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Frankincense. Just saying it almost causes a hush within your mind, almost like speaking holy writ aloud.
We all know the story of baby Jesus and his king attended birth. Three kings traveled across the land to bring gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh to their newly born savior. Strange presents for a baby.
So why. Why bring frankincense across the desert to a holy child? What is so special about frankincense? Let’s take a closer look.
As per the Biblical tale, as recounted in Matthew 2:1-12, an infant Jesus of Nazareth was visited in Bethlehem on the eve of his birth by Magi bearing gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.
To our modern sensibilities, these three gifts don’t seem quite even. Gold, then as now, is a highly valuable treasure. But frankincense and myrrh… what even are they?
According to Simon Cotton for Chemistry World, frankincense and myrrh are sap, drawn from the Boswellia sacra and Commiphora trees, respectively. Frankincense was often burned as an incense, while myrrh made its way into medicine and perfume. In antiquity, writes Cotton, these saps were worth just as much as gold.
But as modern science has shown, these Magi (or wise men or kings, as they’ve come to be known) may have been onto something with their gifts. More than just aromatic compounds, frankincense and myrrh have interesting medicinal properties.
“From tests on mice, chemists at the University of Florence have found that molecules in myrrh act on the brain’s opioid receptors, explaining its painkilling action,” says Cotton.
The key active ingredient in frankincense, boswellic acid, meanwhile, “has a structure not dissimilar from some hormones like testosterone.”
Boswellic acids have anti-inflammatory and antiarthritic effects, so that they are finding pharmacological use in both East and West. These compounds seem to work by preventing the body from making pro-inflammatory compounds, whilst they also exert antitumor effects in colorectal cancer cells.
Atop its analgesic action, myrrh also seems to have anti-cancer properties.
Of the Magi’s three gifts, maybe gold was the least valuable of all?
Sourced from https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/chemically-theres-lot-more-frankincense-and-myrrh-meets-eye-180953727/
Frankincense is actually the resin of the Boswellia carterii tree. Interestingly enough the resin is harvested in drops called tears and goes back much further than this Christian story.
Mediterranean religion in antiquity was rich with olfaction. This held true for Greco-Roman paganism as well as for Judaism. Everybody used incense and unguents in the home and in public buildings; a wide variety of substances were burned in ritual settings – mostly plants, oils and spices, often imported at great cost from Arabia, Africa and India. At a time when ‘bad air’ was believed to be a cause of disease, perfumes and incense were used to cleanse the air both as prescribed medicine and as a preventative health measure. Aromatics purified the air against disease, and were understood to drive away vermin such as mice and snakes.
The Ancient Greek physician Pedanius Dioscorides (c40-90 CE) wrote extensively of the medicinal qualities of myrrh and frankincense. In his five-volume De Materia Medica, he says that myrrh is:
warming, rheum-closing, sleep-inducing, retaining, drying and astringent. It soothes and opens the closed vulva, and it expels the menstrual flow … Rubbed on with the flesh of a snail it cures broken ears and exposed bones, as well as pus in the ears and their inflammation with meconium, castorium and glaucium. It is rubbed on varicose veins with cassia and honey.
Frankincense, Dioscorides continues, is ‘warm’ and ‘astringent’. No less miraculous as a cure-all, he lists its specific uses at length, including its capacity to ‘fill up the hollowness of ulcers and draw them to a scar, and to glue together bloody wounds’. Today, research in the biochemical sciences shows that myrrh works as an antibacterial agent, which might explain its historical use for treating various infections. Frankincense, for its part, has been shown to affect some strains of human cancer cells, as well as to open the neural pathways in mice that stimulate the perception of warmth.
In the Roman Empire, the medical benefits of frankincense meant that, in many cases, it was not clear if the burning of incense was for ritual or medicinal purposes. In fact, these were not mutually exclusive categories as they might seem today. Frankincense was commonly burned in tombs, catacombs and at wakes, just as it was burned before idols and in the temple grounds.
Frankincense in Magic and Ritual
Burning frankincesnse is a suitable offering to any Sun God. It may have been used in the past as an offering to Ra and Bel. According to some translations of the Orphic Hymns, Frankincense is a suitable offering to Apollo, Ares, Artemis, Asklepios, Zeus, Boreas, Eos, Dike, the Erinyes, Hephaistos, Herakles, Hermes, Hygeia, The Kouretes, Korybas, Dionysos, Mnemosyne, Nike, The Muses, Notos, Ouranos, Palaemon, the Bacchae, Themis, The Titas, Tyche, Zephyros, Mercury, Diana, Jove, Daimones, Vulcan, Silenos, and Satyros.
Frankincense resin is useful for fumigating sacred space in preparation of any ritual as it burns away negativity and raises the energy of the space. Some believe this is the most powerful and useful incense for this purpose and it is used for exorcism as well.
Essential oil of frankincense has been added to anointing oil used for rites of passage rituals, particularly for infants.
