Commiphora (Myrrha), one or more species.
Habitat. E. Africa, S. W. Arabia, Somali country, around Hurrur; 450-900 M. (1500-3000°) elevation.
Syn. Myrrh, Gum Myrrh, Somali (Herabol) Myrrh, Resina Balsamodendri, Gummi-resina Myrrha; Fr. Myrrhe: Ger. Myrrha. Myrrhe.
Com-miph'o-ra. L. fr. Gr.
bears, to bear - i. e., produces gummy exudation.
Myr'rha. L. fr. Gr.
classic name - Ar. murr; Heb. mar, bitter - i. e., gum-resin has bitterish taste.
Plant. - Low, stunted hush or small tree 2.5-3 M. (8-10°) high; trunk considerable size, with many irregular, knotty, abortive branches at right angles, terminating in sharp spines; bark whitish-gray; leaves trifoliate, 2.5 Cm. (1') long, petiolate; leaflets sessile, 12 Mm. (½') long, unequal, obovate, central one the largest; flowers dioecious; fruit 12 Mm. (1/2') long, pyriform. Gum-resin (myrrh), in rounded, irregular tears or masses, brownish-yellow, reddish-brown, covered with brownish-yellow dust; fracture waxy, somewhat splintery, translucent on edges, sometimes marked with nearly white lines; odor balsamic; taste aromatic, bitter, acrid; triturated with water-brownish-yellow emulsion; with alcohol - brownish-yellow tincture, changing with nitric acid to purplish-red; macerated with water - neither swells nor dissolves. Powder, yellowish-brown; microscopically - mounts in fixed oil show many yellowish-brown angular fragments; in hydrated chloral T. S. color intensified, which with iodine T. S. reveals starch; in phloroglucinol T. S. and hydrochloric acid show few fragments of lignified sclerenchyma-tous fibres or stone cells. If dark colored tears used, get no purplish-red with nitric acid, hence such pieces and those dissolving completely or simply swelling in water should be rejected. Solvent: alcohol, in which at least 35 p. c. should be soluble. Dose, gr. 5-30 (.3-2 Gm.).
Adulterations. - Gum-resin of allied species (bdellium, etc. - fracture more transparent or opaque, odor and taste different), vegetable fragments, sand, salt, dark gums swelling or adhesive with water.
Commercial. - Trees form an undergrowth in the Red Sea coast forests where vegetation is scant, water scarce, and temperature high. Myrrh is formed in the bark and pith, and exudes spontaneously, like cherry-tree gum, or from artificial incisions through the stem-bark, being at first a juice, then oily, soft, yellowish, golden, finally hard and reddish. It is collected mostly by the Somali, both at home and across the Aden Gulf, Arabia, and formerly entered commerce via Egypt and Lavant ports, hence the name Turkey myrrh, but now is conveyed to the great fair of Berbera, there purchased by the Banians of India, and shipped via Aden to Bombay, where it is assorted into grades (bdellium separated) and put into chests, 100-200 pounds (46-90 Kg.). There are three varieties: 1, Turkey (African), the best - our official kind; 2, Arabian, cultivated in S. Arabia, east of Aden, called by Arabs mur, by Somalis mulmul, heerabul, resembles the preceding, but smaller, tougher, without white lines in fracture, less resin, volatile
Fig. 230. - Commiphora (Myrrha): 1, fruit-bearing twig; 2, ripe fruit; 3 and 4, vertical section of pistillate and staminate flowers respectively; 5, embryo.
oil and fragrance, only 25 p. c. soluble in alcohol; 3, Indian (Myrrha Indica), called natively bissabul, by Somalis hebbakhade, resembles dark myrrh, but has mushroom-like odor, strong, almost acrid, taste; contains resin 21 p. c, volatile oil 8 p. c, many impurities; in commerce as Opopanax.
Constituents. - Volatile oil 4-8 p. c, Resin 25-40 p. c, Gum 40-60 p. c, bitter principle (glucoside, soluble in alcohol, water), ash 3-8.5 p. c. - mostly calcium carbonate.
Volatile Oil, C10H14O. - Also called myrrhol or myrrhenol, identical in formula with thymol and carvol, but distinct from them; easily resinifies, pale yellow, thick liquid, sp. gr. 0.988.
Resin, C48H32O10. - Often called myrrhin, soluble in alcohol, chloroform, ether; consists of 2 parts - one soft the other hard and acid, the latter yielding protocatechuic acid and pyrocatechin, and further divisible into 2 parts - β and γ commiphoric acids.
Gum. - Two kinds, one soluble, the other swelling - galactose and arabinose - in water, adhesive, making stable paste; one precipitated by neutral, the other by basic lead acetate.
Preparations. - 1. Tinctura Myrrhoe. Tincture of Myrrh. (Syn., Tr. Myrrh.; Fr. Teinture de Myrrhe; Ger. Myrrhentinktur.)
Manufacture: 20 p. c. Similar to Tinctura Aloes, page 110; menstruum: alcohol. Dose, exv-60 (1-4 Ml. (Cc.)); mostly used externally.
2. Piluloe Rhei Compositoe, 1 gr. (.06 Gm.).
Unoff. Preps.: Fluidextract, dose, ev-30 (.3-2 ML (Cc.)). Compound. Iron Mixture, 1.8 p. c. Pills of Aloes and Myrrh, 1 gr. (.06 Gm.). Tincture of Aloes and Myrrh, 10 p. c. Plaster.
Properties. - Stimulant, tonic, expectorant, emmenagogue, astringent, carminative, vulnerary; increases circulation and the number of white blood-corpuscles; it is eliminated by the genito-urinary and bronchial mucous membranes, augmenting and disinfecting their secretions; large doses vomit, purge, decrease bronchial secretion. Locally, stimulant, disinfectant, and antiseptic to mucous membranes, ulcerated surfaces, etc.
Uses. - Atonic dyspepsia, amenorrhoea, anaemia, bronchial catarrh, cystitis, pharyngitis, chronic uterine and vaginal leucorrhoea. Locally - ulcerated spongy gums, diseased mucous surfaces, relaxed throat, ptyalism, ozaena, indolent ulcers; tincture freely diluted with water a good disinfectant gargle to ulcerated sore throat; much used in tooth powders and wash.