Frankincense – most people know it as one of the gifts the Wise Men gave baby Jesus:
And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshiped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense, and myrrh. Matthew 2:11
The words of the Christmas carol “We Three Kings” explain the spiritual significance of the gift:
Frankincense to offer have I.
Incense owns a Deity nigh.
Prayer and praising all men raising,
Worship Him, God on high.
Other sources mention frankincense as a symbol of holiness and righteousness, as well as Christ’s role as the high priest. It was used as one of the ingredients for a holy incense, the amounts of which were given by God to Moses in Exodus 30:34.
Frankincense has been traded beginning more than 5,000 years ago by people in the Middle East and North Africa, according to an article on www.history.com. The article stated:
“’We have textual – and also archaeological – evidence that both frankincense and myrrh were used as medicinal substances in antiquity,’ confirmed Alain Touwaide, a historian of medicine at the Institute for the Preservation of Medical Traditions and the Smithsonian Institution.”
“(t)he Roman historian and botanist Pliny the Elder, who recommended frankincense as an antidote to hemlock poisoning, wrote in the first century A.D. that the pricey dried sap had made the southern Arabians the richest people on earth.”
In modern medicine, the history.com article mentioned some hopeful uses for frankincense: In a series of clinical and laboratory studies over the last two decades, frankincense and myrrh have shown promise in addressing a number of common disorders … Frankincense has been investigated as a possible treatment for some cancers, ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease, anxiety and asthma, among other conditions.”
Frankincense essential oil has the ability to pass the blood-brain barrier. According to Memmler’s The Human Body in Health and Disease, the blood-brain barrier is semi-permeable:
“… allowing some substances to cross it while blocking others."
Whereas it allows glucose, amino acids, and some electrolytes to cross it, it prevents passage of hormones, drugs, neurotransmitters, and other substances that might adversely affect the brain.”
Brainfacts.org explains it this way:
“The brain is the only organ known to have its own security system, a network of blood vessels that allows the entry of essential nutrients while blocking other substances.”
Another fascinating fact from the brainfacts.org article:
“Through extensive study, scientists have found that compounds that are very small and/or fat-soluble, including antidepressants, anti-anxiety medications, alcohol, cocaine, and many hormones are able to slip through the endothelial cells that make up the blood-brain barrier without much effort.”
Essential oils are known to be very small molecules and, as lipid acids (not actually oils) are fat-soluble. I would personally rather have the antidepressant properties of frankincense essential oil pass through my blood-brain barrier than pharmaceutical antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications. I would also rather have the positive effects of frankincense on my limbic system, including the pleasure center of my brain, rather than activated by the chemical addiction potential of alcohol and cocaine.
Other properties of frankincense essential oil are emotional balance during grief, stress and trauma. Like myrrh, frankincense is anti-inflammatory and antiseptic. Frankincense is also anti-spasmodic and, with its sedative properties, can further help by tranquilizing activity of the overactive body part. This might be the reason it has been helpful for those with autistic tendencies.
Besides the blood-brain barrier, frankincense essential oil has benefits for the cardio-respiratory system, including asthma and the immune system, as well as skin benefits including help to decrease signs of aging.
Frankincense shares myrrh’s interesting parallel as to how it is obtained. The Boswellia tree is actually wounded in order to obtain the frankincense. The bark is cut, which yields a tear-shaped resin. Again, as myrrh’s source, is the frankincense source trying to heal itself with its own tears?
Sharing another beneficial property with myrrh, frankincense promotes wound healing, yet, unlike myrrh, goes a step further to minimize scars. Frankincense is often layered with lavender essential oil for maximum scar-reducing benefits.
Sometimes a gift keeps on giving. Baby Jesus would grow up and, as Isaiah 53:5 states: “by his wounds we are healed.”
Written by Lori (Roberts) Wilson.