Scientifically known as Commiphora myrrha, Myrrh is a shrub that grows to the size of a small tree. It belongs to the family Burseraceae. Its sap is extracted by a method known as tapping, and the residual reddish brown resin is collected. Tapping is mostly done using specialized tools with incisions of two inches made on the bark of the tree. The milky sap hardens as it comes out into the air. The collection of the hardened sap can occur over a period of several days. Some of the factors considered while tapping this resin include the interval of tapping, the collection period and the month when tapping is initiated. Myrrh oil is obtained from gum by the process of distillation. Despite its bad taste, the health benefits of this oil are innumerable.
This aromatic resin was extensively used by Egyptians as an embalming ointment to preserve the dead from decay. It acted as an anti-microbial agent and also provided with a characteristic pleasant smell, the properties that promoted its use as an embalming agent. Romans were known to burn it in funeral pyres as incense. It was also used along with Frankincense in perfumes and was quite highly valued. This resin also finds important mention in Christianity, as the 'act of receiving the myrrh' refers to receiving sacramental oil, the Holy oil, which is scented with this resin. It has also been used in China and India. It was used as incense in China and later used in traditional Chinese medicines. In India, it was used as an incense in different religious rituals.
- This oil is known to have anti-bacterial and antifungal properties and hence, finds usage in modern-day medicines, especially preventive care products.
- It is used in toothpastes and mouthwashes as also in oral care products to sooth mouth ulcers and throat irritations. Due to its antiseptic properties, it is used as an ingredient in topical ointments to treat minor abrasions and skin ailments.
- This oil is also considered as an effective substance in treating digestive problems, when used in small quantities, as a heavy dosage between 2 and 4 grams may lead to diarrhea as well as kidney irritation.
- As a uterine stimulant, it may promote normal menstruation.
- It is also used for treating bronchial congestion and sinus problems.
- This resin is also used in the production of Fernet, a traditional herbal beverage, consumed after dinner.
- As a hair oil, it has the significant property of strengthening hair roots thereby, preventing hair loss.
- It acts as an astringent and helps proper muscle contraction of the skin.
Myrrh has had great significance throughout history, as it is said to be one of the gifts that was brought to baby Jesus by the three wise men. It was also used to anoint crucified Jesus to revive His body after the Crucifixion. It has found repeated mention in ancient books throughout the world for its use as incense.