Christmas Resins – Frankincense & Myrrh

As a child in the Catholic Church I was taught that these two resins were 2 of the 3 gifts that the Kings brought the Christ child as he lay in the manger. They came on the 12th day after his birth (now called Epiphany) bearing Frankincense, myrrh, and gold. I was told the Frankincense was used to anoint the child to his heavenly role; the myrrh was used for his embalmment after death, and the gold to help in his care and raising.

Frankincense – Boswellia Thurifera

It is an aromatic gum resin obtained from the milky sap of a leafy forest tree of Arabia & East Africa. It is used in perfumery and aromatherapy. In the Bible’s Old Testament it was used for temple rites. In the New Testament it was one of the three gifts the Magi brought the Christ child. The aroma of frankincense is said to represent life and the Judaic, Christian and Islamic faiths have often used frankincense mixed with oils to anoint newborn infants.

Frankincense is often mentioned in the Pentateuch (the first five books of the Jewish Bible), and it was compounded with 3 other ‘sweet’ scents to make a ceremonial incense.

The kohl, or black powder with which the Egyptian women painted their eyelids, is made of charred Frankincense.

Frankincense was once used internally; Pliny used it as an antidote to hemlock poisoning. Avicenna (tenth century) recommends it for tumors, ulcers, vomiting, dysentery and fevers. In China it is used for leprosy. Its uses today are as an astringent to stop discharges and contract tissues; cosmetically it addresses acne for the youthful and dry, chapped skin for the more mature consumer.

On a spiritual level, Frankincense slows and expands breathing, calms the mind and facilitates deep meditation

Myrrh – Commiphora myrrha

The shrub that produces Myrrh is native to Ethiopia and Somalia, in Africa. It is an oleo-gum-resin obtained from the bushes exudate originating from breaks or cuts in the barks surface forming tears.

In ancient times, the red-brown resin of myrrh was used to preserve mummies.

In herbal medicine it is astringent, healing, tonic and stimulant. It is used in chronic catarrh, phthisis pulmonalis, chlorosis, and in amenorrhea is often combined with aloes and iron. As a wash it is good for spongy gums, ulcerated throat. Myrrh forms an important ingredient of an ointment that is applied externally to cure hemorrhoids or swollen anus veins, bed sores as well as wounds. The tincture prepared by steeping myrrh in alcohol is said to be an effectual oral astringent and is generally used as a mouthwash or for curing painful throat and other similar problems

Frankincense and Myrrh resins (picture borrowed from Bella Rosa)

Frankincense and Myrrh resins (picture borrowed from Bella Rosa)


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