You may have heard of myrrh from Biblical stories, as it’s one of the precious gifts (together with gold and frankincense) offered by the three wise men to the newborn Jesus. This valuable element actually has a long history of use, especially in ancient civilizations. Today, myrrh is most commonly known as an essential oil. Keep on reading to learn more about its many benefits.
What Is Myrrh Oil?
Myrrh oil comes from a dried resin extracted from the Commiphora myrrha tree, which belongs to the Commiphora plant genus.1Like frankincense, myrrh comes from the Burseraceae plant family.2 Native to Northern Africa and the Middle East, particularly in Somalia, Ethiopia, Arabia, and Yemen, the tree grows up to five meters high, and can be identified by its light bark, knotted branches and small white flowers.3 The word “myrrh” comes from “murr,” which means “bitter” in Arabic, probably referring to the resin’s bitter taste.
Myrrh was very popular among ancient cultures. The Chinese valued it as a medicine, while Egyptians used it for embalming their pharaohs4 as well as for their sun-worshipping rituals. In fact, myrrh was mentioned in Ebers Papyrus, one of the oldest Egyptian medical texts, dating back to 1550 BC.5 Even the Greek soldiers made use of this resin, bringing it with them to battle to stop their wounds from bleeding.6
To extract myrrh, the bark of the tree is cut, and a yellow sap comes out. This sap dries into reddish-brown, walnut-sized lumps, with a unique sweet and smoky aroma, that are then used to make myrrh oil. Myrrh oil has a golden yellow or brownish color, and a rich, smoky and balsamic aroma.7
Uses of Myrrh Oil
Both myrrh resin and myrrh oil have a long history of medicinal use, valued for their wound-healing properties. Egyptians used myrrh to treat hay fever and heal herpes.8Myrrh oil has also been used as incense and a holy oil in religious rituals and ceremonies for over 5,000 years.9
Maintaining healthy skin is one of myrrh oil’s renowned uses, as it prevents the signs of aging and soothes cracked or chapped skin. This is why it’s commonly added to many skin care products today.10
Myrrh oil is also used for:11
Adding fragrance for perfumesEmbalmingFlavoring food products
Myrrh oil is also a valuable aromatherapy oil that can be used for massages, mixed in bathwater, or simply applied on the skin. You can also:
Use it as a mouthwash to help eliminate dental infections.Put it in a cold compress to relieve sores and wounds.Add it to creams and lotions to help relieve skin infections, such as athlete’s foot, ringworm, weeping eczema, bedsores, boils, carbuncles, and acne.
Composition of Myrrh Oil
There are many health-enhancing compounds in myrrh oil, such as terpenoids, a class of chemicals with anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects.12 It also contains up to 75 percent sesquiterpenes, which are compounds that can affect certain parts of your brain, particularly your hypothalamus, pituitary, and amygdala, which control your emotions and produce many important hormones in your body.13
Written by Dr. Mercola
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