Myrrh is the “mother earth” oil, known and used by the ancients as a medicine and perfume, traded along the spice routes, five times more valuable than frankincense in Roman times, used by queens in beauty preparations. Is it still useful in our times? YES! Myrrh is one of my favorite oils, and I use it daily. I am such a fan that I want to honor it here so that you don’t miss another day enjoying its many benefits.
MYRRH THROUGHOUT HISTORY
Myrrh has been very important as a medicine and perfume/incense for thousands of years, in embalming, and as a cure for various diseases including cancer, leprosy, syphilis, and herpes. The oldest recorded usage of plant medicine comes from the Ayurvedic practices in India (at least 5000 years ago). Myrrh grew – and grows – primarily in Northern Africa and the Middle East because of the arid, hot climate in those areas. Along with frankincense, it was used as currency since its value was known to all. It is a resin (like sap) from the Commiphora tree and is often shown in its dried, pebble like form.
The oldest book on traditional Chinese medicine is called “Materia Medica” and dates from about 2800 BC. Through this book, we learn that the Chinese used myrrh to support healthy blood flow.
In many New Kingdom Egypt tomb paintings (starting almost 4000 years ago), we can see that the wealthy class wore cone shaped hats – made from shea butter with the addition of the flower petals, wax and essential oils (some say they were made specifically of either aromatic resin or ox fat impregnated with myrrh) – to social gatherings. As the events unfolded, the cones would melt slowly, releasing fragrant aromas to freshen the air and provide uplifting emotional aromatherapy. This appears to be our first visual proof that myrrh was used for emotional aromatherapy and air purification!
The Bible records that, around 500 BC, a young Jewish woman named Hadassah went through 6 months of myrrh treatments (certainly for soft and radiant skin and probably also to rid her of any possible medical conditions) before being presented to King Ahasuerus/Xerxes of Persia as a candidate for Queen (she became the famous Queen Esther, see Esther 2:12)
The Greeks and Romans imported massive amounts of myrrh, and Hippocrates – who revolutionized medicine in the 4th and 3rd centuries BC – mentioned myrrh more than any other plant substance in his writings. These ancients used it for everything from chronic coughs to cremations. Often paired with frankincense, myrrh was a staple in any physician’s toolkit and used in anointing oils and incense for spiritual purposes. It is no wonder that wise men from the East brought both to the baby Jesus.
When the Roman Empire fell, the thriving commerce supported by the trade routes was wiped out, and the West lost touch with active use of myrrh and even much specific knowledge of its properties for several centuries. It remained a staple in its native growing areas, however, and was greatly prized during the golden age of Islamic medicine. The plant medicine knowledge of the ancients was preserved and enhanced during this period especially through the “The Canon of Medicine”, a work by Avicenna (Ibn Sina), a Persian physician who lived and taught in the 11th century.
Trade of goods and knowledge slowly revived between the West and both the Middle East and China, so that by the Renaissance – starting in the late 14th century – an appetite for research into all areas of science, including botany and medicine, combined to bring the knowledge of myrrh back to its rightful place in Europe. Avicenna’s Canon was the standard medical textbook in Europe until the 18th century, ultimately replaced by the rise of modern chemistry, toxicology, and pharmacology.
Scientists in these fields and many others continue to research the properties of this amazing substance to this day. If you’re interested in reading a few current research articles on myrrh, you can start here: http://www.aromaticscience.com/category/resources?s=myrrh
WHAT ABOUT HOME USE TODAY?
Myrrh can be used as incense in the form of dried resin “tears” and diffused, applied topically, or taken internally* using the liquid steam distilled from the gum/resin. The liquid form – essential oil – is 50-70 times more potent than the tears. It promotes awareness and is uplifting. It is deeply grounding, encouraging feelings of safety, security, and being nurtured and loved in a motherly way. It has an intense, earthly aroma and is best paired with other intense oils such as Rose, Frankincense, Sandalwood, Lavender, Magnolia, and spice oils.
Myrrh is highly anti-infectious, anti-inflammatory, antiseptic (use a drop in a shot glass of water as a mouthwash or add a drop to your toothpaste; it is phenomenal for gums and oral care). It is also anti-tumor, anti-viral, astringent, and tonic. It is an excellent and soothing help for eczema and wounds, especially weeping ones. It supports hormonal, immune, and nervous systems, and is wonderful for chapped or aging skin (put a drop or two in your night cream!). I also apply it topically as needed on my chest at night as a powerful support to deep breathing and to help clear congestion (it is anti-fungal and expectorant), as it is very gentle on my thin and sensitive skin in that area. And it is great for digestion and relieving gas, bloating, cramping, and flatulence (rub on abdomen or take in a capsule).
*Myrrh is so gentle that it can be applied neat directly to the skin. To avoid any sensitivity, however, I always recommend mixing a drop or two with several drops of a pure carrier oil or unscented lotion. Dilute more for babies, toddlers, and younger children, during pregnancy, and for the elderly or those in frail health before applying topically. Do not use internally for children under 6 and with caution for older children and when pregnant.
If you are interested in learning more about Myrrh and
experiencing its wide ranging benefits,
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