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"Libraries: The medicine chest of the soul."
Library at Thebes, inscription over the door
Myrrh essential oil is an ancient, biblical oil with modern day uses; myrrh has historically been thought of as mysterious and exotic but is used in aromatherapy to treat a number of health problems.

The name myrrh (Commiphora myrrha) is derived from the Arabic word murr, which means bitter; the origins of myrrh are in north-east Africa, in particular the Red Sea area, and in south-west Asia.  Myrrh is referred to several times in the bible.  It was of considerable value in biblical times. As a recognition of this value, myrrh was one of the gifts the three Wise Men brought to honor the baby Jesus.

Egyptian Use of Myrrh

Myrrh was used as a perfume, incense and medicine by ancient civilizations; in fact, it was considered as one of the best perfumes in ancient Egypt.  Myrrh is mentioned in the Ebers Papyrus of ancient Egyptian aromatic recipes and medicinal prescriptions.  It was used by the Arabs to treat skin conditions such as wrinkles and cracked skin.

Myrrh was also used for embalming and religious ceremonies and was classed as one of the most sacred ancient oils.  The ancient Greeks saw the value of myrrh by using it as a healing aid for wounds.  It is reported that every Greek soldier had myrrh in his pouch when leaving for war. 

Myrrh in History

In the early 12th century, herbalist Hildegarde of Bingen' wrote about myrrh in a compilation of German medicines called Hildegarde's Medicine.  The Chinese have used myrrh for many years for use in treatment of  hemorrhoids, menstrual problems and arthritis; myrrh is still current in the British Herbal Pharmacopoeia for gingivitis and mouth ulcers. 

How Myrrh Essential Oil is Extracted

Myrrh essential oil is derived from the steam distillation of crude myrrh, a resin which is produced by a small , spiny tree or shrub with knotted branches; it is a member of the same Burseraceae botanical plant family as Frankincense (Boswellia carteri).  Myrrh and frankincense essential oils have similar therapeutic properties in aromatherapy use.

The resin of myrrh is naturally found in the cracks of the tree, which sets in brown-red lumps.  According to legend, goats used to rub against the trees and the shepherds who tended them collected the resin which had stuck to the goats' hair;  today, the collection of myrrh resin is from man made cuts in the tree or by cultivation of trees.

Use of Myrrh Oil in Aromatherapy

Myrrh essential oil is ant-inflammatory, a tonic, a stimulant, antiseptic, astringent, carminative, sedative and anti-microbial.  It is used in skin care to treat Athletes foot, eczema, wrinkles, cracked skin and wounds; myrrh oil is also used to help arthritis, asthma, bronchitis, gum infections, coughs and sore throats.  It is also helpful in the treatment of diarrhea, colds and flatulence.

Other Uses of Myrrh

Myrrh can also be found in mouthwashes and toothpaste and is used in dentistry.  It is popular for use in perfumes, cosmetics and soaps and is found as a flavoring agent in drinks and food.  In addition, myrrh can be used in the treatment of thrush by means of a douche.


Davis, Patricia 1999 Aromatherapy An A-Z UK: Vermilion
Essential Science Publishing 2007 Essential Oils Desk Reference USA: Essential Science
Lawless, Julia 1995 The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Essential Oils UK: Thorsons

This article was written by Sharon Falsetto and appeared in its original format on Suite101 as Myrrh Essential Oil

It is expressively prohibited to copy or use this article in any way unless written permission is given by the author Sharon Falsetto.  If it is discovered that copyright laws have not been complied with, legal action will be pursued by the author Sharon Falsetto.

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