The Ability of the Chinese Herbs Frankincense and Myrrh to Ease Menstrual Cramps

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The Ability of the Chinese Herbs Frankincense and Myrrh to Ease Menstrual Cramps

Frankincense and myrrh are two herbs mentioned repeatedly in the bible.  I find it fascinating that Egyptians used myrrh for embalming the bodies of Pharaohs while frankincense was used in India as incense for worship during biblical times. These shrubs, or small trees, of the family Burseraceae produce a liquid when the bark is punctured.  That liquid or resin is then dried and cooked with vinegar or honey for medicinal uses in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). While both trees originated in the Arabian peninsula, we know they arrived in China by 400 AD, where the exploration of their medicinal properties was noted. 

What’s incredible is that the resin from both of these trees is used in TCM combinations or herb formulas mainly to unblock the flow of blood, treat traumatic injury and stop pain. They are excellent for abdominal pain during menstruation and for irregular menstruation .  These herbal resins can also be used in combination to help treat amenorrhea (absence of menstruation) and dysmenorrhea (painful menstruation). Furthermore, both can be used externally.  Frankincense is known to ease the tendons and muscles while myrrh is used for non-healing sores such as bed sores.

Boswellic acid is the active substance of frankincense from which several dietary supplements are produced.  Researchers have identified Boswellic acid as a potent anti-inflammatory agent . This acid inhibits the 5-LOX (lipoxygenase) system, which is involved with enzymatic pathways that produce leukotrienes and thrombaxanes (inflammatory molecules) from fatty acids (following all this?).  Drugs that inhibit this pathway are normally used to treat arthritis, asthma and ulcerative colitis.  Boswellic acid, unlike conventional NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) such as ibuprofen, the accepted treatments for pain and inflammation, does not seem to cause stomach irritation in small doses.  Neither does it cause liver damage like acetaminophen. The anti-inflammatory properties of Boswellic acid are also effective in reducing the aching and stiffness associated with back pain.

Guggulsterone is the active substance within the myrrh resin. After many years of research, guggulsterone, also known as Guggul, has become popular in the United States for its cholesterol-lowering properties. (1) By inhibiting the FXR gene in the nucleus of liver cells, this leads to the more efficient excretion of cholesterol in the liver, thus lowering serum cholesterol levels. Amazing what comes from a scrubby desert tree.

Traditional Chinese Medicine recognizes frankincense and myrrh as blood regulating herbs that complement each other. They invigorate the blood, dispel blood stasis and reduce swelling, relieve pain and promote healing. It is more than coincidence that myrrh is commonly used in TCM for menstrual irregularities and Western medicine research  substantiates guggul’s ability to improve liver functions.  TCM theory emphasizes the importance of liver blood for regular and healthy menstrual function and recognizes stagnate liver blood as a cause of painful periods.

Given the compelling scientific evidence regarding the chemicals in these two herbal resins and the history of frankincense and myrrh, we can be certain of their potent medicinal properties. It certainly is amazing that nature has given us such powerful medicines for menstrual cramps, arthritis, cholesterol and for pain. Nature sure has had a remarkable way of providing for our needs, today and in ancient times.

1.(Tripathi YB, et all Thyroid stimulating actions of z-guggulsterone obtained from Commiphora mukul. Planta Med 1984;1:78).

Cathy Margolin is a Licensed Acupuncturist and consumer health advocate with a passion for teaching people how to improve their health through the use of Chinese herbal formulas. She enjoys impacting the lives of readers around the world who haven’t yet experienced the phenomenal health benefits from the ancient wisdom of Chinese herbal medicine. She currently maintains an Acupuncture & Chinese herbal medicine practice, writes herbal formulas for her patients and works at http://PACHerbs.com

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