It was also used for part of the embalming process by ancient Egyptians.
Frankincense in Aromatherapy
The essential oil of frankincense, obtained through steam distillation of the dried resin, is used in perfumery and cosmetics as well as in the creation of ritual anointing oils. Its scent can be described as sweet, spicy/warm, lemony and piney.
The fragrance of frankincense is said to elevate the mind and to aid in meditation and visualization, centering and connecting to Spirit. It is also used to help achieve calm, relaxation and a general sense of wellness.
Frankincense in Healing
Frankincense is an edible resin that can be used in tonics to ensure good digestion and clear skin. Frankincense used internally should be clear and free of dark impurities.
Indian Frankincense, Boswellia serrata, called dhoop is used in Ayurvedic medicine to speed the healing of wounds, balance the female system and help with the treatment of arthritis.
Burning frankincense inside the home is said to purify the atmosphere, drive away disease and encourage good health.
Frankincense essential oil can be added to skincare products designed to soften and moisturize dry skin, to reduce and slow signs of aging, to speed the healing of blemishing and minor wounds, and to reduce scarring.
To Use Frankincense
Frankincense resin can be burned over hot coals in a brazier. It is often crushed and mixed with other resins, particularly myrrh. Adding frankincense to any incense blend will increase the action of the other woods, herbs, and resins in the blend.
To use frankincense for suffumigation – Once the brazier is smoking nicely, use a feather, a fan or your hand to direct the smoke around the space, person or object you wish to fumigate or pass an object to be cleansed through the smoke as it rises. Be careful not to inhale too much smoke as inhaling any smoke is dangerous and frankincense smoke has a slightly psychoactive effect.
As an offering, frankincense can be burned in a brazier over charcoals or placed directly into the ritual fire after it has been blessed and dedicated.
Frankincense essential oil can be combined with other oils and a carrier oil to make anointing oil.
Element Air and Fire
In our household we often apply Frankincense oil in combination with Lavender and Peppermint for a grounding effect when our emotions take on a mind of their own. We’ll also apply it when contemplating life altering decisions or before having hard conversations.
Young Living distills Frankincense oil from the resin of Boswellia carterii trees located in northern Africa, near the Arabian Peninsula.
Frankincense essential oil has a broad range of uses, from enhancing spiritual and meditative practice to use in beauty routines. Frankincense has an earthy, uplifting aroma that’s perfect for grounding and spiritual connectedness. Create a safe and comforting environment by diffusing this oil’s empowering aroma, particularly when you are seeking purpose or engaged in prayer or meditation.
Frankincense is rich with tradition, and its taste is unmistakable.
Frankincense Vitality essential oil carries a rich, sweet, woodsy flavor and properties that can help support overall well-being and a healthy immune system when taken internally.
- Take Frankincense Vitality internally as a dietary supplement by adding 1–2 drops to a vegetarian capsule to assist overall well-being and healthy immune function.
- Add it to water or a green smoothie to enjoy Frankincense Vitality’s subtle citrusy flavor.
- Pair it with your favorite Young Living products, including NingXia Red, PowerGize, or ImmuPower, for an added boost to your day that will support your overall health.
Fresh, subtle, woodsy aroma
Features & Benefits
|Promotes the appearance of healthy-looking skin|
May help reduce the appearance of uneven skin tones
|Has a sweet, honey-like, and woody fragrance|
Has a stimulating aroma
|May support overall well-being|
Supports healthy immune function
Can be taken as a dietary supplement for general health
Can be added to your favorite foods or beverages
Also known as “olibanum,” the name frankincense is derived from the Medieval French word for “real incense.” Frankincense is considered the “holy anointing oil” in the Middle East and has been used in religious ceremonies for thousands of years. It was well known during the time of Christ for its anointing and healing powers and was one of the gifts given to Christ at his birth. “Used to treat every conceivable ill known to man,” frankincense was valued more than gold during ancient times, and only those with great wealth and abundance possessed it. It is mentioned in one of the oldest known medical records, Ebers Papyrus (dating from 16th century BC), an ancient Egyptian list of 877 prescriptions and recipes.
Medical Properties: Antitumoral, immuno-stimulant, antidepressant, muscle relaxing
Uses: Depression, cancer, respiratory infections, inflammation, immune-stimulating
Fragrant Influence: Increases spiritual awareness, promotes meditation, improves attitude, and uplifts spirits.
Excerpted from The Essential Oils Desk Reference, 7th Edition, page 91
Thank you for digging deeper into Frankincense with me. I am very passionate about herbs, oils, and the education of their uses.
Please remember that essential oils are very concentrated products and should never be ingested unless specifically labeled for such use.
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Finally, the obligatory disclaimer.
I am not a doctor. None of the statements included in this post have been approved by the FDA or any other cool acronym known agency. It is Young Living’s official stance that they and these products are not intended to diagnose, treat, or cure any specific disease or illness. Young Living Independent Distributor #14632733