Thursday, December 24, 2009

Frankincense and Myrrh

Here is a post I wrote last year around Christmas time and thought you might enjoy reading again. Enjoy!

"Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, magi (a caste of wise men specializing in astology, medicine and natural science) from the east arrived in Jerusalem saying 'Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we saw His star in the east, and have come to worship Him. And they came into the house and saw the Child with Mary His mother; and they fell down and worshiped Him; and opening their treasures they presented to Him gifts of gold and frankincense and myrrh." Matthew 2:1, 11

Just out of curiousity I took a look at the significance of frankincense and myrrh. I always wonder about things and I wondered why those might have been the gift of the Magi. It turns out frankincense and myrrh are very significant both historically and for our benefit today.

They are considered herbal remedies and are both derived from the resin (sap) of two different trees found mostly on the Arabian peninsula. Myrrh (Commiphora myrrha) is derived from resin found in the stems of this bushy shrub. Frankincense is a resin from the tree Boswellia. The tree is cut and the sap runs for several weeks and then hardens into "tears" which are harvested and sold. At the time of Jesus birth the Roman Empire imported these two spices and they were actually worth their weight in gold.

Historical Uses of Myrrh
  • In Moses time, Myrrh was used in the Tabernacle and as an ingredient of a holy annointing oil and incense.
  • Additive to wine. Pliny the Elder refers to myrrh as being used to fumigate wine jars before bottling.
  • Embalming ointment - In ancient times, myrrh was used in Egypt for embalming the dead. Myrrh was also used to prepare the body of Jesus for burial after the crucifixion. John 19:39-40
  • Penitential incense in funerals and cremations.
  • For many of the ancients myrrh was a favorite perfume which would keep it's fragrance for years if kept in an alabaster pot.
Historical Uses of Frankincense
  • Used as an incense
  • Egyptians ground the charred resin into a powder called kohl which they then used as a black eyeliner.
  • Frankincense was first introduced to Europe by Frankish crusaders which is where our name for it is derived from...Frankish Incense - Frankincense.
  • The main use of frankincense was in embalming the dead because it would preserve the body from putrefaction until burial or cremation. The emperor Nero at the funeral of his second wife Poppaea, burnt in excess of the total annual production of Arabia.
  • Clumps of frankincense were discovered among the treasures buried in the tomb of Tutankhamen who died in 1339 BC
Natural Healing Properties of Myrrh

  1. Acts as an antiseptic and disinfectant making it useful for abscesses, boils, sores and wounds. Interestingly, myrrh is a bacteriostatic inhibitor which stops the production of Staph and E. Coli bacteria.
  2. Acts as an expectorant making it usesful for asthma, bronchitis, colds, flu, sinusitis, and sore throats. Myrrh mixed with red raspberry leaves makes an excellent mouth wash and gargle for relief of sore throats.
  3. Acts as a deoderizer and works well as a mouth rinse for bad breath and periodontal disease. Powdered myrrh will strengthen the gums and naturally whiten teeth.
  4. Stimulates the immune system and can help with auto-immune disorders like rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, and osteoarthritis.
  5. Stimulates gastric secretions
  6. It's blood moving properties can purge stagnant blood out of the uterus making it useful in treating amenorrhea, dysmenorrhea, menopause, and uterine tumors.

Natural Healing Properties of Frankincense

  1. In Chinese medicine, frankincense is used orally for digestion and healthy skin.
  2. Certain types of frankincense can be chewed as a gum. Used in this way it elimintates bad breath and the juice derived from the gum is thought to benefit the kidneys and the liver.

You can still enjoy the healing and aromatherapy benefits of these products today. Check out our affiliate Mountain Rose Herbs for Frankinsense powder and essential oil; and Myrrh resin, powder and oil.

Shannan and I wish all of you a very merry Christmas!



Shannan and Karla said...

Awesome post Karla! - Shannan

Diana Bauman said...

What a great post! I've really been wanting to start learning about natural herbs and homeopathic medicine. I have so much to learn but will definitely start with myrhh! Thank you!

Joe'l Anthony said...

Good Morning! This is an amazing post. As a funeral service/ mortuary science apprentice I have decided to learn as much as I can about herbs and other natural substances that were histrorically used in embalming. This post has encouraged me to start with Frankencense. What motivated you to begin studing herbs and other natural substances? Are there any other natural substances that you know of that were used in ancient embalming?

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