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The History of Frankincense & Myrrh

Historically, Frankincense and Myrrh have been used cross-culturally around the world for over 5000 years. In fact, at one time, both Frankincense and Myrrh were worth more than gold. Why might one ask? For countless reasons, Frankincense and Myrrh have been especially important in religion, world trade, and medicine. Frankincense and Myrrh are both resins that [...]

Historically, Frankincense and Myrrh have been used cross-culturally around the world for over 5000 years. In fact, at one time, both Frankincense and Myrrh were worth more than gold. Why might one ask? For countless reasons, Frankincense and Myrrh have been especially important in religion, world trade, and medicine.

Frankincense and Myrrh are both resins that come from a species of tree. Frankincense comes from the genus of Boswellia, with Boswellia sacra being the highest grade of Frankincense. Here at Ananda Apothecary, we carry the varieties of Boswellia carterii and Boswellia serrata in addition to the sacra. Myrrh, on the other hand, comes from the genus of Commiphora myrrhawhich is a small thorny tree.

Both Frankincense and Myrrh are extracted in a similar fashion in which the tree is “wounded” with strategic slashes made on the outer bark, leading to the leakage of sap from the slash marks. The sap is then harvested and used to make incense, essential oil, and powder.

In ancient times, Frankincense and Myrrh were native to Southern Arabia, making Southern Arabia an integral part of world trade and the silk road. And because of the high worth Frankincense and Myrrh carried, Southern Arabia was thought to be a land of wealth. Both resins were exported to the rest of the Ancient world and used in several ways.

Religiously speaking, Frankincense and Myrrh were used in various religious ceremonies and practices across the globe. In Jerusalem, Frankincense and Myrrh were the primary components of holy incense and were burned in Jerusalem temples.

In the Mediterranean, the ancient Greeks and Romans burned Frankincense and Myrrh during cremations. In fact, Emperor Nero burned an entire year supply of Frankincense and Myrrh at the funeral of his late mistress.

In Egypt, Frankincense and Myrrh were placed in temples for sacred ceremonies and were even components in the embalming process of mummification. Interestingly, Frankincense was also used as eyeliner to achieve the iconic wingtip look.

Interested in bringing home the wise men’s gifts? Try our new blend Three Wise Men.

In Christianity, many are familiar with the use of Frankincense and Myrrh for religious ceremonies as well. The resins are also mentioned throughout the written texts of the Bible, most notably in the tale of the Three Wise Men, which is the story of the three wise men that travel from the East to give presents to the new baby Jesus. The three gifts include Gold, Frankincense, and Myrrh.

Despite their use in religious practice, Frankincense and Myrrh were also used for medicinal purposes across the globe. In fact, Frankincense and Myrrh have been a staple in medicine since 500 B.C. in China for antiseptic and anti-inflammatory purposes. Small amounts of the resins were also taken internally to promote digestion.

Hippocrates, The Father of Medicine, prescribed Frankincense and Myrrh for various ailments.

The Romans and Greeks also used Frankincense and Myrrh for medicinal purposes. In fact, Hippocrates, also known as the Father of Medicine, was a huge advocate for Myrrh. He prescribed both resins for sores, coughs, infections, toothaches, and various other ailments due to their analgesic, anti-inflammatory, and antiseptic properties. And the Roman Historian, Pliny The Elder, used Frankincense as an anecdote for hemlock poisoning.

Today, Frankincense and Myrrh are still used in Chinese Medicine, Aromatherapy, and Aryuvedic Medicine. Both resins have also been and currently are undergoing research for their therapeutic properties. The results are an excellent indication of how Frankincense and Myrrh are excellent alternatives for pain and inflammation.

For example, a mouse study using the combined extracts of both Frankincense and Myrrh was effective in reducing pain by modulating a receptor that is associated with pain sensation.

In another study, Frankincense and Myrrh’s anti-inflammatory properties were better understood because the components present in the resins affect the biochemical pathway responsible for producing inflammatory markers in the body.

More recent research involves the effectiveness of Frankincense and Myrrh on cancerous cells. The results are rather promising, with indications of the ability for components in these resins to induce cancer cell death in vivo.  For more information on Frankincense and cancer, click here!

Since Frankincense and Myrrh go together so well, we offer a new blend, Three Wise Men, so that our customers can enjoy all of the benefits these resins have to offer.

 

REFERENCES:
1.Cohen, Jenny. A wise Man’s Cure: Frankincense & Myrrh. (2011). A&E Networks. Retrieved from: http://www.history.com/news/a-wise-mans-cure-frankincense-and-myrrh.
2.Dharmananda, Subhuti PhD. Myrrh and Frankincense. (2003). Retrieved from: http://www.itmonline.org/arts/myrrh.htm.
3.Hu, D., Wang, C., Li, F., Su, S., Yang, N., Yang, Y., … Tang, Z. (2017). A Combined Water Extract of Frankincense and Myrrh Alleviates Neuropathic Pain in Mice via Modulation of TRPV1. Neural Plasticity2017, 3710821. http://doi.org/10.1155/2017/3710821
4.Su, S., Duan, J., Chen, T., Huang, X., Shang, E., Yu, L., … Tang, Y. (2015). Corrigendum: Frankincense and myrrh suppress inflammation via regulation of the metabolic profiling and the MAPK signaling pathway. Scientific Reports5, 15597. http://doi.org/10.1038/srep15597
5.”The Story of Frankincense and Myrrh.” N.D. Access Date 15, December 2017. Retrieved from: http://www.mei.edu/sqcc/frankincense.

 

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