Other common names: myrrha, gum myrrh, Somali myrrh
Latin name: Commiphora myrrha
Botanical family: Bursearaceae
Method of extraction: steam distillation
Plant part used to extract the oil: dry gum oleoresin
Cultivation method: conventional
Area of origin: Northeast Africa, Sudan, Ethiopia, Somalia, Red Sea area. Our oil comes from Somalia
Myrrh was used by the ancient Egyptians for embalming. King Sahure (c. 2465 – c. 2325 BC), ruler of Egypt, recorded that large quantities of myrrh (also frankincense and other materials) were brought back from what is proven to be the earliest expedition to the land of Punt. The exact location of Punt is debated by historians but it seems to include southeast of Egypt, a Red Sea coastal region: Somaliland, Somalia, Djibouti, northeast Ethiopia, Eritrea, and north-east Sudan - areas known for being the home of myrrh. In a relief from Sahure’s mortuary temple celebrating the success of this expedition, the king is shown tending a myrrh tree in his palace gardens.
The word ‘myrrh’ originates from a Semitic ‘m-r-r’ meaning ‘bitter’, Arabic مُرّ ‘murr’ and Aramaic ܡܪܝܪܐ ‘mureera’. Its name entered the English language by way of the Hebrew Bible, in which it is called מור ‘mor’.
Myrrh is mentioned as an ingredient in the sacred anointing oil and a rare perfume in several places in the Hebrew Bible. The Bible and Talmud also mention that myrrh was also used in ‘Ketoret’: the consecrated incense used in the First and Second Temples at Jerusalem.
Myrrh tree also appears in Greek mythology in the story of Myrrha (Greek: Μύρρα, ‘Mýrra’), the mother of Adonis. As the myth goes, she was transformed into a myrrh tree after having had intercourse with her father, and gave birth to Adonis in tree form.
In the Ancient Greek language, the related word μῠ́ρον ‘múron’ became a general term for perfume.
Biochemical group: sesquiterpene furanoid
Main chemical constituents: furanoeudesma-1,3-diene 40.50%, curzerene 16.41%, lindestrene 11.92%, methoxyfuranogermacrene 4.91%, germacrene B 2.28%, germacrene D 1.18%, γ-elemene 1.06%, γ-elemene 1.05%, δ-elemene 0.89%, germacrone 0.52%, β-selinene 0.38%, β-caryophyllene 0.37%, β-bourbonene 0.28%, α-selinene 0.27%, γ-Cadinene 0.21%, Elemol 0.18%
Aroma strength: medium/strong
Perfumery note: base
Aroma: medicinal, sharp, warm, spicy, with a hint of sweetness
Traditional Aromatherapy Uses:
Traditionally in aromatherapy treatments myrrh essential oil is associated with the following therapeutic properties: anticatarrhal, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, antiseptic, astringent, balsamic, carminative, cicatrisant, emmenagogue, expectorant, fungicidal, revitalising, sedative, stimulant of the digestive and pulmonary systems, stomachic, tonic, uterine, vulnerary.
Qualified aromatherapists may use myrrh essential oil for common complaints such as:
respiratory issues, such as cough, cold and bronchitis
digestive system – it is useful for support of the stomach and digestive system, including complaints such as dyspepsia, diarrhoea and loss of appetite
reproductive system complaints, such as painful menstruation
nervous system – calming – often used in meditation and spiritual practices
skin care - it is used for various conditions where its astringent, antimicrobial, cicatrisant and anti-inflammatory properties can be of help, e.g. cracked skin, wounds, ulcers and sores, athlete’s foot, haemorrhoids. It is often used in products for mature skin.
How we use it:
Inhalation / Vaporisation:
- Vaporise a couple of drops or use in an aroma inhaler for that calm, tranquil feeling or during meditation.
- Vaporising a couple of drops of myrrh to try and ease cattargh - try in combination with a drop of fragonia, pine needle or spruce.
- To support would healing – try blending with helichrysum, lavender frankincense or German/Blue chamomile
- For digestive or menstrual issues – dilute in vegetable oil and gently massage the abdomen. Try with sweet marjoram, geranium, lavender or Roman chamomile for menstrual pains. For digestive support try with sweet orange, ginger, mandarin or coriander seed.