New research suggests that the resin of certain Middle Eastern trees, commonly known as myrrh, may have cholesterol-lowering properties.
Best remembered as one of the three gifts given to an infant Jesus in the New Testament, myrrh has been used mostly as an embalming ointment and as an ingredient in incense.
The resinous material has also been utilized in traditional remedies for treating a sore throat, bronchial congestion and as an antiseptic astringent.
Nadia Saleh Al-Amoudi of the Department of Nutrition and Food Science at the King Abd Al-Aziz University tested myrrh, along with other plant materials, and found that they have a demonstrable cholesterol-lowering effect.
During the trial, laboratory rodents with high cholesterol were fed various blends of myrrh, esparto grass leaves and fenugreek seed powder. Researchers found that the diet significantly decreased levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL), commonly known as bad cholesterol.
Al-Amoudi also found that myrrh lowered levels of high-density lipoprotein (HDL), known colloquially as good cholesterol.
Myrrh can also be used to treat many ailments including indigestion, joint pain and even bad breath, although the effectiveness of such treatments has yet to be verified by medical science.