Benefits of Frankincense

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Benefits of frankincenseWelcome to the Holiday series on Crunchy Christian podcast! Join Julie today as she talks about the benefits of frankincense.

Frankincense was one of the gifts of the magi who visited Jesus after his birth. But, what is frankincense? We know that it played an important role in worship, offerings, and prayer in both the Jewish culture and in other ancient cultures. But, what is it exactly and what are the benefits of frankincense for today?

Historical background of frankincense

Boswellia carterii and other Boswellia species produce the resin known as frankincense. These trees grow in the Middle East and in northern Africa. To get the sought-after resin, people cut a deep incision in the trunk of the tree. Then they peel off a narrow strip of bark just below it. Sap, of course, exudes from the cut and as it drips out, it hardens. The cut is deepened and more drips out and hardens. These “tears” are then scraped off and collected.

Spice trade

Ancient Babylonians, Assyrians, and Egyptians used Frankincense as far back as 3000 BC for religious ceremonies, including Egyptian embalming. They also used it as an ingredient in their kohl eyeliner. Many believed that the perfumes of incense carried their prayers up to the gods, regardless of their religious system. The trade of this resin made the countries of Arabia very wealthy as it fetched a price higher than gold at that time. And, they kept the true source of the spice secret so that ancient Greeks and Romans thought that it grew in Arabia. In fact, it came from the Horn of Africa. Many ancient empires tried to gain control over this incense trade and none succeeded due to the inability to master the harsh living conditions.

A kingly gift

Frankincense was one of the three gifts of the magi because it was a very costly gift that one would offer a king. These magi were a group of religious leaders from a northern part of Persia known as the Parthian empire. The Romans and the Parthians were intense rivals with many heated conflicts. So, when Parthian wise men appeared in a Roman occupied city looking for a king, of course Herod would be nervous. These magi had kingly gifts, had the power to select a new Parthian king, and here they were looking for the newborn king. Hmmm.

Fun fact: After Sarah, Abraham’s wife died, Abraham took a second wife named Ketura. Ketura means incense.

Benefits of frankincense

Today, frankincense is no longer used widely in religious ceremonies. However, researchers have uncovered some interesting facts about the benefits of frankincense essential oil. This oil is derived from the collected resin but extracted using carbon dioxide not water. In Chinese medicine, frankincense has long been used to promote blood circulation and to treat inflammation, swelling, and pain. Western research shows that frankincense is effective at lowering inflammation, especially in cases of arthritis, colitis, asthma, some forms of dermatitis. It also has antitumor activity, showing activity against prostate cancer, breast cancer, and colorectal cancer cells. Frankincense also shows antiulcer activity in studies with human gastric cells and skin cells and it protects the liver and slows aging. It also shows anti-depressive effects and, in tests with rats, it shows promise in protection against memory loss.

Frankincense is still an expensive product and is not readily available in health stores. However, many online essential oil companies carry high quality products. It is definitely worth looking into.

Don’t forget to check out The Secret Spice children’s book for a taste of Persian culture and a deeper look at another costly spice from the Middle East, saffron!



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