Myrrh: Sustainable and ethical? - truthpaste
December 09, 2021

Myrrh: Sustainable and ethical?

By eddy wilson

If like many, the extent of your knowledge about myrrh is that some mages once came a very long way to offer it at an impromptu baby shower then you aren’t alone. Its rich, musky smell is used in incense and perfumes across the globe and it has a long and well-documented history for its medicinal values. 


There is so much more to myrrh than just a lovely smell. 



Where Does Myrrh Come From?

Myrrh is the resin found in the Commiphora myrrha tree. Most myrrh trees are native to Eastern African countries. It can grow to about 5 meters and produces small white flowers. 


The tree cannot be harvested more than once or twice a year, nor can the wound damage the tree too severely or it may die. 


It’s no surprise that this extremely hard to come by essential oil is highly prized all over the world even today.



Is myrrh ethical?

The method for extracting myrrh from a tree involves penetrating the bark and sapwood so that the waxy resin can be harvested from the wound. Farming is a skill passed down through generations of families  With a tree taking around 25 years to reach maturity, the process needs to be very carefully managed. Over farming forested areas can lead to desertification.  


Whole communities and villages rely on myrrh for trade and work. Up until recently, these same communities have been exploited for the work they undertake and have lived in poverty for many many years. 


That is beginning to change. In 2000, NGARA (The Network for Natural Gums and Resins in Africa) was established. This organisation works to encourage the exchange of information and education of the production, both in producer countries and with partners. Supporting the primary producers of myrrh resin, helping to train, develop and educate communities, not only is the harvesting process more sustainable but communities are empowered by a more ethical chain of production. 


With this in mind, it’s essential to ensure that myrrh is obtained through a reputable source. Not only for the communities themselves but to ensure that the trees are not in danger of depleting entirely. This is even more important in the face of climate change.



What is myrrh used for?

Back to the nativity scene then.  Myrrh was used at that time to make incense which would burn in the temples. Obviously, the wonderful aroma would have covered up any unpleasant smells, but in addition, anti-fungal and antiseptic qualities in myrrh kill bacteria and microbes. Handy in a crowded temple but even more so for a new mother in a crowded stable!


You can find myrrh used in many topical treatments for sprains, aches or bruises as well as ulcers or cuts. Its strong antiseptic and anaesthetic properties are probably what makes it ideal for treating injuries. Known for its ‘blood moving’ qualities and high in antioxidants, you’ll often find myrrh or frankincense used for treating inflammatory diseases and ailments such as arthritis or chronic muscle pains.




Myrrh for toothache and oral hygiene

Myrrh has long been used in oral health and hygiene.  It has strong anti-inflammatory properties which are ideal for soothing inflamed gums and mouth ulcers. Its anaesthetic and antimicrobial compound soothes and heals the gums, relieving sensitivity and fighting the bacteria that can cause plaque and bad breath. It can be found in many types of mouthwash and toothpastes. It has been used as a remedy for toothache for decades, often mixed with clove oil.



Myrrh in Truthpaste

With love for the planet at the heart of what we do, we have looked carefully and diligently at how we can source the most sustainable products to go into our formula. The trees that supply our myrrh can be found in Somalia and fairtrade standards are observed and adhered to. 


  • Laggin, S. (2011) Frankinsence and myrrh: an ethical nightmare? The Ecologist.
  • D A Tipton et al, In vitro cytotoxic and anti-inflammatory effects of myrrh oil on human gingival fibroblasts and epithelial cells (June 2013) Toxicol in vitro, PMID 
  •  Amal Jamil Fatani et al, Myrrh attenuates oxidative and inflammatory processes in acetic acid-induced ulcerative colitis, (May 2016), Exp Ther Med
  • The Network for Natural Resins and Gums in Africa (NRAGA) <>



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