Specimen of the Day: 22/12/2009 – Myrrh

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Bombay myrrh

Congratulations to those of you who guessed correctly… today’s Specimen of the Day is myrrh (Commiphora myrrha).

Specimen from the Herbarium's Materia Medica collection
Illustration from the Leo Grindon Collection

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.

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6 thoughts on “Specimen of the Day: 22/12/2009 – Myrrh

    Louise said:
    December 22, 2009 at 11:24 am

    Oh thats lovely! Thanks for the festive posts, I’ve really enjoyed them.

    I saw this on the BBC news site and thought of you guys.

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/8424817.stm

    […] we were looking for specimens of frankincense and myrrh for our Christmas posts, the Materia Medica collection was the obvious place to look.  Whilst […]

    Gold… « Herbology Manchester said:
    April 14, 2010 at 5:08 pm

    […] invited a contribution on gold to add to the seasonal herbological musings on frankincense and myrrh. And who could resist the chance to write about gold? It is probably fair to say that of the […]

    […] blog posts about the Materia Medica Museum at the University of Manchester, and this one has more about myrrh. Share this:TwitterFacebookEmailStumbleUponRedditDiggPrintLike this:LikeBe the first to like […]

    Happy Christmas 2013! « Herbology Manchester said:
    December 23, 2013 at 12:49 pm

    […] Myrrh […]

    […] See also the Herbology Manchester blog on myrrh. […]

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