Balsamodendron myrrha. Myrrh.
Nat. Ord.— Amyridaceae, or Burseraceae. Sex. Syst— Octandria Monogynia.
Concrete Juice or Gummy Resinous Exudation.
Description.—-The Balsamodendron Myrrha, is a small shrubby tree, covered with a pale gray or whitish gray bark, and with squarrose and spinose branches. The leaves are ternate, on short petioles, and consist of obovate, obtuse, smooth leaflets, somewhat denticulate at the apex. The flowers are unknown. The fruit is oval, lanceolate, pointed, smooth, longitudinally furrowed, of a brown color, a little larger than a pea, supported on a very short peduncle, and surrounded at its base by the persistent calyx.
History. — The myrrh tree grows in Arabia, and in the neighborhood of Abyssinia and the Red sea. The juice exudes spontaneously and concretes upon the bark, which when collected is the medicinal gum myrrh. The best kind of myrrh is in irregular pieces, somewhat resembling tears, often tuberculated, varying in size from a pea to a large walnut, or even larger, of a bright reddish-brown color becoming clearer red when breathed upon. Myrrh is brittle and pulverizable, and has a peculiar, agreeable, balsamic odor, and a bitter, aromatic, not unpleasant taste. "When heated it softens, then froths up, and at length inflames and burns with difficulty. Its active constituents are oil and resin, and its proper solvent is rectified spirit. It is only partially soluble in water, proof spirit, and ether ; water dissolves its arabin, and the mucilage retains the oil and part of the resin in the state of emulsion ; proof spirit dissolves some of the resin. Water added to its alcoholic tincture renders it opake, but without any precipitation. Alkaline solutions dissolve the gum resin. Myrrh consists of volatile oil 2.6, bitter resin 23, soluble gum 46, insoluble gum 12. Ruickholdt has obtained in 100 parts, volatile oil 2.183, resin 44.760, arabin 40.818, water 1.475, and various salts, etc., 3.650. He calls the resin myrrhin ; it is neutral, but by being kept in a state of fusion for a short time acquires acid properties, which state he proposes to term Myrrhic Acid.
Myrrh added to nitric acid, produces a transparent, dirty-yellowish liquid; false myrrh produces a bright yellow liquid, and bdellium is not dissolved by it, but becomes whitish and opake. M. Righini states that if myrrh in powder, be rubbed for ten or fifteen minutes with an equal weight of muriate of ammonia, and fifteen times its weight of water gradually added, it may be considered pure, if it dissolves quickly and wholly.
Properties and Uses. — Stimulant tonic, antiseptic, expectorant, emmenagogue, and by some considered anthelmintic. Used in debilitated states of the system, in chronic catarrh, phthisis, humoral asthma, other pectoral affections in which mucus secretion though abundant is not easily expectorated, chlorosis, amenorrhea, etc. Also reputed useful in chronic gonorrhea, gleet, and other excessive chronic mucous discharges. As a local application it is useful in spongy gums, aphthous sore mouth of children, indolent and gangrenous ulcers. It is sometimes combined with hydrastis and capsicum, in aphthae, and with tincture of castor as an emmenagogue. Dose of the powder, ten to thirty grains ; of the tincture, one to two drachms.
Off. Prep. — Mistura Chenopodii Composita ; Pulvis Nigrum ; Pilulae Copaibae Composite ; Tinctura Myrrhae ; Tinctura Myrrhae Composita ; Tinctura Aloes et Myrrhae ; Lotio Myrrhae Compositae.