“How To”

How to prepare an antifungal nail Lacquer with Somali Myrrh

Commiphora Myrrha, or Myrrh, well known for thousands of years for its value in perfume, incense, and medicine, has a wide range of medicinal applications in healing traditions around the world and throughout history. It is still well used in modern Western medicine, Arabian, African, European and oriental traditions.

One finds Myrrh trees growing mainly in Arabia, India and in Africa. Oddly enough,  not too far from any area that bears Frankincense trees. There is a little known, but very significant relationship between these two cousins of the Burseraceae family.

To clarify some terms from the start, even though I will call both Frankincense and Myrrh-“Oleoresins”,  they are, in reality, oleo gum resins. Myrrh contains a whopping 65% water soluble gum along with its resins and essential oils, while Frankincense species average 20%-30% water soluble gum content.

With a broad range of therapeutic  applications, Myrrh is best known for its astringent, toning, and an anti-fungal properties, and has been used traditionally for many applications where fungi have skirted our body’s natural defenses and taken root.

Though the Arabian and African Myrrh species are biologically identical, they differ from each other visually and to a small degree in their fragrance. To the best of my knowledge, they both serve equally well, and share the same medicinal qualities. Arabian Myrrh is darker and often coarser visually, collected in larger lumps than African material, while African Myrrh has a slightly less pungent, more delicate fragrance than Arabian Myrrh.

Arabian Myrrh-Commiphora Myrrha

Fresh dark Arabian Myrrh. A powerful anti-fungal, astringent and traditional medicine for thousands of years.

Since mushrooms, fungi and most molds require a moist environment to flourish, it is no surprise that Moon-Ruled Myrrh, with its natural affinity with our body’s fluid systems and ability to regulate, balance and tone them, would be an excellent choice to restore the body’s natural balance and eliminate moisture loving Fungi.

Hesiod derives Aphrodite from aphrós

An ancient Roman fresco-Hesiod derives Aphrodite from aphrós “foam,” interpreting the name as “risen from the foam”

The root of the name Myrrh, Mor/Mar/מר, comes to us from ancient Aramaic and means “Bitter. This root word is thought to be the source of the name Mary, in Hebrew and Arabic,  Miryam, Maryam, מרים, which translates into “bitterness” or froth of the sea with strong and ancient associations with the universal feminine principle, ancient Goddesses such as Ashtoreth, Astarte, Aphrodite,and of course the Moon and its influence on the ebb, flow and tide of waters both within and without us.  As a point of interest, Frankincense and all its species are ruled Astrologically by the Sun. These astrological assignments are no coincidence, but an indication of how this healing duo works within our bodies.

When it comes to fungi, Myrrh is used to address a variety of conditions. In a saline mouthwash, the tincture of Myrrh is used  for thrush, (oral candidiasis), in a tea, via infusion or tincture it helps treat candida and other fungi in the digestive tract, as a 1:5-96% alcohol tincture it is a treatment for Tinea type fungal infections such as “Ringworm“, (not a worm, but a colony of Fungi),  Athletes foot and “Jock itch“, caused by various dermatophytes, fungi/molds that feed off dead skin cells on moist areas of the skin. Less known, but equally effective, Myrrh oleoresin is used in the preparation of a nail “Lacquer” which is applied to toe and fingernail fungal infections, or onychomycosis, (which means nail fungus growth, infestation or proliferation in Latin).

Interestingly, but not surprising, in the “Doctrine of  Signatures“, an ancient technology and method of understanding the language of plants, their affinities and uses, one of the identifying visual markers of Commiphora Myrrha is the presence of layers that resemble fingernails when a piece is snapped into two. Though not all pieces of Myrrh respond this way, many larger pieces do.

Fragrant Ethiopian Myrrh. For oral care, perfume and incense.

Fragrant Somali Myrrh. For oral care, perfume and incense.

Somali and Ethiopian varieties of Commiphora Myrrha lend themselves well to this type of product since they are of a lighter and less obtrusive colour which will transfer to the nails with this treatment. Feeling self-conscious about the state and appearance of one’s nails can add stress when dealing with nail fungi and the accompanying infection that is usually present. These lighter coloured species will not compound the look of damage as a darker Myrrh does. Once applied the lacquer will harden as the solvent, in this case alcohol, which also acts as an antibacterial and drying agent, evaporates and leaves the Myrrh behind to address the fungi.

