Myrrh EO and CO2 ~ Essential Information
Oleo-gum-resin is a term that describes Myrrh. An Oleo-gum-resin is a solid plant exudation (as asafetida or myrrh) consisting of a mixture of volatile oil, gum, and resin. It describes oleo (meaning oily or fatty in nature or look), gum (partly soluble in water), resin (partly or wholly soluble in alcohol). Therefore, an oleo-gum-resin has a nature that is partly soluble in water and partially soluble in alcohol and looks oily and is partly soluble in oil. That is, it consists mainly of oil, gum and resin. Examples are: Myrrh, Frankincense, and Opopanax.
Common Name/ Latin Name/ Country of Origin: Myrrh gum is commonly harvested from the species Commiphora myrrha, from the family Burseraceae, which is native to Yemen, Somalia, Eritrea, and eastern Ethiopia. Another commonly used name, Commiphora molmol, is now considered a synonym of Commiphora myrrha. Several other species yield bdellium and Indian myrrh.
I personally examined and will discuss Myrrh from my old collection from 1972 and three modern ones that I enjoyed from Eden Botanicals: Myrrh CO2, (C myrrha select extract wild-grown from Somalia); Myrrh, Somalia (C. myrrha wild-grown, SD*); and organic Myrrh, Somalia (C. myrrha wild-grown and certified organic, SD*) and the herbal uses of Myrrh products. There are several species of Myrrh.
*SD = steam-distilled.
Portion of the plant used in distillation, how it’s distilled, extracted and yields: Myrrh from Somalia and Ethiopia is obtained from “tears” of resin exuding from incisions made in the bark of a small tree of the Burseraceae family that is native to Yemen, Somalia and eastern parts of Ethiopia. The CO2 is extracted by supercritical fluid extraction with natural carbon dioxide. It takes 11 to 16 kilos of raw material to yield 1 kilo of product.
When soil, elevation, temperature, and rainfall conditions are conducive, testing the viscosity and stickiness of freshly exposed sap predicts the resulting resin’s quality.
In perfumery, Myrrh is a rich deep base note adding woody, balsamic scent properties. It is also a fixative, and extends the scent qualities of any other oils with which it is combined.
Organoleptics and Aroma Assessment.
Color – pale yellow to deeper yellow for the CO2
Clarity – Clear
Viscosity – non-viscous
Intensity – 3 for Myrrh organic of Somalia and 4 for Myrrh CO2.
Taste – bitter, astringent
Aroma: The three bottles of modern Myrrh I examined were all quite similar in odor. The CO2 had a deeper yellow color than the steam-distillates but were all clear, non-viscous, of low intensity in scent and bitter to taste. This was most surprising to me as my experience from 1970 to just a few years ago is that Myrrh essential oil was always dark golden, clear, viscous, and intense. Regarding the resin itself I was able to compare a piece from 1993 to what I have recently purchased and they certainly look and smell the same so I cannot explain the change of color and odor of the essential oil.
Best method of application or what do you use Myrrh for? Myrrh herb has been used to treat many conditions and is said to strengthen the immune system, fight viruses and bacterial infections, and act as an anti-inflammatory and anti-fungal. The essential oil has been used in extract or diluted with alcohol to use as a mouth wash or added to spiritual blends. However, in my experience, using a bit of the resin dissolved in alcohol then water added is a more environmentally conscious way to use this possibly threatened product.
Herbal Use or Incense: The resin lumps are used in incense and medicine. The wood is chewed as a water source. The incense is easy to use, simply place a piece on charcoal and burn or it can be blended with other resins to make a fragrant combination or a meditative blend.
The oleo-resin of C. mukul from the trunk (Guggul) is important in local medicine for arthritis, to reduce blood cholesterol, for obesity and acne.
Hydrosol: The only Myrrh hydrosol I have tried is the Myrrh water from Enfleurage in New York. They mention that it is personally distilled by Trygve, in their Omani Distillery in Somalia and select only the quality that is up to the owner’s standards. She says, “We do not separate our Myrrh oil from the water, and so we offer an ultra-high content Myrrh hydrosol. This makes it especially suited for therapeutic use, as it sprays on easily and can also be incorporated into formulations during the water-phase.” Myrrh is known for its antimicrobial properties and efficacy for all types of skin problems.
Endangered or not: It is very difficult to determine if the common Myrrh tree is endangered. But Arghya Gardens in Florida says it is and are helping to propagate and distribute these historically significant trees including C. mollis, C myrrha, and C. neglecta. And because of its use in traditional medicine, C. wightii has been overharvested in much of its habitat, thus has been listed on the IUCN Red List of threatened species. Several efforts are in place to address this situation. A grassroots conservation movement, led by IUCN associate Vineet Soni, has been started to educate guggul or guggal growers and harvesters in safe, sustainable harvesting methods.
Safety Precautions: Dilute before using. A patch test should be performed before use for those with sensitive skin.
Storage: Store your resin or EO of Myrrh in a light-proof container. Do not store in the fridge or freezer.
Not as sensitive as some EO and will last many years pretty much whatever you do. However, since it is a resin, long storage sometimes thickens the EO and you will need to add alcohol to thin it. It is slowly soluble in alcohol meaning it may take a few days.
