In the Biblical story, the Magi carried three gifts. Aside from gold, the other two were known for their healing properties.

The resin frankincense was carried by caravan across the desert from eastern Africa and Arabia. Its use as a medicine started with the ancient Egyptians who also charred it to make the famous black kohl eyeliner that adorned the faces of their noble women. Frankincense is central to almost every major religion from this region of the world, but its healing value often goes unmentioned.

Frankincense Resin
Frankincense Resin

Frankincense oil has been used for millennia to help balance the emotions and achieve a happier, more connected life. Frankincense is rich in compounds known as sesquiterpenes that pass the blood-brain barrier and stimulate the region of our brain that controls our feelings. One of the biomarkers of this plant, incensole acetate, is a known antidepressant. The oil is also beneficial for the skin and hair. After battle, it was often relied upon to disinfect wounds, soothe muscle pain and reduce swelling. Because of its anti-inflammatory properties, frankincense oil is often prescribed by naturopaths to treat those suffering from rheumatoid arthritis.

Like frankincense, myrrh is native to Northern Africa and the Middle East. Beyond its use as a fragrance and for embalming purposes, this plant resin was used by early civilizations for its healing properties, as well. The Egyptians bought it by boat from the Phoenicians for use in skin salves that were applied to wounds, sores and burns. Early doctors recognized myrrh’s antiseptic, anti-inflammatory, and analgesic effects. It was also used as a rejuvenating facial and massage treatment for women.

These two healing herbs were forbidden by certain religions because of their association with pagan rituals. Frankincense and myrrh are now celebrated worldwide for their religious significance.


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