Myrrh Wise Man imagined as a Lamanite. Artist: Katie Moore

The Hebrew word for Myrrh is Mowr which means distilled and comes from the root word Marar which means bitterness. All of us must pass through this veil of sorrow, experiencing for ourselves the bitterness and pain of transformation.  Almost as if given as a compensating comfort and companion for all that is most bitter, it is Myrrh that stands to preside at the portals of birth and death.  It is Myrrh that looks upon storm and tempest and is not moved.

Myrrh was known as the oil of queens, especially within ancient Egyptian culture, because of it’s great help to women. Myrrh balances out hormones, promoting menstruation and relieving painful periods.  It addresses thyroid problems which are more commen to women than to men. It was used by Esther in her purification process when she became the queen of Persia.  When diffused and inhaled during labor, myrrh reduces anxiety, facilitates calmness and is even said to assist in difficult or prolonged labor because it opens the cervix.  Myrrh was used after childbirth to prevent or remove abdominal stretch marks. It was customarily used on umbilical cords of newborn to protect the navel from infection.  Interestingly the Hebrew name for Mary, the mother of Jesus, is Miriam, and means bitterness.

Beyond childbirth, myrrh is further associated with descent into suffering and back out again because of the story of Joseph of Egypt.  Myrrh is the first oil mentioned in the Bible in Genesis 37:25, when Joseph’s jealous brothers sold him into slavery to a caravan of Midianites (incense traders) that were on their way to Egypt. The Scriptures tell us that the caravan was carrying “balm and myrrh.” Years later during the famine, Joseph’s brothers came to Egypt to buy food where they encountered Joseph as the Egyptian ruler. Interestingly, Jacob, their father (Israel), told his sons to bring gifts for the Prince and the Scriptures tells us in Genesis 43:11, they brought him “balm and myrrh”- the same two oils that accompanied Joseph into slavery

Commiphora myrrha shares some commonality with frankincense.  In fact, to the Egyptians, myrrh was thought to represent the female while frankincense represented the male.  Like frankincense, myrrh is also a highly prized tree sap resin, but is obtained from a thorny tree that grows in the seemingly barren lands of Arabia and East Africa. It was also due to the desire for myrrh that trade routes sprang up throughout Asia and Europe. Unlike frankincense resin, which is obtained by slashing the bark of the tree and produces white tears, myrrh is extracted by piercing the tree’s heartwood.  The gum trickles out and hardens into bitter, aromatic red droplets which are also called tears. (Luke 22:44, D&C 19:18) It is interesting, therefore, to note that Frankincense was often paired with Myrrh in the offering of incense, as the sweet high notes of Boswellia beautifully counter the dark, acrid tones of the Myrrh. What a beautiful analogy for the all-encompassing power of the Priesthood and Atonement of the Only Begotten Son of God.

In addition to the sufferings and crucifixion of Christ, Myrrh is also associated with death because of the Egyptians.  Myrrh has powerful preservative, drying and antiseptic properties.  It was therefore useful as an embalming agent, especially in Egypt with the mummification process.  It was also burned to help cover the odor of decay.  In addition, myrrh was often mixed with wine and given to criminals to drink before their executions.  This is one reason this writer believes Christ refused to drink it when it was offered to him upon the cross; it was to further witness of his innocence.

Myrrh addresses and heals some of the most pressing physical issues related to core vitality .  Myrrh oil is effective against excessive mucus in the lungs and helps to clear ailments such as colds, catarrh, coughs, sore throats and bronchitis. It is used for diarrhea, dyspepsia, flatulence and hemorrhoids.  It also is very good for mouth and gum disorders, such as mouth ulcers, pyorrhea, gingivitis, spongy gums and sore throats. On the skin, it is used with great success on boils, skin ulcers, bedsores, chapped and cracked skin, ringworm, weeping wounds, eczema and athlete’s foot.  In laboratory testing, myrrh has been found to increase the white blood count by as much as four times.



Christmas 2012: Pieces from two Nativity creches I created.