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Collective and Interesting information: The Legend of Myrrha. Myrrha falls in love with her father and tricks him into sexual intercourse. After discovering her identity, Cinyras draws his sword and pursues Myrrha. She flees across Arabia and, after nine months, turns to the gods for help. They take pity on her and transform her into a Myrrh-tree. While in plant form, Myrrha gives birth to Adonis. According to legend, the aromatic exudation of the Myrrh-tree are Myrrha’s tears.
In the Old Testament, in the story of Joseph and his relatives, relates that Joseph had been cast into a well, when there appeared “a company of Ishmaelites from Gilead, bearing spices Balm, and Myrrh, going to carry it down to Egypt.”
What I found really interesting is that “The Plant Book” suggests that Myrrh is mosquito pollinated at night.
Recipes for Using Myrrh:
- Perfume: Myrrh acts as a fixative or base note in perfumery and if you like the odor that is the best way to use it. As a base note it should be no more than 10-15% of the total blend and as a fixative no more than 5%. There are many perfumes that contain Myrrh as a balsamic note. Personally, I have used it as an application for an enhanced spiritual feeling as I walk the labyrinth.
- For Spiritual Exaltation: Make a formula of equal parts of Myrrh, Frankincense, Patchouli and Vetivert. Succuss these together and let the blend age for a week before using. Apply a bit of the oil on your wrists or forehead and base of throat before meditation.
Skincare: There are many places that have formulas for using Myrrh for skin care, since it is not my favorite odor, I don’t use it in this way and use it only as resin incense or resin tincture for the mouth.
Body and your teeth: There is a great old recipe for Myrrh Tooth Tincture (see Atkinson, p 322) from 1919 as follows:
Cloves • ¼ oz. by weight
Mace • pinch
Myrrh • ¼ oz. by weight
Rhatany root* • ¼ oz. by weight
Alcohol • 6 oz.
Mix the herbs together, add the alcohol, let it sit for a while, up to a week or more, strain off the liquid tincture and use small amounts to rinse the mouth, mixed with water for a daily rinse.
* (Krameria lappacea – Rhatany – The biological action of Rhatany is caused by the astringent rhataniatannic acid, which is similar to tannic acid. When finely powdered, the dried roots furnished a frequent constituent of tooth powders. Infusions have been used as a gargle, a lozenge, especially when mixed with cocaine, as a local hemostatic and remedy for diarrhea.)
There are recipes for using Myrrh in my books, such as p. 181 of Herbs & Things for a flavored mouthwash.
- Jeanne Rose tips and tricks: Myrrh is about 50% soluble in water. So take a small amount of Myrrh gum, add water, let it dissolve for 24 hours or more and then use the water as mouthwash and dry the residue and burn as incense. This is a more environmentally friendly way to use this resin.
Jeanne Rose Tomato Tale of Myrrh: Twenty years ago, I had a very competent secretary that loved Myrrh and would use Myrrh EO or burn Myrrh in the room when she was using my computer. I realized at that time that Myrrh was not my favorite odor and she knew that as well. So whenever I walked into the computer room and it smelled of Myrrh I would promptly leave. Years later, I found a whole file of her personal love letters on my computer and I realized that she would use Myrrh to drive me out so that she could write her personal things. It makes me laugh now.
Arctander, Steffen. Perfume and Flavor Materials of Natural OriginA
Askinson, George. Perfumes and Cosmetics. Hodder & Stoughton, London, 1919
Guenther, Ernest. The Essential Oils.
Mabberley, D.J. Mabberley’s Plant-Book, Third Edition 2015
Menninger, Edwin. Fantastic Trees
Rose, Jeanne. Herbs & Things
Rose, Jeanne. The Aromatherapy Book
The New Shorter Oxford Dictionary.
Do not Ingest essential oils: Although some oils are important flavoring oils in the flavor industry and thus ingested in very small amounts in many foods, especially meats and sausages, it is not a good idea to use them yourself either in capsules or honey to take internally.
Safety Precautions: Do not apply the essential oil neat, especially to the underarms or delicate parts of the body. Most oils are probably not to be used on babies, children or pregnant women. Many aromatherapist suggest that there are some oils not be used at all. However, as with many plants, essential oil chemistry is subject to change depending on species and terroir.
Patch Test: If applying a new essential oil to your skin always perform a patch test to the inner arm (after you have diluted the EO in a vegetable carrier oil). —Wash an area of your forearm about the size of a quarter and dry carefully. Apply a diluted drop (1 drop EO + 1 drop carrier) to the area. Then apply a loose Band-Aid and wait 24 hours. If there is no reaction, then go ahead and use the oil in your formulas. —The Aromatherapy Book, Applications & Inhalations, p. 64
DISCLAIMER: This work is intended for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for accurate diagnosis and treatment by a qualified health care professional. Dosages are often not given, as that is a matter between you and your health care provider. The author is neither a chemist nor a medical doctor. The content herein is the product of research and personal and practical experience. Institute of Aromatic & Herbal Studies – Jeanne Rose©