Phytochemical Composition of Commiphora Oleogum Resins and Their Cytotoxicity against Skin Cancer Cells

Molecules. 2022 Jun 17;27(12):3903. doi: 10.3390/molecules27123903.


Oleogum resins of the genus Commiphora have been used in traditional medicines for centuries. More than 200 Commiphora species exhibit highly variable phytochemical compositions. A novel highly selective, sensitive, accurate HPLC-MS/MS method was developed and validated to quantify five characteristic phytosteroids and furanosesquiterpenoids, namely (E)-guggulsterone, (Z)-guggulsterone, curzerenone, furanoeudesma-1,3-diene, and myrrhone. The resulting contents and additionally GC analysis were used to classify and differentiate Commiphora oleogum resins of the species C. myrrha, C. erythraea, C. mukul, C. holtziana, C. confusa, and C. kua, as well as unspecified resins. Interestingly, a Commiphora sample from Ogaden, Ethiopia, comprised 446 ng/mg guggulsterones presumed to be unique to C. mukul from the Indian subcontinent. However, Commiphora from Ogaden differed considerably from C. mukul in respect to guggulsterones isomer's ratio. Moreover, the cytotoxicity of Commiphora extracts, essential oils, botanical drugs containing Commiphora, and pure compounds against the epidermoid carcinoma A431, malignant melanoma RPMI-7951 and SK-MEL-28 cells was investigated in vitro. Thereby, especially C. mukul extract and C. myrrha essential oil exhibited high cytotoxicity against skin cancer cells with IC50 of 2.9-10.9 µg/mL, but were less toxic to normal keratinocytes. In summary, Commiphora oleogum resins and its phytochemicals warrant further investigation aiming at chemotaxonomical classification as well as application in skin cancer treatment.

Keywords: Commiphora; Guggul; Guggulsterone; Myrrh; Terpenoids; skin cancer.

MeSH terms

  • Commiphora / chemistry
  • Humans
  • Oils, Volatile*
  • Phytochemicals / pharmacology
  • Plant Extracts / chemistry
  • Resins, Plant / chemistry
  • Resins, Plant / pharmacology
  • Skin Neoplasms* / drug therapy
  • Tandem Mass Spectrometry


  • Oils, Volatile
  • Phytochemicals
  • Plant Extracts
  • Resins, Plant