Historical Herbs - Myrrh, Aloes and Reishi Dr Warwick D Raymont, PhD, DSc, Grad Dip Sc Tech Comm, MACS, MNYAS, DG, OIA
“In Nature, God has provided a cure for every ailment known to man.”
Unfortunately, however, the rise and fall of civilisations and the many knowledge-destroying events such as the Spanish Inquisition have decimated the amount of Natural Remedies knowledge in the world. It is only in comparatively recent years that some of this knowledge is being recovered – and has been greatly enhanced by the addition of Asian medicines – Chinese and Ayurvedic stand out among these.
In Biblical times, two herbs that stood out among the others were “Myrrh and Aloes” (1). This earliest reference to these wonderful health and healing herbs dates back about five thousand years.
The name “Myrrh” has, in more recent times, been applied to a tropical Asian plant, Commiphora erythraea or mukul, a related East African plant, Commiphora myrrha, and many other species of Commiphora, all which have a fragrant resin but whose use as an incense dates back only to Roman times and are more commonly known as “False Myrrh” (2). However, contrary to popular belief, this aromatic incense is not the original Biblical Myrrh.The original Myrrh came from the Pink Rockrose or Zistrose, Cistus incanus. Indeed, the original Hebrew of Genesis 37 translates to “Gum of the Cistus”.
This original Myrrh was a valuable spice harvested from the stems of the Rockrose, a resin that was exuded after bruising. Such harvesting must have been extremely labour-intensive, making access to Myrrh something available only to the extremely wealthy. These affluent individuals used the Myrrh in their diet and, as a result, showed remarkably little susceptibility to the plethora of ailments that so affected the general populace.
When the three “Wise Men” of “Kings” attended the newborn Jesus in Bethlehem, they carried with them gifts of Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh. Gold – the most valuable of metals, Frankincense – the most valuable of incenses and Myrrh – the most valuable of spices. This Myrrh was the original Biblical Myrrh, the “Gum of the Cistus” – after all, the Roman Commiphora was simply another aromatic incense, not a spice, and to have given two incenses would have been replication.
Cistus incanus extract stands out in modern medical research for its efficacy as an antioxidant and an anti-viral. Indeed, laboratory testing has shown this herb even to decimate the much-feared H5N1 Bird Flu virus! (3), (4). It is particularly rich in Polyphenols, a family of natural and powerful antioxidants that scavenge free radicals and toxins and free the body’s immune system to care for itself rather than be “overloaded” trying to cope with a cacophony of twenty-first Century pollutants and toxins that build up inevitably in the body of every living human being (5).
The reference in Genesis mentions also “Aloes”. Aloe vera is also a plant renowned for its healing properties for over 5,000 years of recorded history. Alexander the Great (35-323 BC) used Aloe Vera to soothe and heal his soldiers’ wounds. However, of the 104 known species of Aloe vera, only one stands out as being the richest of all species in active ingredients (mucopolysaccharides and phytonutrients). This is the Aloe vera Barbadensis Miller. The purest, most organically grown of this variety is in a chemically untreated and volcanically rich area of Mexico where a German Company has set up its own huge farm (6). Many other species of Aloe vera contain little or even no active ingredients (7). Indeed, many herbal extracts examined were found to contain little or even no active ingredient whatsoever (7).
There are some US MLM Companies, one in particular (8) that produces tablets based upon the Aloe vera Barbadensis and, through very clever marketing, makes huge profits selling it as Ambrotose® (9), quite correctly claiming that this phytonutrient-rich tablet assists in cell repair and cell regeneration but extending the claims to “inter-cellular communication” referring its clients to some alleged biochemical pathways published in the “Journal of the South West Medical Institute”, a newly established entity curiously sharing the factory address of this company. Its founder, one Samuel L Kaster has quite a questionable past (10).
Of course, the Barbadensis Miller variety, being the richest in phytonutrients, is marketed as a pure drinking gel, a small cup (150mL) of which would probably contain the nutrition of a $240 jar of Mr Kaster’s cleverly marketed Ambrotose®.
The third member of the trilogy of historic herbs is the Reishi Mushroom (Ganodermum lucidum), also known in China as Ling Zhi.
Reishi has been coveted as a life-extender, body balancer and aphrodisiac since the Ming Dynasty (1644-1368BC). It is rich in triterpenes, particularly ganodermic acid; these have multiple medical functions, not the least being the inhibition of histamine release (alleviates allergies and asthma), the stimulation of insulin production by a “lazy” pancreas (assists with managing diabetes) (11) and its anti-oncogenic (anti-cancer) properties (12), (13), (14). It has been recently reported that major Pharmaceutical Companies are currently investigating Reishi with the intention of mimicking some of its anti-cancer ingredients to produce an effective anti-cancer drug (15).
Myrrh, Aloes and Reishi promise humanity a vastly improved and healthier life; it is only in recent times that these have been “rediscovered” and made available to the public.