Herbs-Treat and Taste is about herbs and spices and their uses in medicine and cookery.We give recipes and information which enable people to have a healthier diet which can prevent certain illnesses and alleviate symptoms such as a cough, sore throat etc.There is information on different herbs,their history ,what other people think or thought about them and what we think.
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MYRRH:THE HEALTH BENEFITS OF MYRRH: USES OF MYRRH: HISTORY OF MYRRH
Myrrh is known throughout the world as one of the gifts the Magi gave to the infant Jesus. The others were gold and frankincense, although the gold may not have been the metal but an even moreprecious oil. The name myrrh comes from the Hebrew, mur or maror which both mean bitter.
Myrrh, like frankincense is an oleo-gum-resin which today comes from Somalia and Ethiopia where the Commiphora myrrha is a native plant. Frankincense trees and myrrh bushes (they grow to around 9 feet) grow together usually and the Arabian myrrh comes from the Balsamodendron species of myrrh-bearing plants. Myrrh either exudes from the bark of the tree spontaneously or is helped by cutting the bark. When the myrrh gum dries it forms tear drop shapes and this gave rise to several Greek myths about why it formed tear drops.
One of these myths is related to the Greek goddess of love Aphrodite and the daughter of the king of Syria, Theias. The daughter’s name was Smyrna (now the Greek name for Izmir in Turkey) or Myrrha. She refused to worship Aphrodite who was so furious that she made Smyrna lust after her father. She, with the help of her nurse, had intercourse with her father for twelve nights. He had no idea that the woman was his daughter. When he discovered what had happened he drew his sword and was going to kill the fleeing Smyrna. She prayed to the gods to be made invisible and they took pity on her and turned her into either a myrtle tree or the myrrh tree according the myths. After nine months, Adonis her baby, emerged from the split tree, and was later to take revenge on Aphrodite. The tear drop resin is symbolic of Smyrna or Myrrha’s grief when she realized the enormity of her acts.
The ancient Greeks used myrrh in a perfume called megaleion, and as an antidote to poison. Myrrh was thought to protect from the plague, but after the Black Death in London in 1665, it was proved that it had no effect so it fell out of favour.
Myrrh is a reddish-brown colour unlike frankincense which is much paler and often white. It has been used as part of religious ceremonies since ancient times and was used by the Egyptians both in medicine and in religious rites. The Greeks warriors took it into battle with them to heal wounds and prevent the spread of gangrene. It was burned at funerals as an incense until the 15th century.
The emperor Nero (who fiddled while Rome burned according to legend) burned a whole year’s supply of the costly myrrh at the funeral of his wife, Poppea Sabina in 65 AD.
It has been used to alleviate ulcers, sores, chapped skin, athlete’s foot, ringworm and to smooth and rejuvenate the ageing facial skin. It was commonly found in tooth powders in the 19th century and is used in mouth washes, as it prevents halitosis. The smoke from burning myrrh can be inhaled to ease congestion of the nasal and bronchial passages.
It has antifungal, antiseptic, anti-inflammatory, astringent and stimulating properties, and can be used as an emmenogogue, to induce a woman’s menstrual flow. Because of this property, pregnant women should not use it. It has also been used to aid digestion as it stimulates the appetite and gastric juices. It can also be used as an astringent wash.
In 1998 two icons depicting Saint Nicholas the miracle worker, once owned by Czar Nicholas II were reported to have produced flowing tears of myrrh.
Recently researchers have found two compounds in myrrh which are potent painkillers and one compound that helps to lower cholesterol levels. It is also believed that myrrh might prove to be a potent anti-cancer agent and has potential in cases of prostate and breast cancer.
In Germany the use of powdered myrrh and tincture of myrrh has been approved for the treatment of minor oral inflammation and pharyngeal mucosa.
Traditionally it has been used in childbirth to ease labour pains and encourage uterine contractions.
It is an ingredient of Fernet Branca, the Italian drink which is sometimes used as a hangover cure, but which was created in 1845 by Maria Scala as a medicine. Today it is a popular drink mixed with cola in Argentina and San Francisco.
In Somalia, when a baby is born, myrrh is placed under his/her bed until he/she is a year old, a tradition which has continued for at least 2500 years. It is believed that the myrrh will help shape the child’s future so that it will be a good one.