Myrrh

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Myrrh is the dried oleo gum resin of a number of Commiphora species of trees. Like frankincense, it is produced by the tree as a reaction to a purposeful wound through the bark and into the sapwood. The trees are bled in this way on a regular basis. The principal species is Commiphora myrrha, which is native to Yemen, Somalia, and the eastern parts of Ethiopia. Another primary species is C. momol. The related Commiphora gileadensis, native to Israel/Palestine and Jordan, is the biblically referenced balm of Gilead. Several other species yield bdellium, and Indian myrrh.

Its name entered the English from the Greek myth of Myrrha; in the Greek language, the related word μύρον became a general term for perfume. However, the term ultimately derives from the Aramaic word ܡܪܝܪܐ (murr), meaning "bitter".

Since ancient times, myrrh has been valued for its fragrance, its medicinal qualities as a wound dressing and an aromatic stomatic and for the ancient Egyptians as the principal ingredient used in the embalming of mummies. 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. It has been used throughout history as a perfume, incense and medicine.

According to the book of Matthew 2:11, gold, frankincense, and myrrh were among the gifts to Jesus by the Biblical Magi "from out of the East." Myrrh was also used for embalming in antiquity.

Contents

Current usage

Religious ritual

Because of its scriptural significance, myrrh is a common ingredient in incense offered during Christian liturgical celebrations (see Thurible).

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