Myrrh // is the aromatic resin of a number of small, thorny tree species of the genus Commiphora, which is an essential oil termed an oleoresin. Myrrh resin is a natural gum. It can also be ingested by mixing it with wine.
When a tree wound penetrates through the bark and into the sapwood, the tree bleeds a resin. Myrrh gum, like frankincense, is such a resin. When people harvest myrrh, they wound the trees repeatedly to bleed them of the gum. Myrrh gum is waxy, and coagulates quickly. After the harvest, the gum becomes hard and glossy. The gum is yellowish, and may be either clear or opaque. It darkens deeply as it ages, and white streaks emerge.
Myrrh gum is commonly harvested from the species Commiphora myrrha, which is native to Yemen, Somalia, Eritrea and eastern Ethiopia. Another farmed species is Commiphora momol. The related Commiphora gileadensis, native to Eastern Mediterranean and particularly the Arabian Peninsula, is the biblically referenced Balm of Gilead, also known as Balsam of Mecca. Several other species yield bdellium and Indian myrrh.
The oleo gum resins of a number of other Commiphora species are also used as perfumes, medicines (such as aromatic wound dressings), and incense ingredients. A lesser quality myrrh is bled from the tree Commiphora erythraea. Commiphora gileadensis oleo gum resin is known as opobalsamum, a name it shares with the gum resin bled from a species of parsnip, Opopanax opopanax.
Fragrant "myrrh beads" are made from the crushed seeds of Detarium microcarpum, an unrelated West African tree. These beads are traditionally worn by married women in Mali as multiple strands around the hips.