Myrrha (Commiphora spp.)

Botanical name: 

The gum-resin obtained from one or more varieties of Commiphora (Nat. Ord. Burseraceae). Region of Gulf of Aden and the Red Sea, Africa, and Arabia. Dose, 1 to 15 grains.
Common Names.—Myrrh, Gum Myrrh.

Description.—Brownish-yellow or reddish-brown tears or masses, covered with a brownish-yellow dust; taste: bitter, acrid, and aromatic; odor: balsamic. Soluble in alcohol; forms an emulsion with water. Dose, 1 to 30 grains.
Principal Constituents.—A resin, myrrhin, 23 to 40 per cent; a volatile oil, myrrhol, 2 to 8 per cent; gum, 40 to 60 per cent, and a bitter principle.
Preparation.—Tinctura Myrrhae, Tincture of Myrrh (Myrrh, 20 per cent). Dose, 1 to 30 drops.

Specific Indications.—Mucous membrane pale and lax; tonsils enlarged and spongy; throat pale and tumid; chronic bronchitis with profuse secretion of mucus or muco-pus, difficult to expectorate; soreness and sponginess of the gums; ptyalism; weight and dragging in pelvis in females; leucorrhea; muscular debility.

Action and Therapy.—External. Myrrh is the best local application for spongy and bleeding gums and is effective in mercurial and other forms of salivation. The tincture may be diluted with about 6 to 10 parts of water. It may also be used with benefit when the throat is sore and exhibits aphthous or sloughing ulcers, and in chronic pharyngitis with tumid, pallid membranes and elongated uvula. In spongy, enlarged tonsils it is an ideal topical medicine. After the removal of tonsils the following gives great relief from pain and deodorizes the fetor: Rx Tincture of Myrrh, ½ fluidrachm; Asepsin, 10 grains; Echafolta, 2 fluidrachms; Glycerin, 2 fluidrachms; Water, enough to make 4 fluidounces. Shake. This may be applied by means of an atomizer. This combination is also a good mouth wash and dentifrice and minimizes the possibility of pyorrhea alveolaris. Myrrh, in powder, is often added to dentifrices.

Internal. Myrrh is a stimulant to mucous tissues and should not be used, as a rule, in active inflammatory conditions. Small doses promote digestion and prove antiseptic to the intestinal canal. Large doses quicken the pulse, raise the temperature, cause gastric burning, great sweating and prostration; vomiting and purgation may follow. Myrrh is a remedy for enfeebled conditions with excessive mucous secretion, exhibiting its restraining power especially upon the bronchial and renal mucosa. It is of much value in chronic bronchitis with relaxation of tissues, profuse, unhealthy and exhausting secretion and difficulty in raising the sputa. Locke advised the following: Rx Compound Tincture of Myrrh and Capsicum, 2 fluidrachms each; Syrup of Wild Cherry, Syrup of Senega, 2 fluidounces each. Mix. Sig.: One teaspoonful every three hours. This acts kindly upon the stomach and sustains the strength of the patient. The same combination often relieves the asthma of the aged.

Myrrh is useful in chronic gastritis and atonic dyspepsia, with full, pale tongue and membranes, and frequent mucous stools accompanied by flatulence. It acts well with the simple bitters, especially gentian.

Myrrh is probably emmenagogue, though much of its reputation as such has been acquired in anemic states in which it has been administered conjointly with iron and aloes. It is used in diseases of women when there is weight and dragging in the pelvis and leucorrhea; and in suppression of the menses in anemic girls. For the type of amenorrhea dependent upon uterine torpor and constipation Locke advised the following: Rx Myrrh, 30 grains; Aloes, 10 grains; Macrotin, 10 grains. Mix. Make into #20 pills. Sig.: One or two pills, three times a day. Myrrh is an ingredient of the celebrated Griffith's Mixture (Mistura Ferri Composita) for the amenorrhea of chlorosis and other forms of anemia; and of the Compound Pills of Rhubarb (Pilulae Rhei Compositae).

The Eclectic Materia Medica, Pharmacology and Therapeutics, 1922, was written by Harvey Wickes Felter, M.D.