Myrrh beyond the Wise Men’s Gift

Deror_avi, CC BY-SA 3.0 <>, via Wikimedia Commons
Myrrh is a natural gum produced from the resin of Commiphora myrrha and other related species.
Photo credit: Deror_avi, CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

The third gift that the Wise Men gave to baby Jesus was Myrrh. With a baby sister at home, I remember thinking at primary school that Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh were very strange presents for a baby. Myrrh with its use as an embalming oil is perhaps the most curious and extraordinary of all the gifts. Evidently, the symbolic significance of these gifts passed me by a young age. A soft toy or rattle seemed more appropriate to me.


Together the Wise Men’s three gifts hold great spiritual symbolism.

  • Gold was a symbol of wealth, worldly power and kingship. Gold was widely used in temples. Therefore, it speaks of both kingship and divinity.
  • Frankincense, meanwhile, symbolises healing powers and a priestly role. Incense was used as a visible representation of prayers rising to God.
  • Myrrh was considered a valuable incense and medicine. It was used as an anointing oil by blending with olive oil. Most importantly, it was used in embalming and burial rituals after death.

Thus, as I child I was bizarrely right. The combination of these three gifts was not really intended for baby Jesus. Instead, they symbolise the man that he was to become. Gold conjures up the King of Kings. Frankincense suggests a priestly role. Finally, Myrrh thinks ahead to his death on the Cross and his ultimate mission on Earth. Jesus was offered Myrrh as pain relief at his Crucifixion, but he declined.

Three wise men with offerings at St. Apollinaire, Ravenna mosaic. Photo credit: Carolyn Whitson via Flickr.


Myrrh is produced in almost the exact same way as the previous blog described the tapping of Frankincense. Myrrh is a reddish resin from Commiphora trees. They belong to the same plant family as Frankincense: Burseraceae. Unfortunately, these trees are similarly threatened to due overexploitation like Frankincense trees, although they seem to receive less attention than the latter.

Myrrh illustration. Franz Eugen Köhler, Köhler’s Medizinal-Pflanzen, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
Myrrh. GeoTrinity, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Medicinal Properties

The medicinal properties claimed for many plants in the past have proved unfounded. However, this is not the case for Myrrh. It has genuine antiseptic properties. It is also thought to be an anti-inflammatory. Researchers are investigating its effectiveness for many other conditions.


Myrrh is a strange English word without a single vowel. This is explained by its Arabic origin which means bitter. Maybe you can use the word this Christmas in Scrabble, if all your letters are consonants?

References and Further Reading


Karen does not seek or receive any commercial interest or advantage from this blog. She is not promoting any business venture. She simply loves to share fascinating facts about plants. These pages illustrate her love of plants, botany, biodiversity, gardens and creative expression. There is always so much to learn about plant diversity. This blog is designed as a showcase for photography, commentary on plants and wildlife, gardens and other places visited, horticulture and related topics. Viewpoints are her own, not those of her employer.

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