Anointing was practiced historically in Egypt and throughout the Middle East by women as well as men as a sign of respect, to cure illnesses and to prepare bodies for burial. The myrrh used in Egypt and other areas in ceremonial rituals for burials, was also used as a medicine for healing abrasions, toothaches, bruises, sprains and minor skin ailments.
According to Pedanius Dioscorides, a first century physician and botanist, myrrh was a species of mimosa similar in appearance to the Egyptian thorn with a pinnate-winged leaf structure and the region of Abyssinia produced the best quality. Fluid myrrh that flows from a fresh cut made in the tree yields a purer substance than subsequent flows as the tree ages. Pure myrrh was a highly valued commodity in all parts of the Middle East in ancient times and was exported regularly via camel caravan trade routes from southern Arabia.