I figured it was high time I tried distilling myrrh.
We have a little myrrh here--from the area near the Yemen border, but not in any kind of amount that would lead to one finding it for sale in the market. So I went with the available Somali origin one--it’s nice and has a clean, thrillingly antiseptic note--very comforting in myrrh Wallah--exactly what you want from a plant so well known for skin healing, and anti-septic properties.
Myrrh is notoriously hellish to distill, and I had some hesitancy. It has a worse texture possibility than frankincense and frankincense can be a horror when it’s boiling. Even worse, myrrh essential oil has the same weight as water. So how do you separate it?
You can add salt I guess. Or centrifuge it. If you have one. Whatever, it’s just me in my Salalah kitchen, as usual.
I can say that it’s been fun getting to know myrrh, in these initial stages. I let it soak for a while and over time a fantastic sliminess came through, and a skin formed on the top of the water. I couldn’t help but reflect on how appropriate this was, given myrrhs spectacular healing properties, as a disinfectant and wound healer/helper. Really, myrrh displays her charms quite openly.
Unfortunately, there was a drama with my gas line after a few hours and so I either didn’t distill to its full potential or saved it from burning just in time, depending on how you look at it. But I got some very fine hydrosol. It’s packed with micro-molecules of essential oil.
There was no question about taking that oil out. I remember being at our chamomile distillers farm, in England. They distill resins also. They steam distill myrrh under pressure and they illustrate the textural nightmare perfectly well. Beakers and cylinders litter their office and lab, all crusted with myrrh effluvia. I couldn’t imagine.
For some reason I didn’t expect the myrrh to have such a strong, commanding, scent. Don’t know why. I have to admit I wasn’t too keen on the scent of myrrh. Maybe I couldn’t place it. It smelled......important in a medical way....no personal attachment though.
But even before I started distilling this smell made me happy. I stuck my hand in to touch the sliminess and my hand smelled of myrrh for hours. And during distillation the kitchen reeked of this new, important smell, I don’t know why I keep using the word important but it was. It had an element like frankincense, but it clearly wasn’t. I think myrrh is the Nurse Rachet of frankincense, no nonsense, all business and terrifying if you’re a microbe.
Something in the smell of myrrh is like stripes, and gleaming silver, and very very clean. It may even be some reactionary DNA throwback; dancing visions of teeth and suppurating wounds come into my head.
I’m leaving the hydrosol as is. We’ve got little spray misters to carry around here in Oman, waiting for a burn, a cut, a scrape or anything! It’s a packed-full-of-essential oil hydrosol, and we shall see where it takes us. Should have some in the store soon. I will announce it when we do.