Ancient medicine: Frankincense

written by Anthony Zappia | WELLBEING COMMUNITY BLOGGER


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.)

Some uses:

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.

Some uses:

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.)

Some uses:

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.

Some uses:

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.

Further reading:

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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Anthony Zappia writes a regular blog about health and social issues, areas that he's passionate about. Twelve years ago he became especially interested in essential oils and their ability to enhance health and wellbeing. Anthony continues to follow the latest research and is himself a distributor of essential oils.