Around the holidays, we are reminded of the most famous gifts in history, frankincense and myrrh, carried by the wise men. Today, perfumes, incense and candles are often infused with these two wonderful aromas. Both frankincense and myrrh have medicinal properties, so holistic practitioners suggest these for patients as dietary supplements and essential oils for various ailments. But what exactly is frankincense and myrrh?
They are both gummy resins that are tapped from the inner bark of two different trees that grow in the Arabian peninsula, Africa, the Middle East and India. A resin to a tree, is akin to a scab on our skin, so clearly, these resins are more protective to the shrub than plain sap.
I’ll focus on frankincense right now which is rich in “boswellic acids,” an ingredient that has strong anti-inflammatory benefits. While shopping, you may see it as “frankincense” or “boswellia” and it comes as a liquid extract taken orally, or capsules as well as essential oils which are used on the skin or in aromatizers.
Boswellia herb is always in my home. I sometimes buy the ingestible ground powder at my local apothecary and grind it a little bit more in my coffee grinder for about 10 – 15 seconds, and then encapsulate the finely ground powder. I can take one or two capsules daily with food. This is not the easiest way, and you certainly can buy commercially-prepared brands of frankincense/boswellia all by itself. In fact, I sell a custom-made dietary supplement for joint health and flexibility which contains frankincense among other things like curcumin, hyaluronic acid, MSM and other medicinal herbs.
Boswellia has been studied and found to prevent the growth of certain types of cancers in ‘test tube’ studies. In 2009, researchers examined AKBA or “acetyl-11-keto-beta-boswellic acid” and found positive benefits. This study was titled, Frankincense Superior to Chemotherapy in Killing Late-Stage Ovarian Cancer Cells.
This is not the first study to suggest anti-cancer properties. The results of another study proved that frankincense oil could help with bladder cancer. The researchers concluded, “Frankincense oil might represent an alternative intravesical agent for bladder cancer treatment.”
Now, it’s time for myrrh which is another resin extracted from the Commiphora myrrha tree. Research confirms the presence of guggulsterones in myrrh which may help with cholesterol ratios, specifically by lowering LDL. Guggulsterones are blood thinners so be careful and don’t combine with aspirin, NSAIDs, warfarin or other blood thinners. One more thing, pregnant women should avoid myrrh (and high doses of boswellia) since it has the effect of being a uterine stimulant.
Most of the time that people talk about myrrh, they are referring to a topical form that to soothe your skin and help with gingivitis. So profound is myrrh’s ability to heal damaged tissues, Greek soldiers carried it into battle with them to use for skin infections and gangrene. Myrrh is a strong anti-bacterial, anti-parasitic and antifungal. If you want to take it internally, you can look for herbal extracts. Here’s some myrrh made by Herb Pharm. Just like it’s relative frankincense, myrrh also possesses strong anti-cancer properties.
A Chinese test tube study published in 2013, found that “cycloartane-type triterpernoids” could destroy prostate cancer cells. Pretty impressive! In fact, just inhaling the scent of pure frankincense or myrrh can cause your brain and heart to respond favorably. Naturally, if you have cardiovascular disease, it’s ideal for you to ask a practitioner if these are right for you.
Centuries may go by, but it’s clear that frankincense and myrrh are still a wise gift of health. For a nice sampler package of frankincense and myrrh oils, soap, bath salts and more, take a look at my favorite Zum brand. My friend gave me this as a gift and I just love it.
If you want to watch a video to see how I use these 2 impressive herbs in my own life, watch the short video below.
Keep in mind as you watch this there are many forms of frankincense and myrrh, and the quality does differ. Since making this video in 2014, I’ve found cleaner purer essential oils to use. Do your homework about the herb and soon, you will see why it’s still a wise gift for yourself and your loved ones!
Suzy Cohen, has been a licensed pharmacist for over 30 years and believes the best approach to chronic illness is a combination of natural medicine and conventional. She founded her own dietary supplement company specializing in custom-formulas, some of which have patents. With a special focus on functional medicine, thyroid health and drug nutrient depletion, Suzy is the author of several related books including Thyroid Healthy, Drug Muggers, Diabetes Without Drugs, and a nationally syndicated column.