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Both Frankincense and Myrrh are the dried resin (sap) of trees found in desert regions of Africa and Asia. Both are harvested without harming the trees, and each has its own wealth of health-supportive properties. Both have been tested in scientific research for their medical activity…
For over four thousand years, Frankincense and Myrrh have held a place in health and healing. According to aroma-therapists and herbalists, their applications are numerous. Both, too, have been used as spiritual aids by various cultures throughout the ages.
We enjoy them for their vast array of healing benefits, and most often for their lovely, complex aromas in any style of a diffuser. To learn more about each oil, see our in-depth Frankincense and Myrrh pages.
Both Frankincense and Myrrh CO2 distillations carry some heavier molecules into the oils not found in the steam distillates and hence have somewhat ‘deeper’ scents. Frankincense was one of the first CO2’s to be embraced for its potential therapeutic activity by traditional aromatherapists.
We find these distillations to have more well-rounded aromas, and use them in all applications where the steam distilled oils are called for. They’re incredibly good, and very worthwhile experiencing.
And on to the science of Frankincense and Myrrh …
Frankincense and Myrrh have both been positively studied for their positive actions, and the chart at the beginning of this post graphically illustrates the results of laboratory research on both these essential oils vs. a number of cell lines.
The Study: “Composition and potential activities of essential oils obtained from myrrh and frankincense”1
In this research, Frankincense and Myrrh oils were tested both together (to find any potential synergistic effect) and separately (to gauge their ‘strength’ against one another) on several human cell lines.
Breast, blood cell, cervical, skin and small-lung cell lines received a wide range of concentrations in their medium of both Frankincense and Myrrh. These cells were incubated and analysis performed on the oils’ ability to cause their death.
The Results: The breast and skin cell lines were found most susceptible to the activity of both Frankincense and Myrrh essential oils, whether the oils were used together or separately.
Testing of the oils individually was done on the breast cell line. It was found that Frankincense oil was strongest in its ability to invoke apoptosis, the ‘natural’ death of these cells, a crucial feature in an agent. (Normally, problematic cells are considered ‘immortal’, and it is this ‘immortality’ which allows them to grown and spread in the body.)
Frankincense oil was found to have the stronger activity over both Frankincense alone, and a blend of Frankincense and Myrrh essential oils.
Here’s the research abstract. Thanks for reading!
1. Composition and potential ctivities of essential oils obtained from myrrh and frankincense. Oncol Lett. 2013 Oct;6(4):1140-1146. Epub 2013 Aug 8.Chen Y1, Zhou C, Ge Z, Liu Y, Liu Y, Feng W, Li S, Chen G, Wei T.
The present study aimed to investigate the composition and potential activities of essential oils obtained from two species, myrrh and frankincense, by hydrodistillation. Using gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GC-MS), 76 and 99 components were identified in the myrrh and frankincense essential oils, respectively, with the most abundant components, 2-Cyclohexen-1-one, 4-ethynyl-4-hydroxy-3,5,5-trimethyl- and n-Octylacetate, accounting for 12.01 and 34.66%, respectively. The effects of the two essential oils, independently and as a mixture, on five tumor cell lines, MCF-7, HS-1, HepG2, HeLa and A549, were investigated using the MTT assay. The results indicated that the MCF-7 and HS-1 cell lines showed increased sensitivity to the myrrh and frankincense essential oils compared with the remaining cell lines. In addition, the effects of myrrh were markedly increased compared with those of frankincense, however, no significant synergistic effects were identified. The flow cytometry results indicated that apoptosis may be a major contributor to the biological efficacy of MCF-7 cells.
2. Sesquiterpenoids from myrrh inhibit androgen receptor expression and function in human prostate cells. Acta Pharmacol Sin. 2011 Mar;32(3):338-44. doi: 10.1038/aps.2010.219.Wang XL1, Kong F, Shen T, Young CY, Lou HX, Yuan HQ.
PURPOSE: To examine whether two naturally occurring sesquiterpenoids found in myrrh (ST1 and ST2) with anti-proliferative activity in prostate cells inhibit androgen receptor (AR) signaling.
METHODS: Human prostate cell lines LNCaP and PC3 were used. The expression of AR, AR translocation into the nucleus, and expression levels of AR coactivators ARA70 and steroid receptor coactivator-1 (SRC-1) in LNCaP cells were examined using real-time PCR and Western blot. Changes in prostate-specific antigen (PSA) protein levels, PSA promoter activity, and androgen response element (ARE)-mediated reporter gene activity was examined using enzyme-linked immunoabsorbent assay (ELISA) and transient transfection assays. Co-immunoprecipitation was performed to analyze the interaction between AR and the AR coactivators in ST1- and ST2-treated cells.
RESULTS: In LNCaP cells, ST1 and ST2 (40 μmol/L) led to a significant decrease in the expression of AR as well as a reduction of AR translocation into the nucleus, but had no effect on AR protein translation. ST1 and ST2 treatment also resulted in a significant decrease in the level of PSA protein secreted into the medium and was able to suppress PSA promoter-dependent and ARE-dependent luciferase activity. Furthermore, decreased expression of ARA70 and SRC-1 was observed when LNCaP cells were exposed to ST1 and ST2, which interfered with their ability to interact with AR.
CONCLUSION:The observations suggest that suppression of AR transactivation by ST1 and ST2 may be mediated, in part, by inhibiting AR nuclear translocation and/or interfering with the interaction between AR and its coactivators ARA70 and SRC-1. *