Myrrh is the dried oleo gum resin of a number of Commiphora or dhidin species of trees. The Myrrh trees are small or low thorny shrubs that grow in rocky terrain.[1] Like frankincense, it is produced by the tree as a reaction to a wound through the bark and into the sapwood. The trees are bled in this way on a regular basis. When at the tree, myrrh is waxy and brittle, but after the resin is collected into large bales it becomes a dry, hard and glossy substance that can be clear or opaque, and vary in colour depending on aging from yellowish to almost black, with white streaks.[2] The principal species is Commiphora myrrha, which is native to YemenSomalia, and the eastern parts of Ethiopia. Another primary species is C. momol.[3] The related Commiphora gileadensis, native to Eastern Mediterranean and particularly the Arabian Peninsula,[4] is the biblically referenced Balm of Gilead.[5] Several other species yield bdellium, and Indian myrrh.

The term is derived from the Aramaic ܡܪܝܪܐ (murr), meaning “bitter”. Its name entered the English language from the Hebrew Bible where it is called mor, מור, and later as a Semitic loan word[6] was used in the Greek myth of Myrrha, and later in the Septuagint; in the Greek language, the related word μύρον became a general term for perfume.

So valuable has it been at times in ancient history that it has been equal in weight value to gold. During times of scarcity its value rose even higher than that.[citation needed] It has been used throughout history as a perfume, incense and medicine.


Religious ritual

Myrrh was used by the ancient Egyptians along with natron for the embalming of mummies.[7]

Myrrh was a part of the Ketoret which is used when referring to the consecrated incense described in the Hebrew Bible and Talmud. It is also referred to as the HaKetoret (the incense). It was offered on the specialized incense altar in the time when the Tabernacle was located in the First and Second Jerusalem Temples. The ketoret was an important component of the Temple service in Jerusalem.
It was traded by camel caravans overland from areas of production in southern Arabia by the Nabataeans to their capital city of Petra from where it was distributed throughout the Mediterranean region.[8]

According to the book of Matthew 2:11goldfrankincense, and myrrh were among the gifts to Jesus by the Biblical Magi “from out of the East.”

“While burning incense was accepted as a practice in the later Roman Catholic church, the early church during Roman times forbade the use of incense in services resulting in a rapid decline in the incense trade.”[9]

Because of its New Testament significance, myrrh is a common ingredient in incense offered during Christian liturgical celebrations (see Thurible).

In Roman Catholic liturgical tradition, pellets of myrrh are traditionally placed in the Paschal candle during the Easter VigilEastern Christianity uses incense much more frequently, sometimes emphasizing its use at Vespers and Matins because of the Old Testament exhortation of the evening and morning offerings of incense.

Myrrh is also used to prepare the sacramental chrism used by many churches of both Eastern and Western rites. In the Middle East, the Eastern Orthodox Church traditionally uses myrrh-scented oil to perform the sacraments of chrismation and unction, both of which are commonly referred to as “receiving theChrism“.

Myrrh is also used in Neo-paganism and ritual magic.[citation needed]

Ancient medicinal use

Since ancient times, myrrh has been valued for its fragrance and its medicinal qualities as an aromatic wound dressing.

Chinese medicine

In Chinese medicine, myrrh is classified as bitter and spicy, with a neutral temperature. It is said to have special efficacy on the heart, liver, and spleen meridians, as well as “blood-moving” powers to purge stagnant blood from the uterus. It is therefore recommended for rheumaticarthritic, and circulatory problems, and for amenorrheadysmenorrheamenopause, and uterine tumors.

Its uses are similar to those of frankincense, with which it is often combined in decoctionsliniments, and incense. When used in concert, myrrh is “blood-moving” while frankincense moves the Qi, making it more useful for arthritic conditions.

It is combined with such herbs as notoginsengsafflower stamens, Angelica sinensiscinnamon, and Salvia miltiorrhiza, usually in alcohol, and used both internally and externally.[10]

Ayurvedic medicine

Myrrh is used more frequently in Ayurveda and Unani medicine, which ascribe tonic and rejuvenative properties to the resin.

Myrrh (Daindhava) is used in many specially-processed rasayana formulas in Ayurveda. However, non-rasayana myrrh is contraindicated when kidney dysfunction or stomach pain are apparent, or for women who are pregnant or have excessive uterine bleeding.

A related species, called guggul in Ayurvedic medicine, is considered one of the best substances for the treatment of circulatory problems, nervous system disorders and rheumatic complaints.[11][12]

Modern medicine

In a pharmacy, myrrh is used as an antiseptic in mouthwashes, gargles, and toothpastes[13] for prevention and treatment of gum disease.[14] Myrrh is currently used in some liniments and healing salves that may be applied to abrasions and other minor skin ailments. Myrrh has also been recommended as an analgesic for toothaches, and can be used in liniment for bruises, aches, and sprains.[15]

Scientific research

{Information courtesy Wikipedia}