Frankincense olibanum resin
(Wikimedia Commons: Peter Presslein) 

Many of us know of frankincense and myrrh from the biblical account of the wise men from the east bringing gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh to Jesus. What many don’t know is frankincense and myrrh have medicinal uses. Frankincense and myrrh have been prized for their alluring fragrance, but both have healing benefits with a long history and a lot of research behind these benefits.

Frankincense and myrrh are both resins — saps from trees. Although they were used historically for thousands of years, they are still used today for health purposes and are some of our top economical botanicals.

Frankincense is more often recognized by its scientific name, Boswellia. This common herbal supplement is used for arthritis and joint pain. In traditional Indian medicine, known as Ayurveda, frankincense is used for arthritis, wound healing and hormonal disorders. Modern research shows that frankincense can be as effective as opiates for joint pain and may significantly improve osteoarthritis symptoms in a few days. It can be used for ulcerative colitis and asthma as well. Frankincense is also used as an essential oil with antiseptic and antimicrobial properties.

Myrrh is also a top economic botanical, often found in a form used to help with cholesterol levels. In the form called guggul, myrrh has been shown to lower bad cholesterol levels and increase good cholesterol levels. In Ayurvedic medicine, myrrh is quite often used in rejuvenating formulas. It is also used for rheumatic complaints, circulatory problems, and nervous system disorders. Myrrh is used as an antiseptic in toothpastes and mouthwashes for the prevention and treatment of gum disease and also in liniments for abrasions, sprains, aches and bruises.

Classical Chinese medicine quite often combines frankincense and myrrh in liniments and poultices for circulation problems, arthritis and rheumatic complaints. In many clinics, a frankincense and myrrh poultice is used for neuropathy, from either diabetes or chemotherapy.

Not only were the wise men from the east bringing gold as a gift, but also healing herbs, which were at some times in history worth their weight in gold.

Les Moore is a naturopath, licensed acupuncturist, medical hydrologist and holds a master’s of science in Oriental Medicine. He is director, Integrative Medicine, at Clifton Springs Hospital, Ontario County.

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