studied.
Myrrh may be a powerful antioxidant, a compound that combats oxidative damage.
Oxidative damage from free radicals contributes to aging and some diseases.
A test-tube study found that myrrh oil was more effective than vitamin E, a powerful antioxidant, at fighting free radicals (
Additionally, in an animal study, myrrh oil helped protect the liver against lead-induced oxidative damage in direct proportion to the amount of myrrh given prior to lead exposure (
It isn’t known whether inhaling myrrh oil or applying it topically — which are two safe uses of myrrh oil for people — helps protect your body against oxidative damage.
You can become infected with parasites from many sources, including pets, sexual activity and contaminated food or water (
Two common parasitic infections in the US are trichomoniasis, a sexually transmitted disease, and giardiasis, an intestinal infection (
In a preliminary study, women who failed to respond to standard drug treatment for trichomoniasis were given an oral drug, Mirazid, made of myrrh sap and its essential oil. About 85% of them were cured of the infection (
Additionally, an animal study found that the same myrrh drug effectively treated giardiasis (
Some human research suggests that this myrrh drug also may be effective against the parasite Fasciola gigantica, which can cause liver and bile duct diseases. However, other studies failed to see a benefit (33,
Mirazid is not widely prescribed at this time.
Though more research is needed, myrrh and its oil may prove helpful for treating parasites, especially in cases of drug resistance. Ingesting myrrh oil is not advised, and long-term safety must be assessed (
Scientists are testing other potential uses for myrrh oil and its beneficial compounds. The following applications are under study:
Sunscreen: One test-tube study found that SPF 15 sunscreen with added myrrh oil was significantly more effective at blocking ultraviolet rays than the sunscreen alone. By itself, myrrh oil wasn’t as effective as the sunscreen (
Cancer: Test-tube studies suggest that myrrh oil may help kill or slow the growth of cancer cells from the liver, prostate, breast, and skin. However, this hasn’t been tested in people (
39Trusted Source, 40Trusted Source, 41Trusted Source).
Gut health: One animal study indicates that myrrh compounds may help treat intestinal spasms related to irritable bowel syndrome. Another animal study suggests that myrrh may help treat stomach ulcers (
42Trusted Source, 43).
- Mold: Test-tube studies note that myrrh oil may help kill mold, including Aspergillus niger, which commonly appears as mildew on damp walls, and A. flavus, which causes spoilage and mold contamination of food (3, 44).