Gold, frankincense and myrrh: The three most famous Christmas gifts in history. Beyond their biblical connections, frankincense and myrrh have carried great significance throughout history — and still inspire us in their present-day use in aromatherapy.
Below, seven facts that illustrate the importance of these precious substances:
History: The deeply meditative aromas of frankincense and myrrh evoke ancient temples and tombs, creating an olfactory link to the dawning of civilized human society. The earliest recorded use of frankincense is found in an inscription on the tomb of Hathsepsut, a 15th century BCE Egyptian queen.
Source: Frankincense and myrrh essential oils are distilled from the resin of two separate but related trees of the Burseraceae family. There are many different species of frankincense and myrrh growing from eastern Africa through southern Arabia and into northwestern India. Aura Cacia frankincense and myrrh (Boswellia sacra and Commiphora myrrha) are harvested in eastern Africa.
Chemistry: The trunks of frankincense and myrrh trees exude a sticky substance called oleo-gum-resin. The essential oil is steam distilled from this resin.
Symbolism: Myrrh traditionally symbolizes suffering, while frankincense symbolizes divinity.
Physical qualities: Oil of frankincense is slightly viscous, yellow to green, with a deeply balsamic, fresh-resinous aroma. Oil of myrrh is slightly viscous, yellowish to amber orange, with a warm-spicy, balsamic aroma.
Meditative qualities: Aromatherapy draws on the deeply meditative qualities of the oils. A gentle diffusion of a blend of equal parts of both can inspire emotional balance and mental focus.
Inspiring and uplifting qualities: Unusual and outstanding aromas can be created by blending frankincense or myrrh with citrus oils. Lemon and bergamot orange work well with frankincense; sweet orange and tangerine with myrrh.
How do you use frankincense and myrrh?