Myrrh gum: A Bit of Botany
a little botanical information

Myrrh is not actually a plant but rather a plant product, one of the oldest plant products still in active use. One of the trees that produce myrrh, Commiphora molmol, when slit with a knife, exudes a gummy white resinous sap that hardens quickly in the sun. This hardened sap is myrrh.

The myrrh tree is a squat, shrubby, and thorny tree of the Burseraceae family.

The trees that yield resin do not grow more than 9 feet in height, but they are of a sturdy build. They have knotted branches with branchlets that stand out at right-angles, ending in a sharp spine. The trifoliate leaves are scanty, small and very unequal, oval and entire.

There are ducts in the bark, and the tissue between them breaks down, forming large cavities, which, with the remaining ducts, becomes filled with a granular secretion which is freely discharged when the bark is wounded, or from natural fissures. It flows as a pale yellow liquid, but hardens to a reddish-brown mass, being found in commerce in tears of many sizes, the average being that of a walnut. The surface is rough and powdered, and the pieces are brittle, with a granular fracture, semi-transparent, oily, and often show whitish marks. The odor and taste are aromatic, the latter also acrid and bitter.

common names & nomenclature
The word myrrh is derived from the Aramaic word murr, meaning "was bitter".

Also known as:
myrrh, myrrh gum, common myrrh, commiphora myrrha

Myrrh Gum, the aromatic and amber-toned sap
Myrrh gum: Where in the World
habitat and range for myrrh

The tree that produces myrrh is native to the Arabian peninsula (Oman, Yemen) and to Africa (Djibouti, Ethiopia, Somalia, and Northeast Kenya).

Myrrh gum: Cultivation & Harvesting
considerations for growing and harvesting myrrh

Myrrh trees like to grow in hot rocky locations, particularly limestone hills in full sun.

Prefers well-drained sandy soil.

Sow seeds indoors in a greenhouse after the seeds have been stratified. Germination is unpredictable. When the seedlings are large enough, transplant them out into larger pots and eventually into the garden.

When the tree is mature, cuts are made into the bark and the sap is allowed to flow out and harden for 2 weeks. Remove the resin “tears” and allow to fully harden over 12 weeks or so. Can be stored as myrhh gum pieces or myrrh gum powder.

Store myrhh gum pieces and myrrh gum powder in an airtight container in a cool, dry place.

Myrrh gum: The Rest of the Story
myrrh history, folklore, literature & more

mystical myrrh
When you hear the word myrrh, you probably can think of its reference in the Bible. It is famous for being one of the gifts brought to the baby Jesus by one of the Wise Men. But have you ever wondered why this was so valuable a gift?

While myrrh has been around since ancient times and even makes an appearance in the ancient text of the Bible, it’s a modern herb that’s still in use today. If you’re suffering from any type of bed sore or pressure sore, you’ll find myrrh particularly helpful.

The Bible tells us that when Joseph's jealous brothers decided to dispose of him, they plotted and schemed. How could they get rid of this unwanted rival for their father's affection without actually murdering him? The answer soon appeared on the horizon. "And looking up, they saw a caravan of their camels bearing gum, balm, and myrrh on their way to carry it down to Egypt" (Genesis 37:25). They sold Joseph to the Ishmaelites.

This is just the first of a dozen biblical references to the hardened, tear shaped clots of clear or reddish brown aromatic resin that exude from incisions in the bark of a small Middle Eastern tree.

First used by the ancient Egyptians in embalming mixtures, myrrh became the all-purpose biblical aromatic for perfumes, funerals, and insect repellents. Today it may help to repel tooth decay and gum disease.

mythological origins
The Greeks traced myrrh's teardrop shape to Myrrha, daughter of the Syrian king Thesis. Myrrha, refused to worship Aphrodite, the goddess of love. Angered by this blasphemy, Aphrodite tricked her into committing incest with her father. When Thesis realized what he had done, he threatened to kill his daughter. To save her, the gods transformed her into a myrrh tree, whose teardrop resin recalls the girl's sorrow.