More than just symbols of this holiday season, Frankincense and Myrrh’s value extends far beyond biblical tradition. Though many of us associate Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh with the story of the Three Wise Men and their gifts given at Jesus’s birth, their use was most likely not only symbolic, but practical as well. While you may think of Gold as the most precious gift of the three, in truth, the importance of Frankincense and Myrrh far outweighs that of Gold from the perspective of healing.
Both Frankincense and Myrrh are gum resins that are extracted from shrub-like trees which grow in dry climates across parts of Asia and Africa, including India, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Ethiopia and Somalia. Since they are closely related, their healing characteristics are somewhat similar, with a few notable differences.
Frankincense resin is white in color and comes from the Boswellia tree species. It is from this resin, which is basically hardened sap, that the essential oil is steam distilled. Frankincense essential oil has been used to treat every conceivable ill known to man and offers benefits to all of the body systems. It can boost your immune system, has antiseptic and disinfectant properties, helps the body to absorb nutrients, can act as a coagulant to stop bleeding, promotes relaxation, reduces blood pressure, relieves indigestion, fades wrinkles, scars and acne and aids in a variety of menstruation related issues. Plus there is now emerging research showing that Frankincense may halt cancer cell growth. Its scent is sweet and earthy, and many find that diffusing Frankincense enhances meditation.
Myrrh is a red-hued resin that comes from various species of the Commiphora tree, and like Frankincense, the essential oil is also steam distilled from the resin. But its similarities to Frankincense are many, including its sedative properties and its benefits for use during meditation. Like Frankincense, Myrrh also aids in digestion, can help fade scars, can strengthen the immune system, regulates menses and can be applied topically to disinfect wounds. It also helps to ease respiratory issues, act as a decongestant, strengthens the gums, prevents hair loss, soothes chapped skin and contains anti-cancer properties. Myrrh’s aroma is also warm, earthy, spicy and balsam like and the oil is somewhat thick and sticky.
Both Frankincense and Myrrh increase the potency of other oils. Using them together creates a synergy which enhances the curative powers of both. So much more than simply symbols of this holiday season, the essential oil of these plants can heal on the spiritual level as well. Frankincense helps one to let go of negativity and spiritual darkness. It helps us feel connected, nurtured and protected. Myrrh promotes feelings of safety, security and trust and helps us to release fears and difficult experiences.
I like to think that these gifts offered to the Christ Child had a very practical purpose and carried great spiritual significance at the same time. Today still, they certainly would continue to be a wise gift choice.