Gold always makes a nice gift. It’s a no-brainer. Gold earrings, a necklace, cufflinks, a new grill, what-have-you…
Frankincense is maybe a little more obscure, as gift-giving goes, but it’s still fairly obvious that it’s related to incense. It was valuable because it was (and still is) lit for important religious celebrations and ceremonies. A gift that means the recipient gets to light stuff on fire is always popular, especially among men and boys. Frankincense smells nice, and it was (again, still is) used as a perfume. Incidentally, the word “perfume” comes from per fume, literally “through smoke,” because the scent of incense is delivered through smoke… get it?
But Myrrh… hmmm, that sure tops my list for gifts to bring to a baby shower… because one can never have too much myrrh (Oh, Cathy Ladman, you are one funny chick).
Would most people keep myrrh in a big jar right next to the flour? Or maybe it should be stored in a jewelry box? Come to think of it, it should probably be kept in the fridge… I mean, you want to keep that stuff fresh…
If you’re like most people, you have no idea what myrrh might be, and you only know that it makes a great gift for an infant who happens to be the King of Heaven and Earth. And that it should really be stored in a very fancy box.
So here’s the scoop: myrrh really is pretty amazing stuff. It’s a powerful antioxidant that’s getting a great deal of attention from the medical communities in England, India, and China. But here in the U.S., we aren’t familiar with it because A.) it doesn’t grow here and B.) it’s just not a common ingredient for us. Even in the Middle East, where myrrh shrubs grow (yep, shrubby-trees), it’s pretty expensive stuff, partially due to supply & demand, and partially due to its inherent value.
Myrrh today can be purchased in three forms: as an essential oil, as a resin, and as a powder. Myrrh oleoresin (literally oil + resin) is harvested by making small cuts in the bark of the thorny desert shrub tree. The resin, or sap, of the tree comes to the surface and can be collected, similarly to how you get Christmas tree sap all over your hands (and somehow your face, if you happen to be a 9-year-old boy).
You won’t find USDA Organic Certified myrrh because there are no myrrh farms. That’s the deal with “organically grown” produce. Only farms can be certified. Woods and deserts cannot apply for these certifications, primarily because trees don’t have hands, despite what we may have been taught by Mr. Baum. When you search for “organic myrrh,” you’re going to find sources that boast about being “wild harvested.” That’s a good thing, too. And if you do find a source that claims to have USDA Certified Organic myrrh, be very wary of that source.
Speaking of being wary, there are some cautions I should note: I would suggest using extreme caution when considering actually eating myrrh, or any other essential oil. In particular, pregnant women should be very wary. According to the Journal of Phytotherapy Research, the consumption of high amounts of myrrh can lead to heart irregularities. Myrrh can also make a fever worse. Besides, as you can see from the photos above, myrrh resin comes in the form of hard little rocks—that can not be good for your teeth!
Well, I take back that last part—dental health, especially “spongy gums” (OMG, that sounds horrible! How is that even a euphemism?) is one of the main uses for myrrh today. The powder form (right) is basically a finely-ground version of the little resin nuggets featured in the center photo up there. Myrrh powder and baking soda are the main ingredients in many tooth powders thanks to the gentle, yet powerful, germ-fighting powers of both ingredients. Fluoride is an incredible cavity-fighting powerhouse, but for anyone who has an allergy, or just a general concern, it’s nice to know that there are viable options out there. Dr. Mercola (I know, either you’ve never heard of him, or you’re obsessed) recommends myrrh for persistent coughs, respiratory problems, dental concerns, and dermatological issues, such as acne, eczema, bed sores, athletes foot, and ring worm (which are all super fun!).
Myrrh, as you may have guessed, has a long history. It was popular for its medicinal properties during the time of Hippocrates (old Greek dude known as the father of modern medicine, yada yada). Ancient Egyptians used myrrh for, among other things, sun protection. Now, I’ve never been to Egypt myself, but I hear it gets pretty darned sunny there.
Wax cones, the cute party-hat-looking things, were used to hold unguents, waxy, often perfumed substances, similar to what we would recognize as “solid perfumes.” Oil was a necessity for everyone in this arid climate, but only those who could afford the luxury would have added the apothecary and perfumery ingredients. Personally, having something constantly dripping down my head and face would slowly drive me insane, but I supposed they didn’t want to be bothered by needing to remember to reapply every 2-4 hours… they were pretty advanced and all but they for-sure didn’t have smart-phones with reminder alarms.
Incidentally, ancient Egyptians also used myrrh to clean up those pesky battle wounds as well as for embalming the dead (well, the rich dead). So the next time you find yourself in need of a great-smelling embalming fluid, or if you just want to be super-accurate for your next costume, myrrh has you covered!
Beauty Full Day loves myrrh! Or myrrh makes for a Beauty Full Day… Anyhow, myrrh is included in the ingredients lists for: