Sunday, December 20, 2009

Myrhh




As some of the readers of this blog know, I have several facets to me besides that of an artist.  One of those facets is that I am a herbalist.  This means that I have trained in herbalism which provides me with knowledge of medicinal herbs, how to prepare them and their effect on the body and various disorders.

My herbal side has slipped a bit in recent years as art has taken over, but I still strongly believe in the power of herbs to treat illness and the holistic approach to traditional medicine that western medicine often lacks.  I also still grow and use medicinal herbs in preference to most over the counter medicines.

While looking for something entirely different today, I rearranged some shelves and found some myrhh, yes one of the classic Christmas gifts supposed brought to Jesus by the three wise men.

Myrhh is an important resin the herbal world. Myrhh is a resin which is produced by a small, spiny tree or shrub with knotted branches; 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 the resin is from man made cuts in the tree or by cultivation of trees.

In Ancient Rome myrrh was priced at five times as much as frankincense Roman funerals to mask the smell emanating from charring corpses. It was said that the Roman Emperor Nero burned a year's worth of myrrh at the funeral of his wife, Poppaea. Pliny the Elder refers to myrrh as being one of the ingredients of perfumes, and specifically the "Royal Perfume" of the Parthians. He also says myrrh was used to fumigate wine jars before bottling. Archeologists have found at least two ostraca from Malkata (from New Kingdom Egypt, ca. 1390 to 1350 B.C.) that were lined with a shiny black or dark brown deposit that analysis showed to be chemically closest to myrrh. The Romans were known to use myrrh as a premier additive to wine, though the latter was far more popular.

9 comments:

Margaret Ryall said...

You are a woman of many surprises! People have so many different facets. That's what makes the world an interesting place.

RHCarpenter said...

It is interesting to learn a bit more about this side of you - thanks for sharing :)

sue said...

Fascinating, Jeanette--I don't know if I've ever seen myrrh in person. I totally agree that I prefer not using over the counter or prescription meds if at all possible. Thankfully, I tend to stay very healthy, (knock) and so I don't typically need to take things but I hate to when I have to.

Sandy Maudlin said...

Thanks for all the wonderful info about myrrh. I have a nice tin full of myrrh as well as a chunk of frankenscence the size of my fist. And life plus art is the gold for sure. Have a joyous holiday.

Julie Broom said...

What an interesting and unexpected post Jeanette! Very appropriate to the season :-D I find herbalism fascinating too, thanks for sharing.

Mary said...

Very interesting Jeanette, When I saw the closeup I thought it was copal which is another resin, the tree is small but not spiny They use it here for insence in the church. This tree also has knotted branches but they are very thick and have a scally type cortex.

Gary said...

And you are a trained herbalist. Wow. I have always been fascinated with this; herbal(ism?) was and is an important local industry in the western mountains of NC. People still make money by collecting plant sources. I'm always looking up the various plants around my house and learning what they have been used for in the past. I don't know how they are prepared of course so I tend to leave them be, but tell my daughter what I have learned about them.

Jeanette said...

Thank you all for your comments. I think many people don't realize the usefulness of even commonly known herbs or realize that so much of their pharmaceutical medicines are plant based or a synthesized version of plants.

So much of the world's population still relies on herbal medicines and I firmly believe that its a tradition worth holding onto and knowing about.

Anonymous said...

Jeannette, have you tried frankgum? It's the hardened resin of spruce trees. You find hard little chunks of it on the trunk of the tree. Cut it off with a pocketknife and chew until it's just as soft as commercial chewing gum. It must have some medicinal uses, as it certainly tastes medicinal! Here's the reference from the Dictionary of Newfoundland English.

http://www.heritage.nf.ca/dictionary/azindex/pages/1794.html

Cate in Dundee