‘A garden enclosed is my sister, my spouse; a spring shut up, a fountain sealed. Thy plants are an orchard of pomegranates with pleasant fruits: camphire and spikenard, saffron, calamus and cinnamon, with trees of frankincense, myrrh and aloes with all the chief spices.’

The scented garden as described in the Bible in
 the ‘Song of Solomon’ depicts a vision of paradise and provides a model for the development of the medieval, sacred garden. More importantly in botanical terms, was the fact
 that the medicinal plants grown in these temple gardens formed the earliest-known basis for the ‘botanic garden’ where the essential ingredients for early aromatic remedies were cultivated.The Egyptian Papyrus Ebers manuscript, a materia medica written about 1552 BC (in the time of Moses), contains numerous descriptions of fragrant plants and aromatic remedies together with their methods of use. Saffron was employed as a condiment and perfume material while cannabis or Indian hemp was used as a sedative and for it’s narcotic properties. Frankincense and myrrh, especially, were considered invaluable plants throughout the whole of the ancient world, because their fragrant gum-resins formed
the basis for most incenses. It is because of their high value at all levels of society and their sacred associations, that myrrh and frankincense, along with gold, were offered as gifts to the Christ child by the three Kings.

Native to Egypt, myrrh is a small, thorny tree (Commiphora myrrh), which is related to the frankincense tree, whose trunk exudes a natural aromatic, sap-like oleo-gum resin. The name ‘myrrh’ comes from the Arabic word ‘murr’ which means ‘bitter’ referring to its scent … as in the well-known Christmas carol implies. Having been such a prized, invaluable trade commodity along the ancient spice routes, myrrh was so esteemed that many myths have grown up around it. One Greek legend tells how the tree received its name from a Syrian Kings daughter called Myrrha, who was transformed by the gods into a myrrh tree to escape her father’s fury … and that tree’s resin is actually Myrrha’s tears. Another story tells how Cleopatra drenched her Nile barge with a liquid incense based on cyprinum, myrrh, frankincence and other incense materials so its fragrance carried far across the waves before her, announcing her arrival to Mark Anthony. The famous ‘Kyphi’ of Egypt was also a liquid incense recipe whose scent, according to Plutarch, ‘allayed anxieties and brightened dreams and was made of those things which delight most in the night.’ This precious elixir was made from a mixture of over sixteen aromatic substances including juniper, cardamom, calamus, cyperus (a fragrant grass), mastic, saffron, acacia, cinnamon, peppermint, myrrh and henna.

Traditionally, the myrrh resin was simply burned over hot coals, so the smoke produced a warm and woody-bitter incense. But myrrh was not only renowned as a vital incense and perfume material in the first civilizations, the oleo-gum resin and oil was also one of the most important medicinal substances: in the ancient world, there was no hard division made between perfumes, incense and medicinal remedies! For centuries, myrrh has been used by many cultures as part of their traditional medicine and religious rites, including funeral ceremonies, for fumigation and for purification purposes. Specifically, the myrrh resin and oil were used as part of the embalming process employed by the ancient Egyptians and as a fixative ingredient in the production of their aromatic elixirs and salves due to its ‘preservative’ qualities. This also helps to explain its value as an anti- aging, rejuvinating and skin-enhancing agent in cosmetic formulations today!

The first record of myrrh’s medicinal use in China dates back to 600 A.D. during the Tang Dynasty. In Chinese medicine, myrrh is reputed to have a stimulating effect on the blood circulation, soothing pain and offering relief from the discomforts of swellings, sores, carbuncles and bruises. Myrrh oil is also used for similar applications in traditional Ayurvedic medicine, which attributes revitalizing and tonic properties to the resin. In Western herbal medicine, myrrh is considered a vulnerary or wound-healer, and was traditionally used to prepare ointments to soothe burns, cuts and wounds. Myrrh was also documented as having been used in hospitals to treat bed-sores. In scientific terms, myrrh oil is known to facilitate the healing of wounds by protecting them from infection due to it’s antiseptic effect and by calming inflammation while its astringent properties help to close the wound, thus preventing excessive blood loss. By facilitating the regeneration of skin tissue, it is known to accelerate the healing of skin ulcers, sores, and lesions. For this reason it was much used on the battlefield: for example, myrrh oil became an integral part of the combat gear for Greek soldiers, who took vials of it to clean and disinfect their wounds as well as to stem the flow of blood loss.

Myrrh oil has numerous aromatherapy applications today due to its multifaceted character. Used in massage oil formulations, myrrh oil stimulates the circulation, helping to supply tissues with oxygen, regulating the metabolic rate and boosting immunity. In skin care, myrrh essential oil is also known to effectively eliminate fungal infections, as well as being especially beneficial for dried or cracked skin and for healing cuts and wounds. Myrrh oil also helps maintain skin health by facilitating the fading of unwanted blemishes and helps soothe itchy skin and the symptoms of eczema or acne. Restorative and rejuvenating, it is an especially valuable skin care oil for aging, mature and damaged complexions. When applied to a dry scalp or dry hair, myrrh oil can also help prevent dandruff, while its astringent quality strengthens the roots of the hair and thus helps prevents hair loss.

Used in a room diffuser, myrrh oil has powerful anti-catarrhal properties that make it beneficial for eliminating or reducing the symptoms of viral infections and reducing mucus. As an expectorant, myrrh can help eliminate respiratory problems, such as colds, congestion, coughs, bronchitis and catarrhal discharge. In addition, myrrh oil can simply be diffused to create a spiritual ambience or an inspirational mood while meditating. Our ‘Festive’ Diffusion Blend, which contains myrrh, sweet orange oil and frankincense amongst other ingredients, can not only create a joyful mood over the Christmas season and elevate the spirits … but also simultaneously disinfects the air, enhances immunity to infectious illness and clear the sinuses … much in the same way as the famous ‘Kyphi’ of the ancient Egyptians!