A similar remedy for nail Fungi is used traditionally in Northern Europe where Spruce sap is the active anti-fungal and anti-bacterial agent,  Though the resins are a key component, the essential oils of both Spruce and Myrrh are proven to have antibacterial and anti-microbial properties which make them ideal for addressing the infections that are often associated with the fungus as it develops and intrenches deeper into surrounding tissue.

Here are intructions for a “Lacquer” to address and help eliminate nail fungus. It needs to be applied at least once daily for as long as it takes to completely free the area of fungus. Steps should be taken to correct the contributing factors that ushered in the fungus and made the area susceptible to it.  These contributing factors can include, boosting the immune system through proper diet and nourishment, keeping the affected areas well-ventilated and dry. Results will take time so give it a couple of weeks at least to see if the treatment is working for you. Before and after photos can help discern improvement when the results may often be slow to manifest in a well established fungal infection.

Myrrh has been used as a liquid application to address ringworm and”Jock itch”. For these applications, one would make a thinner and less concentrated tincture, such as 1 part Myrrh to 5 parts 96% alcohol. To make a product that would address these skin related fungi, follow the instructions below and change the ratio of Myrrh to alcohol to 50 grams Myrrh, and 250 grams 96% alcohol.

Myrrh oleo-gum-resin

Myrrh oleo-gum-resin

How to make a Myrrh Lacquer for fungal infections of the toe or fingernails and a treatment for Ringworm and other Tinea.

  •  Take 50 Grams of Fresh Somali or Ethiopian Myrrh, (darker Arabian Myrrh will work just as well, but will leave a darker stain on the nails and cuticles).
  • 150 grams of 96% grain alcohol.
  •  Grind the Myrrh as fine as you can using a mortar and pestle, a coffee/herb grinder or a combination of both. See the post How to grind Frankincense and Myrrh for instructions and tips.
  • Put the finely ground Myrrh in a resealable 1/2 to1-liter, wide-mouthed jar and add to it all the alcohol.
  •  Oleoresin tinctures such as this tend to get a thin layer of alcohol/oleoresin mix in the thread of the jar. When the alcohol evaporates it leaves behind a tenacious glue and can make opening the jar a challenge for the strongest of us. Even a drop of tincture will quickly spread along the thread through capillary action and form a permanent bond. Applying a very small amount of vegetable oil with one’s finger, to the thread of the glass jar while avoiding the lip, counters this problem elegantly.
  • Stir, shake, (when jar is closed and well sealed!), till the alcohol and the oleoresin powder are completely and evenly mixed and none of the Myrrh is floating on top of the alcohol.
  •  Place in a relatively warm place such as on top of a fridge, water heater or furnace.
  •  Leave to macerate for 6 to 10 weeks stirring or shaking daily in such a way that all the resin breaks up and there are no clumps, and no sediment accumulating or sticking to the bottom of the jar.
  •  I most often start my tinctures at the New Moon and filter them 6 or 10 weeks later at the full Moon if they seem done. I find working with the natural cycles, the ebb and flow of Nature and its rhythms improves the quality of my products. Since Myrrh is “Ruled” by the Moon and the sign of Cancer in traditional astrology, initiating the  tincturing process at a time when the Moon or Sun are in the sign of Cancer or in a water sign, harmonizes, compounds and potentises the tincture with its own inherent characteristic energies….  Though this Astrological approach is not absolutely necessary, and your lacquer will likely work quite well without it, it is an ideal opportunity to explore the energetic and esoteric side of plants and herbalism and expand your plant wisdom, which is gained through personal study,  experience, and exploration.  If you would like to learn more about the Astrological approach to plant medicine, you will find some information on Medical Astrology and working with the rhythms of the stars and planets here in my section on Astrodynamics).
  • When the colour of this tincture is no longer changing, (6 weeks or so), pour it through a fine filter such as the corner of a pillowcase, a piece of cotton sheet or a paper filter. Paper coffee filters can often work well for alcohol tinctures. You can do this through a funnel into a clean and resealable jar.
  • Your product will likely sediment a bit while it is standing undisturbed. The clear liquid can be poured or siphoned off and separated if you like. This will eliminate any grittiness to your lacquer when it is dry.
  •  Mark your final jar with the date and any other information pertinent to this product..
  • If you like, you can pour your lacquer into a smaller closable bottle that is easy to access and has a neck wide enough to insert a paintbrush. Remember the trick of applying a little oil, (or vaseline), to the thread of your bottle to avoid future frustration and difficulties. A clean, empty nail-polish bottle with brush in cap can offer a functional and pleasing container for your lacquer.
  •   Otherwise, take a small clean and dry paintbrush, 1/2 to 1 centimeter in width or so, dip it into the liquid and proceed to apply it liberally to the nails and any area that is affected by the fungus or infection. Overpainting the area a bit is OK. Disposable cotton swabs can be used if they do not catch on rough spots and leave fibers behind, the same goes for using the corner of a sponge, you can improvise with disposable applicators.
  • If you choose to reuse a paint brush, dip it in clean alcohol afterward and dry it well with a piece of paper towel to avoid your brush solidifying with dry lacquer.
  • Keep the bottle closed tight and apply the lacquer at least once a day if not twice a day.
  • If no results are evident after 2 weeks, seek another course of action.
Assorted tinctures, digesting

