Limited scientific studies suggest that myrrh (Commiphora molmol) has antibacterial and anti-inflammatory activities. This study determined myrrh oil (MO) cytotoxicity to human gingival fibroblasts and epithelial cells and its effect, measured by ELISA, on interleukin (IL)-1beta-stimulated IL-6 and IL-8 production. Cell viability and cytotoxicity were determined by metabolic reduction of a tetrazolium salt to a formazan dye (MTT assay) and by release of lactate dehydrogenase (LDH) from membrane damaged (LDH release assay) cells, respectively. Based on the MTT assay, 24- and 48-h exposures to </=0.001% MO had little effect on fibroblast and epithelial cell (24-h only) viability. At 48 h, 0.0005-0.001% MO decreased epithelial cell viability 30-50%. After 24 and 48 h, MO, at >/=0.005%, maximally decreased viability of all cell lines. In the LDH release assay, exposure to </=0.0001% MO caused <10% cytotoxicity to all cells. At 24 h, >/=0.0025% MO caused maximal cytotoxicity; </=0.001% MO caused 10-70% cytotoxicity. At longer exposure times, epithelial cells were more susceptible to cytotoxic effects of MO. There was little or no detectable IL-1beta-stimulated production of IL-6 or IL-8 by cells exposed to >/=0.0025% MO, probably reflective of loss of viability. At subtoxic MO levels (0.00001-0.001%), there was a significant reduction of IL-1beta-stimulated IL-6 and IL-8 production by fibroblasts, but not by epithelial cells.