For most of us, our earliest knowledge of frankincense and myrrh is from the gifts that the Magi presented to Jesus, the Christ Child. But they also have wonderful healing qualities.
“And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense, and myrrh.” (Matthew 2:11 / KJV)
“Myrrh” comes from the Arabic word “murr,” meaning bitter. Many species are grown in Africa and Saudi Arabia. Myrrh oil comes from the dried resin extracted from the Commiphora myrrha tree and can be recognized by its knotted branches and white flowers. Once the yellow sap has been extracted from the bark, it dries into red-brown lumps used to make the oil. The aroma is sweet, smoky, woody and somewhat medicinal.
The Egyptians used myrrh to treat dry and aging skin. One of the oldest Egyptian medical texts, Ebers Papyrus (approximately 1550 BC), records the use of myrrh. They also used it for embalming their pharaohs.
Health benefits include antiseptic, antifungal, anti-inflammatory, astringent and anti-viral properties. Myrrh can be used to help heal wounds, treat eczema, aid in digestion, and stimulate blood circulation as well as the immune system. It can be used in treating colds, coughs and bronchitis. For gum disease, it is added to many oral preparations including toothpastes.
Frankincense, also known as Boswellia, is native to Africa and Arabia as well. Highest quality frankincense is clear with a slight silvery-green appearance. Oman, located on the southeast tip of the Arabian Peninsula, is the best known source of frankincense. But they usually reserve their highest quality product for the sultan and rarely ship it elsewhere. The yellow-brown variety is cheaper and more readily available. When charred and ground into a powder, it was used by Egyptian women to form a dark kohl eyeliner.
Frankincense is calming with a warm, sweet and woody, yet slightly fruity, scent. Many of its uses are similar to myrrh. Research by Cardiff University discovered that frankincense can inhibit the production of inflammatory molecules. This helps prevent cartilage breakdown and is therefore useful in relieving the pain of arthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.
In studies regarding its potential to treat cancer, scientists noted an agent in the oil that stops cancer from spreading and actually causes these cells to shut themselves down, thereby inhibiting the nucleus of the damaged cell to reproduce corrupted DNA codes.
It’s important to distinguish essential oils from fragrance oils. Fragrance oils are synthetic (artificially created) and do not give the therapeutic benefits of organic essential oils. Essential oils come from the plant. These essential oils are valuable gifts from our Creator.
PRECAUTIONS: One should always check with their health care provider prior to use. There are some contraindications, especially for children, women who are pregnant or nursing, patients who take medication (particularly blood thinners), or who have a medical condition.