Myrrh is most commonly known as one of the gifts (along with gold and frankincense) the three Wise Men brought to Jesus in the New Testament. It was actually mentioned in the bible 152 times! Myrrh was important in biblical times as it was used as a spice, a natural remedy, or to purify the dead.
Myrrh oil is still commonly used today as a remedy for a variety of ailments. Researchers have become interested in myrrh due to its potent antioxidant activity and potential as a cancer treatment. It has also been shown to be effective in fighting certain types of parasitic infections.
Myrrh is a resin, or sap-like substance, that comes from a tree called Commiphora myrrha, common in Africa or the Middle East. Myrrh is botanically related to Frankincense, and is one of the most widely used essential oils in the world.
The myrrh tree is distinctive due to its white flowers and knotted trunk. At times, the tree has very few leaves due to the dry desert conditions where it grows. It can sometimes take on an odd and twisted shape due to the harsh weather and wind.
In order to harvest myrrh the tree trunks must be cut into to release the resin. The resin is allowed to dry and begins to look like tears all along the tree trunk. The resin is then collected and the essential oil is made from the sap via steam distillation.
Myrrh oil has a smoky, sweet or sometimes bitter smell. The word myrrh comes from the Arabic word “murr” meaning bitter. The oil is a yellowish, orange color with a viscous consistency. It is commonly used as a base for perfume and other fragrances.
Two primary active compounds are found in myrrh, called terpenoids and sesquiterpenes, both of which have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects. Sesquiterpenes specifically also have an effect on our emotional center in the hypothalamus, helping us remain calm and balanced. Both of these compounds are under investigation for their anticancer, antibacterial benefits as well as other potential therapeutic uses.