Namibian myrrh (Commiphora wildii)

Description of the species

Commiphora wildii can be found in some of the driest deserts in northwestern Namibia, where it grows on rocky ground with little other vegetation. It is a smaller shrub (<1m height) that has a thick trunk and a spreading crown with reddish to purplish branches that carry the small leaves. The flowers of the Commiphora wildii are yellow-coloured and the fruits are bright red. Unlike trees from which resins must be tapped, the thorny Commiphora wildii trees naturally exude their aromatic gum in small droplets during the hot and dry months. This allows for a sustainable and non-destructive harvest.

Usage of the species

Traditionally the resin is used by Himba women in the region of Kunene as the main ingredient for their perfume. The Himba women blend the resin with ochre and butterfat to use it as a perfumed body cream. As the resource’s resin is available in great quantities, commercialization of the essential oil called Namibian Myrrh started. With the support of the Namibian Government and several development grants, a viable and community-based supply chain has been developed since 2006. The plant’s essential oil is used as anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory agent and Commiphora wildii’s typical fresh and slightly spicy aroma is utilized as a fragrance for various cosmetic products. In addition to the current use of this ingredient both regionally and internationally, further expansion into the international cosmetic market is envisaged.