Ancient medicine: Frankincense
I first spoke about frankincense in July last year. There are at least 52 references to this oil in the bible. To a lot of people, frankincense and myrrh are well known from the Old Testament as two of the gifts given to the Christ child.
It is now believed that the frankincense and myrrh presented to the baby Jesus were sourced from the southern Arabian peninsula; the area known today as Oman and Yemen. Two thousand years ago, these two oils were generally only in the possession of royal families or the most wealthy — their value was considered greater than gold — and merchants would travel thousands of miles to trade for the frankincense and Myrrh resins. Gary Young’s novel, The One Gift, gives probably one of the best depictions I’ve ever read of the dangers and obstacles of this trade all those years ago.
The oils galbanum and hyssop are less known to people but they likewise are also referenced in the Old Testament.
So let’s now have a look at the uses for these four oils in our day and age.
Frankincense (Boswellia Sacra and Boswellia Carteri). There are several varieties of frankincense, but those with the highest therapeutic qualities are Sacra and Carteri. Historically, frankincense has been used in religious ceremonies in the Middle-East to enhance contact with the divine, however the ancient Egyptians believed it was good for everything from a broken head to gout. Its properties include: anti-cancer, anti-depressant, anti-inflammatory. immune-stimulant and anti-tumoral.
(For more information on frankincense, see these previous posts: 15 essential oils for stress relief , Essential oils for the spirit and Frankincense – worth its weight in gold.)
- Rub a couple of drops on the back of the neck or the temples to improve concentration.
- Rub 2-3 drops on each foot to help boost the immune system.
- Ingest a drop each day to maintain good health.
- Diffuse or inhale to elevate the mood or during meditation and yoga.
- Mix 50/50 with a vegetable oil (eg almond, coconut oils) to a blister 3-5 times a day or as needed.
- Put a drop on an insect bite to help reduce the swelling.
- Apply 2-3 drops at the base of nails (or on the nails themselves) to strengthen weak nails.
Galbanum (Ferula gummosa). Galbanum, like frankincense, is distilled from the resin of a tree. The resin/tree originates from Iran, Turkey, Afghanistan and Lebanon. Historically, it was used with frankincense for incense during sacrifices, as well as to embalm. “And the Lord said unto Moses, take unto thee sweet spices, stacte, an onycha and galbanum, these sweet spices with pure frankincense of each there shall be a like weight” (Exodus 30:34). Its properties include: analgesic, anti-infectious, anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial, antiseptic, anti-spasmodic and anti-viral.
- For indigestion, try rubbing a couple of drops of galbanum over your stomach.
- If you’re finding it hard to concentrate, try rubbing a drop on the back of your neck and on your temples.
- Apply a few drops topically for sore muscles.
- For menstrual cramps try rubbing 4 drops on the bottom of each foot as well as inhaling from the bottle; galbanum is also very uplifting, so try also inhaling the oil if you’re at that time of month.
- For emotional balance, rub 3 drops on the bottom of each foot.
- Diffuse with frankincense or use alone when praying or meditating.
- For headaches, you can either diffuse, inhale directly from the bottle or rub a couple of drops into the temples or scalp.
Hyssop (Hyssopus officinalis). Hyssop is also mentioned in the bible. It was the oil that was used along with lamb’s blood to protect the Israelites from the angel of death who came to take the firstborn of the Egyptians (Exodus 12). Not surprising really as hyssop has anti-viral, anti-infectious, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, anti-parasitic and antiseptic properties. It also helps one become more centred and promotes meditation and creativity. Hyssop is also mentioned in the books of Leviticus, Numbers, Kings and Psalms. (Note: This oil is best avoided if you are pregnant, epileptic or suffer high blood pressure — dilute with a vegetable oil if unsure.)
- It makes a good oil to clear the room of negative energies, charged-up emotions and depression. Try adding a few drops to water in a glass spray bottle or atomiser and spraying in a room; alternatively, add the oil directly to a diffuser.
- Rub a couple of drops on the shoulders to reduce muscle tension.
- Hyssop also has expectorant properties, so rub a few drops over the chest area and inhale it deeply if you’re feeling congested.
- Use to soothe burns.
- Add to a cold compress immediately after bruising.
- To rid the respiratory system of mucus and toxins, try rubbing 2-3 drops around throat and chest area. The other alternative is to rub it into the soles of the feet or diffuse it.
Myrrh (Commiphora myrrha). Myrrh was one of the gifts to the Christ child, but long before that it was well known to the ancients. According to Greek mythology, the goddess Myrrha was tricked into an incestuous relationship with her father. In anger, her father turned her into a myrrh tree and from the tree’s blooms, Adonis was born. The resin that is exuded from the tree are said to be the tears of Myrrha. Myrrh has much in common with frankincense (they come from the same botanical family). The ancients used it as incense for religious ceremonies and to embalm the dead. They also used it for leprosy.
Myrrh is great for skin conditions such as chapped and cracked skin and stretch marks. In fact, the ancient Egyptians used it to protect themselves from the desert sun. Its other properties include: anti-infectious, anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, anti-tumoral and as a tonic. It has a high level of sesquiterpenes, which are molecules that can penetrate the blood-brain barrier, hence this is an oil that can penetrate to the brain and is capable of affecting our emotions. It is also believed to have pain relieving properties.
- Put a drop of myrrh on canker sores to help remove them.
- A few drops in water makes a great mouthwash and can even help against gingivitis. For gingivitis, try rubbing a drop on your gums directly.
- Mix about 10 drops of myrrh oil with 25ml of water into a spray bottle and use directly on wounds.
- Use a drop or two on skin blemishes to help remove them.
- When blended with sandalwood, can assist with vitiligo (a condition where there are patches of skin without pigmentation).
- Use it directly on your skin as a sun-shield. Rub a couple of drops around the eyes (Be careful you leave it OUT of your eyes). If you want to apply it broadly around the face or on your skin, you might want to make up a spray (similar to the one I just mentioned for wounds) or add it to a carrier oil such as jojoba or almond oil and massage it gently into the skin.
In our next post, we’ll look at myrtle, onycha, cistus and spikenard. If you’d like more information on these oils or you are interested in obtaining any of them, please contact us. And check out the links to further reading below.
Till next time!
Disclaimer: Please remember that anything discussed here does not
constitute medical advice and cannot substitute for appropriate medical care. Where essential oils are mentioned, it’s recommended you use only pure, unadulterated therapeutic grade essential oils and follow the safety directions of the manufacturer.
12 oils of ancient scripture – Galbanum and Cypress, Gary Young
12 oils of ancient scripture – Myrtle and Hyssop, Gary Young
12 oils of ancient scripture: Myrrh, Gary Young
12 oils of ancient scripture: Frankincense, Part One, Gary Young
12 oils of ancient scripture: Frankincense, Part Two, Gary Young
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