When I think of frankincense and myrrh, I am a youngster sitting in church. I remember my squirming on the wooden benches, wrinkling my nose at the odor, and thinking that the smelly stuff in the box must be expensive because it is so fancy looking. I think that this is a memory that a lot of us have.
When we started to test this 2018 seasonal fragrance I was apprehensive for sure. After all, the memory I have isn't particularly happy. When we received the sample, I took a very apprehensive first whiff. So surprising! Not the strong "church" smell I remembered - it is warm, herbal, a little spicey and very earthy. Wonderful! But then I started to think about - what is this stuff?
Turns out, it is derived from tree sap. Frankincense is a milky white resin extracted from species of the genus Boswellia, which thrive in arid, cool areas of the Arabian Peninsula, East Africa and India. The finest and most aromatic of this species is Boswellia sacra, a small tree that grows in Somalia, Oman, and Yemen. These plants, which grow to a height of 16 feet (5 meters), have papery bark, sparse bunches of paired leaves, and flowers with white petals and a yellow or red center.
Myrrh is a reddish resin that comes from species of the genus Commiphora, which are native to northeast Africa and the adjacent areas of the Arabian Peninsula. Commiphora myrrha, a tree commonly used in the production of myrrh, can be found in the shallow, rocky soils of Ethiopia, Kenya, Oman, Saudi Arabia, and Somalia. It boasts spiny branches with sparse leaves that grow in groups of three and can reach a height of 9 feet.
Knowledge is power & nature is super cool!
Turns out the history is pretty interesting too.
People in East Africa and the Arabian Peninsula have produced frankincense and myrrh for some 5,000 years. For much of this time, these were the region's most important commodity, with a trade network that reached across Africa, Asia, and Europe.
Frankincense and myrrh were used for personal, religious and medicinal use. In a time before daily bathing, people would use the sweet smoke from the resins to make themselves smell better. Egyptian women utilized the ash of frankincense for personal use as well, mixing it into eyeshadow. They were also widely used in religious ceremonies and burials. Hebrews and Christians incorporated them into their ceremonies in the third century B.C. and fourth century A.D., respectively. Frankincense and myrrh also had medicinal uses. In the Papyrus Ebers of 1500 B.C., priests recommended both resins for the treatment of wounds. Other ailments they were once reported to cure include hemlock poisoning, leprosy, worms, snakebites, diarrhea, plague, scurvy, and even baldness!
So why did the three wise men offer them as gifts? They were considered practical, expensive, and symbolic.
Frankincense and myrrh may not be as popular as they were thousands of years ago, but they're still used today in some ways that you might not expect. They're common ingredients in modern perfumes and cosmetics. Scientists are finding new uses for the substances as well; studies suggest that frankincense may be beneficial to sufferers of asthma, rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn's disease, osteoarthritis and collagenous colitis. Researchers have also discovered the possible benefits of myrrh in the treatment of gastric ulcers, tumors, and parasites.
Turns out it still smells great! Use this seasonal fragrance to blend with for an uplifting gift! We have mixed it with rose and sandalwood for a more traditional smelling candle. Perfect on a winters night.