The three wise men, or three magi, brought gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh to baby Jesus. Myrrh is perhaps the least well known of the three gifts, but it was just as valuable as frankincense at the time.
Myrrh is a resin that comes from the Commiphora myrrha or Commiphora molmol trees that grow in semi-desert regions in parts of north and northeast Africa and around the Red Sea. It is closely related to frankincense, and the two resins have some similar medicinal properties. They are often used together as incense.
The Uses of Myrrh
Like frankincense resin, the myrrh resin trickles out from cracks and cuts in the tree. The resin has been used as incense, as perfume and in medicine throughout centuries. In ancient Greece, soldiers used a paste made with myrrh to heal battle wounds. Myrrh is anti-inflammatory, antiseptic and anti-fungal, and it is still used as an ingredient in creams and ointments for dry and cracked skin.
One of the main uses of myrrh is in healing gum infections and mouth ulcers. Tincture of myrrh (available from many natural health stores or herb and aromatherapy suppliers) is a traditional natural remedy for mouth ulcers. Apply it directly on the ulcer using a cotton bud or dilute it to use as a mouth wash. The anti-fungal and antiseptic properties of myrrh and myrrh essential oil are helpful for all kinds of infections in the mouth. Myrrh is also a popular ingredient in natural mouthwashes and toothpastes.
Myrrh Essential Oil
The essential oil of myrrh is thick, sticky and red, and like the resin the oil has a smoky, earthy scent. The essential oil is usually a resinoid (it is extracted from the resin using a solvent). Like frankincense essential oil, myrrh oil is used for respiratory problems, for example in steam inhalations or in chest rubs to help relieve coughs and to expel mucus. The essential oil has the same antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties as the resin, and it can be added to homemade creams from dry and cracked heels, dry skin on elbows and knees, and for athlete’s foot and other fungal infections.
Myrrh resin is still used as incense today and it is also an ingredient in many incense sticks, often combined with frankincense. Myrrh and frankincense essential oils also work well together in essential oil blends. If you want to try myrrh incense at home, you can find myrrh resin, blends of myrrh and frankincense, and frankincense and myrrh incense sticks online.
Sources: Patricia Davis: Aromatherapy: an A-Z (Random House, UK, 2004)
Photo from Wikimedia Commons.