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Frankincense, myrrh, and more: oils that heal as referenced in the Bible. (Alternative medicine)

Countryside & Small Stock Journal; 11/1/2004; Manery, Bob

Do you remember the story of I the baby Jesus receiving gifts from the Three Wise Men at his birth? They were gold, frankincense and myrrh, right. By our standards today, most people on the face of this earth would consider gold to be the most precious and sought after of the three gifts to the newborn King. But what if I told you that frankincense and myrrh were actually considered to he more precious during those times than gold ever was?

Now here's another question for you. Do you know what frankincense and myrrh are? I always thought they were just perfumes or something like that.

They are actually essential oils derived from the resin of trees. Frankincense comes from a very scraggly looking tree called the Boswellia (Boswellia carteri) that grows in Somalia, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, and Oman. (See National Geographic, Vol. 168, No. 4, October 1985, Page 475, "Arabias Frankincense Trail") The Myrrh (Commiphora myrrha) tree is also just as scraggly looking and grows in Somalia and Yemen.

Myrrh commanded three times the price of frankincense. Demand for frankincense, however, was five times as great as myrrh.

Frankincense and myrrh were considered more precious than gold by the kings, queens, priests and priestesses in ancient pre-Biblical times. Essential oils were used by royalty and the wealthy for the healing properties. Slaves, land, and animals were bought, sold and traded for essential oils because of their extremely sought-after healing qualities. It was written in the ancient scrolls that frankincense was "used to treat every conceivable ill known to man."

It was a tradition that when a king was born, immediately the newborn infant was anointed from head to toe with frankincense. The mother's perineum and the umbilical cord were also anointed with myrrh. Through research, it has been discovered that this was not merely a ritual but they were used because frankincense and myrrh are highly anti-infectious, and myrrh is very soothing to the skin. Because of this, the oils were used to stop the possibility of any bacterial infections as well as soothing and healing of the mother.

On December 6, 2001 the following news release was issued: [Condensed] From Ancient Tradition To 21st Century Industry. Myrrh, fragrant resin with ancient heritage, may bear anti-cancer agents.

New Brunswick, NJ--"Researchers have identified a compound in myrrh, a bitter-tasting, fragrant resin that has been used for thousands of years as an ointment, perfume, incense and embalming fluid, that they believe could be developed into a potent anticancer agent. The compound, which kills cancer cells in the laboratory, shows particular promise for the prevention and treatment of breast and prostate cancer, according to the researchers.

"As part of a larger search for anticancer compounds from plants, the researchers obtained extracts from a particular species of myrrh plant (Commiphora myrrha) and tested it against a human breast tumor cell line (MCF-7) known to be resistant to anticancer drugs. Research data indicated that the extract killed all of the cancer cells in laboratory dishes.

"Further investigations to isolate the active component of the extract found it to be a unique and previously unknown compound belonging to a class called sesquiterpenoids, which are typically found in natural products ...

... "The good news is that these compounds all come from food and are unlikely to be toxic to healthy cells, which could mean fewer side effects as a chemotherapy agent, the researcher says."

(An International Training Program in Aromatic Plants and Essential Oils From Sourcing to Product Development And from Quality to Health Properties sponsored by the New Use and Natural Products Program at Rutgers University, New Brunswick, New Jersey, U.S.A.)

Frankincense is also known to have the compound sesquiterpenes and has been used successfully against some cancers. Other essential oils referenced in the Bible that also contain the compound of sesquiterpene are aloes (sandalwood), spikenard, and galbanum.

John 12:3--"Then took Mary a pound of ointment of spikenard, very costly, and anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped his feet with her hair: and the house was filled with the odor of the ointment." Spikenard was transported to the Holy Land in sealed alabaster boxes all the way from the Himalayan Mountains. When a distinguished guest came visiting, the master of the house showed honor by breaking open the spikenard and anointing the guest. The Hebrews and Romans used spikenard in the burial of their dead. This is why Jesus said of the woman who poured the precious spikenard oil on him, "She is come aforehand to anoint my body to the burying" (Mark 14:8). Spikenard is used to help soothe and nourish the skin. The oil is known for helping in the treatment of allergic skin reactions.

Many of the oils referenced in the Bible were used because of their antibacterial properties and effects. One such oil was that of hyssop. The hyssop plant was used during the exodus from Egypt. Exodus 12:22--"And ye shall take a bunch of hyssop, and dip it in the blood that is in the bason, and strike the lintel and the two side posts with the blood that is in the bason; and none of you shall go out at the door of his house until morning." The branches of the hyssop plant were used because upon striking the lintels of the door the essential oil of the leaves were released upon the doorway with the blood.