Assorted tinctures, digesting

A cheat and shortcut to making your own lacquer is to dissolve essential oil of Myrrh in alcohol and use this on your nails. I don’t recommend this approach unless you absolutely can’t make the whole tincture. Though it may contribute and help eliminate the fungus, it does not contain Myrrh’s full spectrum of therapeutic compounds without including the resin portion which is absent in the essential oil. It is this resin of the Myrrh that forms the harder and less permeable “Lacquer” on the nails. Using the essential oil without the resin will leave a stickier and less resilient layer, though it will no doubt bring some of the healing and antifungal properties of Myrrh to the area.

For those who choose to not use alcohol in their practices, the following recipe may be effective. I have not tried it personally, but it should work equally well when alcohol is not an option.

Use the following instructions for extracting the resin and essential oils of Frankincense using water.“Tapping into Frankincense and its Boswellic acids, an easy extraction method” . Replace Frankincense in the instructions with Myrrh. Keep in mind that since Myrrh contains 65% water soluble gum, you will be left with only 30% to 35% of the material you started with after removing the gum and extraneous material such as bark and stones.

Once the water soluble gum is removed, the resulting pure oleoresin can be dissolved easily in a vegetable oil of your choice at a ratio of 1:3 resin to oil, it can then be applied to the nails as described above.

For instructions and important tips to dissolve your pure oleoresin in oil, please see the post-“Make a Frankincense resin oil with Boswellic acids”. Again, simply replace Frankincense with Myrrh in the instructions.

Any feedback in the comments section would be greatly appreciated and add to the knowledge base of all those who will read this post and try this recipe for their own issues with nail fungus.

And,,,,remember to always take clear notes of your work.

Your future self will thank you!

Dan

Frankincense tree in the wild

Tapping into Frankincense and its Boswellic acids- an easy extraction method

How to isolate the resin and Boswellic acids from select Frankincense oleoresins with water

Boswellia Papyrifera-Pure Resin-Medicine, Perfume & Incense.

Boswellia Papyrifera-Isolated Resin-Boswellic acids-

Lately, we have been hearing a lot about the anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer compounds found in the frankincense family. The most publicized recently are the Boswellic acids and AKBA, or acetyl-keto-beta-boswellic acid,  pentacyclic triterpenes found in some species of Frankincense which make up a significant part of the resin in these oleo-gum-resins. The motivation for the increase in research, and much of the funding, from what I can see, is largely due the projected profit perceived by pharmaceutical companies. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, since it provides the impetus for discovery, progress and knowledge, but good to keep in mind nonetheless.

With a rapidly growing aging population in the west, an increase in chronic inflammatory diseases such as arthritis, rheumatism, inflammatory bowel disease, and various cancers, the market is receptive. There are theories that most if not all age-related degenerative conditions are directly associated with inflammation. Frankincense’s history of use in traditional eastern medical systems as an anti-inflammatory makes it an excellent candidate for modern applications..

