Botanist's Glossary

Myrrh - Commiphora myrrha

  • Description
    • The myrrh tree (Burseraceae family) is a small, very thorny, twisted shrub from the semi-arid regions of North East Africa, Yemen and Oman. Myrrh "tears" - the gum-resin that flows naturally from the trunk - are collected when dry. This resin is then either dissolved in alcohol (tincture of myrrh) or distilled. The essential oil is very expensive and has an unusual, spicy and camphorous scent.
  • Traditions
    • At first, myrrh was an ingredient reserved for holy ointments. Later, it became a secular perfume and an important remedy, reserved for the wealthy classes. The Three Wise Men gave myrrh to baby Jesus as one of their most precious gifts, along with gold and frankincense. Myrrh was also used in embalming preparations by the Egyptians.
  • Properties
    • Myrrh essential oil is obtained by steam distillation. Due to its repairing properties, it is used in products for the hands and nails. In perfumery, it is a base note that is pleasantly spicy, warm and very erotic. Myrrh also has antiseptic properties.