There are many species of hyssop, but the one known as Hyssop officinalis has been used medicinally for almost a millennium for its antiseptic, disinfecting, and anti-infectious properties. It has also been used for opening the respiratory system.

Psalms 45:8--"All thy garments smell of myrrh, and aloes [sandalwood], and cassia, out of the ivory palaces, whereby they have made thee glad." Sandalwood is another oil high in sesquiterpenes, which have been researched in Europe for their ability to stimulate the pineal gland and limbic region of the brain, the center of emotions. Sandalwood is similar to frankincense oil in its support of nerves and circulation.

Exodus 30:24--"And of cassia five hundred shekels, after the shekel of the sanctuary and of oil olive an hin: ... " Cassia (Cinnamomum cassia) distilled from the leaves and twigs of the plant, may be more commonly known from its cinnamon aroma. However, cassia is chemically and physically quite different from cinnamon (Cinnamomum verum) which is distilled from the bark of the tree. Exodus 30:23--"Take thou also unto thee principle spices, of pure myrrh five hundred shekels, and of sweet cinnamon half so much, even two hundred and fifty shekels, and of sweet calamus two hundred and fifty shekels ..."

Research has found that pathogenic microorganisms cannot live in the presence of cinnamon oil. This oil has been used to help fight viral and infectious diseases. Cinnamon bark oil has been tested alongside the antibiotics, penicillin and ampicillin, in their effectiveness against Escherichia coli and Staphylococcus aureus. Their effectiveness was found to be comparable to the antibiotics for both types of bacteria. Cassia oil is also highly regarded for its antiseptic properties.

Cypress (Cupressus sempervirens) i8 one of the oils most used for the circulatory system. This oil has been known for its beneficial effects on asthma, bronchitis and other respiratory conditions. More recently it has been used to strengthen blood capillary walls. The cypress tree is renowned for its superior strength and durability. For example, the sturdy doors of St. Peter's in Rome shows no signs of decay, even after 1,200 years.

Exodus 30:34--"And the Lord said unto Moses, Take unto thee sweet spices, stacte, and onycha, and galbanum: these sweet spices with pure frankincense: of each there shall be a like weight." Galbanum (Eerula gummosa) was esteemed for its medicinal and spiritual properties. Dioscorides, an ancient Roman historian, records that galbanum was used for its antispasmodic, diuretic, and pain-relieving properties. Onycha (Styrax benzoin) (pronounced oh-nigh-kah) was traditionally known for its comforting and soothing properties.

As you can see there were many essential oils used in ancient times for a myriad of medicinal and spiritual purposes. However, one of the concerns of today among true aromatherapists is the usage of essential oils that have been adulterated in some manner. Their purity and integrity may have been lost through the adulteration process, but appears to be of no concern to manufacturers who supply these essential oils. Many of the manufacturers of adulterated oils come under the guidelines of the Cosmetic Act and produce nothing more than a perfume, but they have labeled them as an essential oil. It is the understanding of these authors, that many of these companies that label their essential oils bottles as 100% pure essential oil are only required to have 5% of the true essential oil as part of its content. The other 95% of the ingredients are never divulged to the customer and could contain harmful petrochemicals.

One must be wise while shopping for pure essential oils. The highest grade on the market is known as a "therapeutic grade." In order for an essential oil to qualify as a therapeutic grade essential oil, it must meet and pass rigorous standards and testing which were established in France. One of the most reliable indicators of essential oil quality is the AFNOR (Association French Normalization Organization Regulation) or ISO (International Standards Organization) certification.

There are many varieties of essential oils on the market besides those referenced in the Bible. Most do have at least some therapeutic quality to them. However, as you are probably aware of spices such as oregano, thyme, peppermint and others, there are different varieties or species. The same goes for the essential oils just spoken of that are referenced in the Bible. Frankincense for example comes in five different grades and cannot be detected by an untrained person. Therefore, it is wise to depend on a source that has subjected their oils to the rigorous testing to ensure it is the top quality essential oil that you are searching for.

If you are the type of person who does not like going to the doctor for every little ailment or sniffle and you are not familiar with essential oils and natural products, it is highly recommended that you do your due diligence. Purchasing an essential oil at your local health food store may be more harmful than any good it could possibly do for you.

Source: Gentle Winds, Inc., 1877-535-6092