Frankincense tree in the wild

Frankincense Sacra/Carterii tree in the wild

Besides hearing about Boswellic acids in groundbreaking studies, some essential oil companies advertise that their distilled essential oils of Frankincense contain a high percent of Boswellic acids. This is misleading. Some essential oils of Frankincense may have a higher percent of Boswellic acids than other essential oils of Frankincense, but the Boswellic acids are not found in the essential oils except in trace amounts. They are found in the heavy resin portion and cannot be distilled into the essential oils except in minute quantities. Like politics, statistics in advertising can be misleading.

The Boswellic acids are heavy molecules called triterpenes, and while many beneficial compounds are light enough to separate themselves from the frankincense oleo-gum-resin when heated during the distillation process, the Boswellic acids are not. They make up the heavier resin portion. This is not to say that the essential oil of Frankincense is not a wonderful therapeutic oil with many valuable compounds and health benefits, but that when it comes to Boswellic acid content, it can only have trace amounts unless Boswellic acids were added to it manually and then it would no longer be an essential oil, but an oleoresin..

Boswellia Sacra/Carterii resin extract beneath B. Papyrifera resin extrac

Made up mainly of Boswellic acids, and solid at room temperature, the  pure resins of Boswellia Sacra/Carterii beneath B. Papyrifera do not distill over with the essential oils.

The only products that can claim with verity to contain significant amounts of Boswellic acids are either the whole raw oleo-gum-resin of certain Frankincense types, or extracts that have been processed with solvents to isolate the resins that contain the Boswellic acids.  Boswellic acids are not found in the water-soluble gum portion of Frankincense or the distilled essential oils except as mentioned, in trace amounts.

Claims that the essential oil of Frankincense from any company, contains a high percent of Boswellic acids, that you should ingest their essential oils, or that their oils are “Therapeutic quality”, were developed to market their products and are not put forth in the interest of your edification or wellbeing.

Simply put-

  • There is no significant amount of Boswellic acids in any Frankincense essential oil when compared to the quantities naturally present in the unprocessed oleo-gum-resin, the pure resin or the extract.
  • You should never ingest essential oils without consulting with a qualified healthcare professional.

We have come to associate the essential oil of any given plant as the quintessence of its healing properties. While this may be true for some plants, it is far from the truth for oleoresins which hold many healing compounds in their undistillable resin portion.

If you would like to extract or isolate the Boswellic acids and the resin portion of Frankincense yourself, there is a simple way you can do this with the right type of Frankincense. Once you have the pure resin it is relatively easy to make a variety of products that utilize and deliver the Boswellic acids. The whole oleo gum resin of Frankincense will not dissolve easily in oil based products due to its water soluble gum content. It will also not dissolve well in water based products due to its oleo and resin components. The solution is to separate the water soluble part from the oil soluble part which is the point of this post and the following method.

Boswellia separated into 3 components

Frankincense Papyrifera gum dissolved in water on the right, resin in alcohol on the left ,and distilled essential oils center. Not in their naturally occurring proportions

Recent research has identified Boswellic acids in the resin of 3 types of Frankincense. The number may increase as more research is done on other species. ( See pages 125-127) http://scidok.sulb.uni-saarland.de/volltexte/2012/4999/pdf/Dissertation_Fertig_211112.pdf

They are-

  • Boswellia Papyrifera from Ethiopia, Eritrea, Kenya and Sudan.
  • Boswellia Seratta from India.
  • Boswellia Sacra/Carterii, (one and the same tree), from Somalia, Kenya, Oman and Yemen.
A visual comparison of 5 types of Frankincense-Boswellia- Papyrifera, Neglecta, Frereana, Rivae, Carterii/Sacra Apothecarysgarden.com

A visual comparison of 5 types of Frankincense-Boswellia

 A simple and safe method to isolate the resin and Boswellic acids in Frankincense

While different solvents can be used to isolate the resin and Boswellic acid portion of Frankincense, The simplest and safest method is to do so is with water.

 30/November/2015-Since writing this post, I have developed an easier/better method for separating the resin portion and the Boswellic acids from the whole oleo gum resin. If you are revisiting this page, I hope you find the following process simpler and more satisfying.

