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Review
. 2019 Aug 24;24(17):3076.
doi: 10.3390/molecules24173076.

Seeing the Unseen of the Combination of Two Natural Resins, Frankincense and Myrrh: Changes in Chemical Constituents and Pharmacological Activities

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Free PMC article
Review

Seeing the Unseen of the Combination of Two Natural Resins, Frankincense and Myrrh: Changes in Chemical Constituents and Pharmacological Activities

Bo Cao et al. Molecules. .
Free PMC article

Abstract

For the treatment of diseases, especially chronic diseases, traditional natural drugs have more effective therapeutic advantages because of their multi-target and multi-channel characteristics. Among many traditional natural medicines, resins frankincense and myrrh have been proven to be effective in the treatment of inflammation and cancer. In the West, frankincense and myrrh have been used as incense in religious and cultural ceremonies since ancient times; in traditional Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine, they are used mainly for the treatment of chronic diseases. The main chemical constituents of frankincense and myrrh are terpenoids and essential oils. Their common pharmacological effects are anti-inflammatory and anticancer. More interestingly, in traditional Chinese medicine, frankincense and myrrh have been combined as drug pairs in the same prescription for thousands of years, and their combination has a better therapeutic effect on diseases than a single drug. After the combination of frankincense and myrrh forms a blend, a series of changes take place in their chemical composition, such as the increase or decrease of the main active ingredients, the disappearance of native chemical components, and the emergence of new chemical components. At the same time, the pharmacological effects of the combination seem magically powerful, such as synergistic anti-inflammation, synergistic anticancer, synergistic analgesic, synergistic antibacterial, synergistic blood-activation, and so on. In this review, we summarize the latest research on the main chemical constituents and pharmacological activities of these two natural resins, along with chemical and pharmacological studies on the combination of the two.

Keywords: anti-inflammatory; anticancer; combination; frankincense; myrrh; pharmacological activity; phytochemistry; synergy; terpenoids.

Conflict of interest statement

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.

Figures

Figure 1
Figure 1
The structural patterns of some chemical constituent in frankincense. (a) Pentacyclic triterpenoids; (b) tetracyclic triterpenoids; (c) macrocyclic diterpenoids; (d) essential oils.
Figure 1
Figure 1
The structural patterns of some chemical constituent in frankincense. (a) Pentacyclic triterpenoids; (b) tetracyclic triterpenoids; (c) macrocyclic diterpenoids; (d) essential oils.
Figure 2
Figure 2
The structural patterns of some chemical constituents in myrrh. (a) Monoterpenes; (b) sesquiterpenes; (c) diterpenoids; (d) triterpenoids; (e) steroids; (f) lignans.
Figure 2
Figure 2
The structural patterns of some chemical constituents in myrrh. (a) Monoterpenes; (b) sesquiterpenes; (c) diterpenoids; (d) triterpenoids; (e) steroids; (f) lignans.
Figure 2
Figure 2
The structural patterns of some chemical constituents in myrrh. (a) Monoterpenes; (b) sesquiterpenes; (c) diterpenoids; (d) triterpenoids; (e) steroids; (f) lignans.
Figure 3
Figure 3
Changes in chemical constituents of frankincense and myrrh before and after compatibility.
Figure 4
Figure 4
The chemical structure of some potential bioactive components in frankincense–myrrh compound.
Figure 5
Figure 5
The pharmacological effects and mechanisms of frankincense–myrrh compound.
Figure 6
Figure 6
Illustration of frankincense–myrrh compound in the treatment of adjuvant-induced arthritis (AIA) in rats. The bioactive components of frankincense and myrrh significantly reduced the expression levels of inflammatory cytokines INF-γ, IL-2, IL-1β, IL-12, TNF-α, PGE2, NO, and MDA in AIA rats’ serum and foot swelling by reducing the phosphorylation of three kinds of MAPK (ERK, p38, and JNK) and the down-regulation of downstream genes (c-jun and c-fos).
Figure 7
Figure 7
Active constituent-protein targets-signaling pathway network of frankincense–myrrh compound against breast cancer.

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