Myrrh is the dried Oleo gum resin that is harvested from a number of trees from the genus Commiphora. The Myrrh trees are found as either small or low thorny shrubs that grow in rocky terrain. Like frankincense, myrrh resin it is produced by the tree as a reaction to a wound that has broken through the bark and into the sapwood. The trees are bled in this way on a regular basis.

When left on the tree, myrrh is waxy and brittle, but after the resin is collected into large bales it becomes a dry, hard and glossy substance that can be clear or opaque, and vary in colour. Depending on ageing, this colour can range from yellowish to almost black, with white streaks.

The principal species is Commiphora myrrha, which is native to Yemen, Somalia, and the eastern parts of Ethiopia. Another important species is C. momol. The related Commiphora gileadensis, native to Eastern Mediterranean and particularly the Arabian Peninsula, is the biblically referenced Balm of Gilead. Furthermore, there are still several other tree species that yield bdellium, and Indian myrrh.

Myrrh the 'bitter' Facts

The term is derived from the Aramaic ܡܪܝܪܐ (murr), meaning "bitter". Its name entered the English language from the Hebrew Bible where it is called mor, מור, and later as a Semitic loan word was used in the Greek myth of Myrrha, and later in the Septuagint; in the Greek language, the related word μύρον became a general term for perfume.

So valuable has it been at times in ancient history that it has been equal in weight value to gold. During times of scarcity its value rose even higher than that.

Myrrh has been used throughout history as a perfume, incense and medicine.

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