Sacred Scents from Mother Earth
Myrrhe (Malmal, Molmol) - Commiphora myrrha
In addition to frankincense, myrrh was a sacred resin presented to the newborn baby Jesus. Myrrh is popular for use in industry, medicine and smoking.
Latin name: Commiphora myrrha
Harvest location: Somalia
Scent: balsamic, bitter, spicy
Commiphora myrrha - sustainable quality
Myrrh is a shrubby tree that belongs to the species Commiphora and the balsam family. Most balsam trees have the ability to release their resin without human intervention. That’s the case with certain frankincense trees too: Muqlo, Mirafur, Gunro, and sometimes other Boswellia neglecta trees can be harvested without removing the bark.
But before we go any further, take a look at the myrrh tree pictured above.
From the picture, you can see the many branches and long thorns typical of Commiphora trees. These pointed branches pose a weak point, where the resin can escape without the tree being damaged. Anyone who gardens or spends time in the forest knows that it’s perfectly normal for trees to lose resin at certain weak points — the bark is rarely completely intact.
Natural influences can also damage the tree’s bark, such as storms and animals that like to rub against the trunk and eat its leaves. The ensuing injuries to the bark then allow the resin to escape. So when we speak of “sustainable” harvesting, we’re referring to harvesting the tree without using a knife to remove the bark — revealing the capillaries underneath.
The resin comes out of the tree naturally so the harvester can collect it without causing harm to the tree. At this point, you may be asking a question that I had a few years ago:
How on earth are you supposed to harvest enough resin without cutting the tree?
Well, when we walk through the woods and see not hundreds, not even thousands, but tens of thousands oak trees, we also don’t ask ourselves where all the acorns came from. So it goes with myrrh trees; there are so many myrrh trees growing across thousands of hectares that you couldn’t even count them. I’d guess Somalia might even have a million myrrh trees. The number is unbelievable.
Each tree releases 2–4 kilos of resin per year; of course, the “naturally harvested” trees produce less, but the sheer number of trees makes it possible that around 10 tons of Suhul myrrh is available in all of Somalia. Suhul (English spelling) or Suxul (Somali) is the name for sustainably harvested myrrh.
Incidentally, Suhul myrrh is not only preferable to normally harvested myrrh for sustainability reasons: the quality of sustainable myrrh is undoubtedly better, the scent is much more intense and the resin is also purer.
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