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The additive and synergistic antimicrobial effects of select frankincense and myrrh oils--a combination from the pharaonic pharmacopoeia



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One should be very careful how you interpret these results.  Myrrh and frankincense kill bacteria and fungus, as such they have the potential to kill friendly bacteria as well as unfriendly bacteria and may alter the whole of the gut flora if used indiscriminately.  Used externally they may effective against some bacteria resistant to current treatments

  • Pseudomonas aeruginosa is a common bacterium that can cause disease in animals, including humans. It is found in soil, water, skin flora, and most man-made environments throughout the world. Its versatility enables the organism to infect damaged tissues or those with reduced immunity. The symptoms of such infections are generalized inflammation and sepsis. If such colonizations occur in critical body organs, such as the lungs, the urinary tract, and kidneys, the results can be fatal
  • Cryptococcus neoformans is an encapsulated yeast that can live in both plants and animals. It is often found in pigeon excrement.  Infection with C. neoformans is termed cryptococcosis. Most infections with C. neoformans consist of a lung infection. However, fungal meningitis and encephalitis, especially as a secondary infection for AIDS patients, are often caused by C. neoformans making it a particularly dangerous fungus. Infections with this fungus are rare in those with fully functioning immune systems. For this reason, C. neoformans is sometimes referred to as an opportunistic fungus. In human infection, C. neoformans is spread by inhalation of aerosolized spores (basidiospores) and can disseminate to the central nervous system where it can cause meningoencephalitis
  • Bacillus cereus is an endemic, soil-dwelling, Gram-positive, bacterium. Some strains are harmful to humans and cause foodborne illness, while other strains can be beneficial as probiotics for animals.  B. cereus is responsible for a minority of foodborne illnesses (2–5%), causing severe nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. Bacillus foodborne illnesses occur due to survival of the bacterial endospores when food is improperly cooked

A description of the experience

Lett Appl Microbiol. 2012 Apr;54(4):352-8. doi: 10.1111/j.1472-765X.2012.03216.x. Epub 2012 Feb 20.

The additive and synergistic antimicrobial effects of select frankincense and myrrh oils--a combination from the pharaonic pharmacopoeia.

de Rapper S1, Van Vuuren SF, Kamatou GP, Viljoen AM, Dagne E.  1Department of Pharmacy and Pharmacology, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Witwatersrand, Parktown, South Africa.

AIMS:  The in vitro antimicrobial activity of three essential oil samples of frankincense (Boswellia rivae, Boswellia neglecta and Boswellia papyrifera) and two essential oil samples of myrrh and sweet myrrh (Commiphora guidotti and Commiphora myrrha), collected from different regions of Ethiopia, was investigated independently and in combination to determine their anti-infective properties.

METHODS AND RESULTS:  The microdilution minimum inhibitory concentration (MIC) assay was performed, whereby it was noted that generally Cryptococcus neoformans (MIC values in the range of 0·8-1·4 mg ml(-1)) and Pseudomonas aeruginosa (MIC values in the range of 0·5-1·3 mg ml(-1)) often appeared to be the most susceptible micro-organisms against oils of both Boswellia and Commiphora spp. When assayed in various combinations, the frankincense and myrrh oils displayed synergistic, additive and noninteractive properties, with no antagonism noted. When investigating different ratio combinations against Bacillus cereus, the most favourable combination was between B. papyrifera and C. myrrha. The composition of the oils was determined by gas chromatography coupled to mass spectrometry (GC-MS) to document the specific chemotypes used in the study, and the chemical profiles were found to be congruent with previously reported data.

CONCLUSIONS:  The majority of interactions identified synergistic and additive effects, with strong synergism noted between B. papyrifera and C. myrrha.

SIGNIFICANCE AND IMPACT OF THE STUDY:  Frankincense and myrrh essential oils have been used in combination since 1500 bc; however, no antimicrobial investigations have been undertaken to confirm their effect in combination. This study validates the enhanced efficacy when used in combination against a selection of pathogens.

© 2012 The Authors. Letters in Applied Microbiology © 2012 The Society for Applied Microbiology.

PMID:  22288378

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