Geographic and botanical origin
Opoponax Gum is a pleasant smelling botanical resin that has similarities to Myrrh gum. It is harvested in northeastern Africa: producing countries are Somalia, Ethiopia, Kenya and Eritrea. Opoponax gum is also known as bisabol, hadi and sweet myrrh.
The exact botanical origin of Opoponax gum is unprecise due to historical confusion. In antiquity, Opoponax was the name given to tree gum of the genus Opopanax, especially the gum of the tree species Opopanax chironium that is endemic to southern Europe.
Nowday, customary Opoponax Gum designates the gum of the tree species Commiphora guidottii. It is also known as “Hadi” in the countries of origin. The gum of the tree species Commiphora erythraea is often also sold as Opoponax even though it has a very different odor. This gum is called “Hagar” by the locals.
Harvest and Processing
Opoponax is harvested by tapping of the Commiphora trees. The gum then exudes from the cut in the tree and is collected by the farmers. Further processing steps include cleaning, sorting and grading. The main grading factor is the odor. Opoponax gum has a sweeter fragrance than myrrh gum, hence its label “sweet myrrh”.
Sensory and phytochemical composition
The raw material Opononax Gum consists of small, dark, brown to yellowish gum lumps. The Gum has a sweet odor.
Opoponax Gum contains water soluble gum and a small fraction of essential oils. These oils are extracted from the raw gum trough steam distillation. The main component of these precious oils is bisabolene. Due to this chemical compound Opoponax gum is often labeled “bisabol”.