  • Take 100-500 grams of fresh Frankincense.
  •  In a stainless steel, Teflon coated or glass pot, bring at least 10 liters of water to a boil. More than this is just fine.
  • Place a stainless steel sieve or colander with a fine mesh about 1/2 submerged in the water. Ideally, use a sieve that will rest on the edge of the pot securely, otherwise you will have to hold it at the right height through the process and you will need an extra hand.
  • When it is at a full boil, gently add 100 to 500 grams of one of the 3 aforementioned types of Frankincense into the suspended sieve, careful to not splash boiling water on yourself. It is fine if the resin sits partially above the water, it will soon settle.
  •  With a wooden spoon or some other utensil, gently run the submerged resin granules back and forth through the boiling water allowing the water to wash over them all and dissolve them.
  • The water soluble gum will dissolve and disperse in the water while the pure oleoresin, the resin with the essential oils, will exit and float around the outside of the sieve. The bark and other foreign matter will collect in the sieve and not pass to the water.
  • Once most of the resin is floating on the surface of the water, it will also push its way back into the sieve. To address this, lift the sieve higher and allow the rest of the resin to exit the sieve. At this point you may need help running the utensil back and forth gently forcing the resin through into the water.
  •  When the sieve is empty of gum and water, set it aside.
  • Skim/scoop out all the resin that is floating in the pot into a separate preferably stainless steel bowl. I use a small colander/sieve that captures more resin than water for this purpose. It’s ok if you transfer water into the bowl with the resin since you can easily pour it off after the resin sets.
  •  Set the pot of hot water aside to cool. As most of these oleoresins do, they will mostly settle to the bottom of the pot as the temperature drops.
  •  When the pot has cooled, pour the contents through yet another fine mesh sieve and add the bits of resin you collect in the sieve to your main bowl of collected resin. Pry off as much of the hard resin droplets from your pot.
  • Your resin extract still needs to go through the bath once more to remove traces of water soluble gum. When present, they will interfere with the process of making oil based products such as cremes and salves.
  • So, repeat the above process of boiling your resin with fresh clean water in the pot.
  • Break up the resin into smaller pieces that will melt evenly, and add it to the boiling water.
  • Stir it around and you will likely see the water getting a bit cloudy. This is the residual water-soluble gum we want to get rid of.
  •  It should only take a few minutes of gentle stirring to wash the rest of the gum out of the resin, so after 3-5 minutes of your completely melted resin floating around, you can skim it off as above, and place it in a clean bowl to cool and set.
  •  Again, let the pot cool and collect any resin you missed.
  • Though you could use the resin extract as it is, I put it through one final process to dry it of any residual trapped water. It usually collects water in little pockets and bubbles as it floats around the boiling water.
  •  To do this, I crush the resin coarsely, exposing as much of it to the air as I can. I stop when the largest chunks are about the size of a pea.
  • Place it on a clean Teflon or silicone cookie sheet.
  •  Preheat the oven to about 120 degrees Centigrade and place the pan in the oven.
  •  The resin will melt and flow releasing all the water in the form of vapour to the air. I tilt it this way and that to expose any pockets of water while it is hot and mobile.
  •  It only takes about 2-5 minutes of the resin uniformly melted to dry it and it can be removed from the oven and left to cool.
  •   When solid and cool, lift from the cookie sheet, break it in pieces if you like and store in ziplock bags or  a glass jar. Keep it cool or it may flow a bit and adhere to a glass container.
  • I have also used a heat gun, the kind used for stripping paint to melt the resin and remove any trapped water from it. This is an option if you feel like experimenting. If it sizzles a bit it is OK.

You now have a product with a substantial, therapeutically active proportion of Boswellic acids in a concentration much, much higher than you could ever get from a comparable quantity or weight of essential oil without the risk that concentrated essential oils can represent. At the same time you likely have a healthy percent of Frankincense essential oils in their naturally occurring concentration and matrix.

It is a substance that dissolves readily in warm vegetable oils, waxes and alcohol, and lends itself with ease to cremes, oils, salves and more. You know exactly what went into your product from start to finish. You know it wasn’t adulterated along the way, that no solvents, desiccants or fillers were added, and you know you have a 100% natural product.

Though I state it is an easy process, it is rather messy. Here is a visual walkthrough of the above process including some tips on  cleanup. – https://apothecarysgarden.com/2016/11/20/extracting-the-resin-and-boswellic-acids-from-frankincense-a-visual-walkthrough/

 And remember, always take clear notes.                                                                                                                                            Your future self will thank you.

Dan