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Medicinal Herb: Commiphora molmol (Myrrh)


Biological Name:
(Commiphora molmol)


Other Names:
African myrrh, Arabian and Yemen myrrh, Bal, Bol, Bola, Gum myrrh, Heerabol, Myrrha, Myrrhe, Somali Myrrh, Torchwood

Commiphora molmol (Myrrh)

Introduction to Myrrh:

Commiphora molmol (aka Commiphora myrrha, common name: myrrh) is an aromatic plant belonging to the Burseraceae family, also known as the torchwood or incense family. [1] The Commiphora species that serve as sources of myrrh are thorny shrubs or small trees that grow to up to 3 meters high. They are native to Africa, eastern Mediterranean countries, and South Arabia. A pale yellow-white viscous liquid exudes from natural cracks or fissures in the bark or from fissures cut intentionally to harvest the material. When air-dried, this exudate hardens into a reddish-brown mass that often contains white patches. These tears are approximately the size of a walnut and form the basis of myrrh resin.[2] C. molmol has a long history of use in herbal medicine.

Traditional Indications:

Most antibiotics are unable to kill nongrowing bacteria, which is the reason why antibiotic treatments need to be continued for several days. Although there are some antibiotics that have activity against both growing and nongrowing cells, there is almost no antibiotic that is specific for nongrowing bacteria.

Myrrh oil from Commiphora molmol preferentially kills nongrowing cells. In addition myrrh oil as an antibiotic that even after repeated use of the antibiotic there is no evidence of resistance development. For these resons Myrrh has been used traditionally in the treatment of:

  1. Anti-inflammatory: C. molmol oil is believed to have anti-inflammatory properties and has been used to help relieve inflammation in the body. It has been employed in traditional medicine for conditions like arthritis, joint pain, and swelling.

  2. Antibacterial: Research has shown that C. molmol has antibacterial effects against certain strains of bacteria. Some studies have demonstrated its inhibitory activity against both gram-positive and gram-negative bacteria, including common pathogens like Staphylococcus aureus and Escherichia coli.
  3. Antiseptic and wound healing: C. molmol oil has been used topically as an antiseptic to clean wounds and promote healing. It is believed to have antimicrobial properties that can help prevent infection and support the body’s natural healing processes.
    However, it’s important to note that it’s antibacterial activity is not solely restricted to non-growing or dormant bacterial cells. It can also affect actively dividing bacteria. It’s mechanism of action involves disrupting the integrity of bacterial cell membranes and interfering with various cellular processes, ultimately leading to bacterial death.

  4. Respiratory health: C. molmol oil has been used to address respiratory issues in traditional herbal medicine. It has been used for respiratory conditions such as bronchitis, coughs, and congestion. It is often used in steam inhalations, chest rubs, or added to herbal remedies for respiratory support.

  5. Digestive support: C. molmol oil has been used to aid digestion and address digestive complaints in traditional medicine. It has been employed for issues such as indigestion, flatulence, and stomach cramps. It may be used in preparations like herbal teas or tinctures.

  6. Oral health: C. molmol oil has been traditionally used for oral care due to its potential antimicrobial and astringent properties. It has been used for oral hygiene, gum infections, mouth ulcers, and to promote healthy gums.

  7. Skincare: Myrrh is sometimes used in skincare products for its potential to improve skin health, reduce inflammation, and promote healing.

  8. Potential Cancer Benefits: Some studies have suggested that myrrh may have anticancer properties. It has been investigated for its ability to inhibit the growth of cancer cells in laboratory studies, but more research is needed in this area.

  9. Aromatherapy: Myrrh essential oil is used in aromatherapy for its calming and grounding effects. It’s believed to have a soothing influence on the mind and emotions.

In addition C. molmol has also applications in treating:
  • hypertension,
  • hyperlipidemia,
  • respiratory infections,
  • ulcers, and
  • cancer.

Myrrh has also been used for its efficacy in inducing/facilitating recovery in the treatment of a variety of injuries.[3]

Uses and Pharmacology of C. molmol

Several studies have shown Myrrh to have Antiparasitic, Antimicrobial, Gastro-intestinal, and anticarcinogenic, effects.[4]

How is C. molmol harvested and made into medicinal herb


Myrrh is a resin obtained from the Commiphora species of trees, primarily Commiphora myrrha. The process of harvesting and processing myrrh into a medicinal herb involves several steps: 

  1. Harvesting: C. molmol is obtained by making incisions in the bark of the myrrh tree, allowing the resin to ooze out. Harvesting is typically done during the dry season when the resin content is at its peak. The trees are usually around 6-10 years old before they can be tapped for resin.

  2. Incision and Collection: Small, V-shaped incisions are made in the tree’s bark, causing the resin to bleed out. The resin initially appears as a pale yellow liquid but hardens into reddish-brown or dark brown droplets or tears upon exposure to air. After a few weeks, the hardened resin is collected by hand.

  3. Cleaning and Grading: Once collected, the C. molmol resin is cleaned to remove impurities like bark, leaves, and other debris. The resin is then graded based on quality, with higher grades commanding better prices in the market.

  4. Drying: After cleaning and grading, the C. molmol resin is left to dry naturally in the sun. This drying process helps to further harden the resin and enhances its aroma.

  5. Storage: Dried myrrh is stored in cool, dry places to maintain its quality. It is essential to protect the resin from moisture and direct sunlight during storage.

  6. Processing for Medicinal Use: C. molmol has been used traditionally for various medicinal purposes. To prepare it for medicinal use, the dried resin may be ground into a powder or used as a tincture. It can be incorporated into various formulations such as ointments, creams, or infused oils for topical applications.

  7. Traditional and Medicinal Uses: C. molmol has a long history of use in traditional medicine. It is known for its antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, and astringent properties. Myrrh is commonly used to treat wounds, infections, and inflammatory conditions. It is also used in oral care products and has been historically employed in incense and perfumes.

It’s important to note that while myrrh has a history of traditional medicinal use, it’s always recommended to consult with a healthcare professional before using it for therapeutic purposes, especially in cases of medical conditions or if you are taking other medications.


  1. Bhattacharjee, M. K., & Alenezi, T. (2020). Antibiotic in myrrh preferentially kills nongrowing bacteria. Future science OA, 6(4), FSO458. https://doi.org/10.2144/fsoa-2019-0121
  2. https://www.drugs.com/npp/myrrh.html
  3. Haffor AS. Effect of myrrh on leukocyte levels before and during healing from gastric ulcer or skin injury. J Immunotoxicol. 2010 Mar;7(1):68-75. doi: 10.3109/15476910903409835. PMID: 19995243.
  4. https://www.drugs.com/npp/myrrh.html

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Page last updated: 26th June 2020

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