Myrrh – the incredible story of the Himba tribe

14/05/2020 — By Alexandra Julian

Myrrh – the incredible story of the Himba tribe

Green People has always looked for the very best ingredients to use in its certified organic beauty products. Supporting small farmers and independent growers is a key part of the Green People philosophy and we believe in offering a fair price for the ingredients that go into our products.

One of the most remarkable stories behind a Green People ingredient is the story of the Myrrh we use in our natural toothpastes and sun lotions.

 

Myrrh collected by the Himba tribe

The incredible journey of this ancient, aromatic resin begins in Namibia and Angola, where the solidified sap from the Commiphorra tree is harvested by members of the Himba tribe. The Himba people are nomadic herders who travel from place to place with their goats, sheep and cattle.
Although they source the vast majority of what they need from the land and their livestock, the Himba tribe rely on the sale of Myrrh as their only source of income.

The Myrrh plant is very similar to the Frankincense plant and can survive in extreme arid conditions. Myrrh sap seeps out from the wood and solidifies in the small cracks and crevices at the bottom of the plant. The female members of the tribe hand collect the Myrrh which is hidden amongst the thorns. It takes one woman four hours to collect a kilogram of Myrrh gum, and a group of Himba women can collect around 100kg per day. The plants are numbered by the Himba to keep a record of where they have already harvested the gum.

  

Green People works closely with an agent who buys all the Myrrh that the Himba collect. After building a successful relationship with the Himba people, the agent pays a good price for the Myrrh, helping to support their ancient way of life that is under threat from the modern world. The pure Myrrh resin is then brought to Europe for distillation, where the essential oil is extracted. Green People has sourced Myrrh oil exclusively from the Himba tribe for over 10 years and each year we use what one person can harvest in around 1,000 hours.

 

Myrrh gum himba tribe

 

Who are the Himba people?

 

Myrrh gum, himba tribe

 

The Himba people are predominantly livestock farmers who breed sheep and goats, but they also herd cattle which are a more valuable commodity. As well as livestock, they also grow crops such as maize and millet.

They drink milk from their livestock, but rarely kill an animal for meat and they supplement their diet with grains, chicken, eggs and wild herbs and honey.
Clothing and hair styles are an important part of Himba tradition. They paint their bodies with a red otjize paste, a mixture of butterfat and ochre which protects their skin from sun damage and insect bites. The otjize paste is considered a highly desirable cosmetic as it symbolises the rich red colour of the earth and blood, the essence of life.

 

Hair styles differ depending on age and social status, a married woman wears an ornate headpiece and has many braids that are covered in otjize. Young unmarried girls typically wear two thick braids that are styled forwards to cover the face, and young boys wear a single braid styled to the rear of the head.

 

Why does Green People use Myrrh?

Myrrh has a long history of use as an effective, natural anti-inflammatory, antiseptic and astringent ingredient. It accelerates skin healing and is beautifully soothing, used in our natural toothpastes to keep the gums healthy without the need for harsh chemicals. Myrrh oil is also used in our organic sun lotions for its natural protective properties.

The Himba burn Myrrh resin mixed with herbs to cleanse and scent their bodies and clothes, the antimicrobial smoke is wafted over the body and used instead of water which is scarce in the hot semi-arid climate of their area. They also use the Myrrh for food, medicine, as a clothing dye, as a glue to mend pots and fill holes and for cleaning teeth.

 

Shop for products that contain Myrrh

 

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