'Tis the Season: Frankincense and Myrrh

'Tis the Season. And with this season we are reminded of the birth of Jesus and the gifts bestowed on him by the Three Wise Men; Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh.

We all know the value of gold, but what do we know about frankincense and myrrh?

What are Frankincense and Myrrh?

  Frankincense and Myrrh

Frankincense and Myrrh

Frankincense and Myrrh are the gummy sap product of the Boswellia and Commiphora trees, respectively, grown in dry climates such as India, Oman, Ethiopia, Somalia, Yemen and Saudi. The trees are cut allowing the gummy sap to ooze out. Once the sap hardens the resulting tear shaped resin is scrapped off the trees. Frankincense has a sweet, citrus aroma while Myrrh has a piney, bitter aroma. The resin of both are edible, can be burned as an incense either separate, together or with herbs, or steamed to produce essential oils.  

Early uses of Frankincense and Myrrh

Historically Frankincense and Myrrh have been used for their spiritual properties. Frankincense is a symbol of holiness. Myrrh is a symbol of bitterness, anguish and affliction. In addition to their use in spiritual ceremonies, Frankincense and Myrrh have been used in personal hygiene and beauty products and medical treatments for more than 5000 years. Early uses:

  • Frankincense was used hide body odor between baths by burning the resin and floating it near the clothing

  • Women mixed Frankincense into their eye shadow to improve the texture and used Myrrh on their face to rejuvenate the skin

  • Myrrh is thought to have been an early dental product

  • Medical practitioners, such as Hippocrates, wrote about their antiseptic, anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties and it has been reported that they were used to cure hemlock poisoning, snakebites, diarrhea, the plague, scurvy and a host of other diseases

  • Both were burned as an insect repellent

  • Both were used in the embalming process

  • Both were used in prayer, various rituals and cremations. The Egyptians used them to prepare human mummies. Others included them in incense burned during offering ceremonies.

  Frankincense branches

Frankincense branches

Current day uses of Frankincense and Myrrh

Today Frankincense and Myrrh are still used in personal hygiene and beauty, medical treatments and spiritual ceremonies, but in a different way than in the early uses. Current day uses:

  • Both are used in Chinese medicine, Ayurveda, and aromatherapy

  • Both are used in toothpastes and mouthwashes, but have also been used for abscesses, toothaches, gingivitis and bad breath.

  • Both can be used to aid digestion when chewed like gum

  • When used together, either as an essential oil or ground dried resin, they support wound healing due to their antiseptic,  astringent, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, antifungal and analgesic properties

  • Both have been investigated as possible support for cancer patients due to their antitumoral, cellular rejuvenation and antioxidant properties

  • Frankincense has also been studied as possible support to people suffering from Crohn’s disease and ulceative colitis

  • Both are used to reduce scars, blemishes and on chronic skin conditions

  • When both are used in meditation practices they have been reported to improve focus, reduce anxiety, fear, grief and loneliness, reduce mental distractions, promote creativity and reduce irritability

  • Both are still used in prayer and various ritual ceremonies

NOTE: It is advised that Frankincense and Myrrh should not be used during pregnancy. As with any product you should consult your physician before using.

Written by Becky Wilson, Bridget's Botanicals