Congratulations to those of you who guessed correctly… today’s Specimen of the Day is myrrh (Commiphora myrrha).
This specimen of myrrh has come from our Materia Medica collection, in fact the label on the jar says it once belonged to the Materia Medica Museum, Victoria University. The Materia Medica collection contains over 800 specimens of medicinal plants in the form of leaves, roots, juices, gums, resins, flowers, herbs etc. The collection, most of which are kept in glass jars like the one pictured above, look like the contents of an old apothecary’s shop.
Myrrh is indigenous to eastern Mediterranean countries, Somalia, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Yemen, and South Arabia. The herb comes from a spiny, deciduous, bushy tree that grows to about fifteen feet, producing yellow-red flowers and pointed fruits. Myrrh is the resin that is a pale, yellow, granular secretion which discharges into cavities in the bark when it is wounded. The exudate hardens to a reddish-brown mass about the size of a walnut. It is harvested from June to August and dried for medicinal use. Myrrh should not be confused with British Myrrh, which is from a different plant family.
Myrrh has been used for it’s medicinal properties for thousands of years. In the bible myrrh was brought by Caspar, one of the Magi or three wise men, to the infant Jesus.