Frankincense, Gold and Myrrh

Do You Know?

I was watching the news this morning and a reporter was asking people on the street what three gifts were brought by the three wise men to celebrate the birth of baby JesusI

Most people could only name one or sometimes two, but they really knew few details of the birth of Jesus. The three wise men brought gold, frankincense and myrrh. So I started thinking about it, and while I knew the answers I realized I really didn’t know anything about frankincense or myrrh. Gold is the one item that everyone recognizes.

3 Wise Men

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Biblical Story of the Magi

The Magi are referred to as the three wise men, which in a Christian view is a denoted a group of distinguished foreigners. In the second chapter of Matthew, verses one through nine, this event is fully described. King Herod secretly sent the Magi to search for the baby that was reportedly born to be the king of the Jews. At that same time a bright star appeared which they followed until they found the baby. Then, they bowed down and presented the gifts.

Many scholars think these three gifts were chosen because gold represented kingship, frankincense was a symbol for the priestly role of Jesus and myrrh was the pre-figuring of the death in embalming of Jesus.

Interestingly enough, the word myrrh appears in the Bible 17 times. At that time in history, which includes the Old and New testament, it was used as one of the ingredients to make holy anointing oil, and it was also mixed with wine and offered to Christ when he was on the cross.

Why were Myrrh and Frankincense so Valued?

Theologians and Biblical scholars have offered different views on the significance of the three gifts. Basically they were standard gifts often given to honor some king or deity at that point in history. Gold is a precious metal, as we all know. Frankincense was used as perfume or incense and myrrh as an anointing oil. As an example, these gifts were offered to the god Apollo at the temple in Milentus in 243 B.C.

Both frankincense and myrrh are derived from tree sap, and they are valued for their alluring fragrance. Frankincense is a milky white resin, which is extracted from trees that thrive in arid and cool areas of the Arabian Peninsula. Myrrh is a reddish resin, which is found in North East Africa and parts of the Arabian Peninsula. The way these resins are extracted and processed are identical.

Frankincense Growth Area

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Myrrh Area of Growth

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Myrrh

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Uses of Frankincense and Myrrh

The people that lived in these areas have been extracting these resins for 5000 years. They were used for personal, religious and medicinal purposes throughout time. As they did not bath daily, the people would use the sweet smoke from the residence to make themselves smell better, and women actually use the ash of frankincense for personal use and even mixed it into their eye shadow.

Both of these resins were also used for medicinal purposes, particularly for treatment of wounds. They were used to cure leprosy, hemlock poisoning, worms, snakebites, diarrhea, scurvy, plague and even baldness. There was such a high demand for each of these resins that a booming trade in the Middle East was created that lasted several hundred years.

We Three Kings of Orient Are

Religious Uses

Frankincense was also valued in religious ceremonies as it was burned, which symbolized prayer that was rising to heaven just like the smoke. Myrrh symbolized death and was often used for burials.

Frankincense Branch

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Essential Oils

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Today’s use of Frankincense and Myrrh

While these resins are not as popular as they once were, they are still used today in some unexpected ways. They are common ingredients in perfumes and cosmetics. Scientists are working to find new ways to use these substances for medical treatments.

In addition to treating osteoarthritis, frankincense may be beneficial to people with asthma, rheumatoid arthritis, cancers, Chron’s disease and collagenous colitis. Myrrh may benefit people with gastric ulcers, tumors and parasites.

Scientist at Cardiff’s University in Wales have been studying frankincense for its medicinal properties for some time. Apparently frankincense contains an ingredient that helps to relieve arthritis as it inhibits the inflammation that breaks down the cartilage tissue, which causes the arthritic pain. It has been used for hundreds of years as an herbal remedy to treat arthritis in many communities in North Africa and the Arabian Peninsula where it grows.

A study in 2009 suggests that myrrh may lower cholesterol. Frankincense has also been investigated as a possible treatment for anxiety. Currently there is a great deal of scientific study on each of these tree resins.

Summary

Many people use these resins in the form of essential oils to enjoy their aroma. There are numerous items on Amazon for each of these resins or essential oils.

Now you know the history and purpose of frankincense and myrrh, in case you didn't have this information before. Tis the season, so the topic seemed appropriate.

© 2013 Pamela Oglesby

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Comments 46 comments

suzettenaples profile image

suzettenaples 2 years ago from Taos, NM

Very interesting and informative, Pamela. I knew the answer to the question too, but I, too, didn't know the use of frankincense and myrrh either, especially today. I am amazed that they both come from trees. I never would have guessed that. Thanks for clearing up an interesting part of the birth of Christ story.


billybuc profile image

billybuc 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

Well that was very interesting. That's one of those things everyone knows about but nobody really knows the genesis of it...thanks for the information and happy holidays to you and your family.


MartieCoetser profile image

MartieCoetser 2 years ago from South Africa

Awesome and well-needed information. I knew frankincense and myrrh were precious and expensive healing herbs, therefore associated with gods and kings. Those days all kings were considered to be half-god-half-human - the offspring of a god who had impregnated a daughter of a king. Giving gold, frankincense and myrrh to kings was a custom in the East (according to my sources). But I didn't know what kind of deceases were treated with them. If I am not mistaken, gold was also considered to be medicine, though only affordable by the wealthy.

Interesting! Thanks, Pam...


bravewarrior profile image

bravewarrior 2 years ago from Central Florida

Pamela, thanks for the education. I knew the 3 gifts that were presented to the Christ child, but like you, really had no idea what they were or what they represented. It's interesting that there are so many advantageous uses for frankincense and myrrh.


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 2 years ago from United States Author

Auzette, I am glad you enjoyed the hub and I guess we all learned something. I appreciate your comments.


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 2 years ago from United States Author

Billty, You are right and when I heard that reporter I thought it was an opportune time to find out. Thanks for your comments.


always exploring profile image

always exploring 2 years ago from Southern Illinois

Pam i must say that i did not know that myrrh was used for anointing oil. I truly enjoyed this article. The frankincense branch is beautiful. I have not noticed any products with either, but i am going to look more closely, maybe i have just missed seeing them. The history of their usage is interesting. Thank you for always writing helpful articles..


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 2 years ago from United States Author

Martie, Thanks for adding a little more depth to the history and I am glad you enjoyed the hub. I appreciate your comments.


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 2 years ago from United States Author

Shauna, I was surprised about the medical aspects of them also. Thank you for your comments.


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 2 years ago from United States Author

Ruby, My mother said she had candles with frankincense one time the aroma was wonderful, but she has never seen candles like that again. I found the essential oils, but I did not search too much and just on Amazon. Thank you so much for your comments.


Nellieanna profile image

Nellieanna 2 years ago from TEXAS

So interesting, Pamela! I acquired some bulk crystals of each of those scents years ago at Whole Foods, intending to be use them as incense, as I recall. I must not have used much of them, because I just got out the packages from the little drawer where I keep incense and such things and most of the frankincense and myrrh seemed to remain, though with only subtle remnants of their original scents. Still, I put them back in the drawer.

I've also noticed the lingering aroma of one or the other of them in some sanctuaries, which to me, are quite elegant scents among ancient scents. One can understand why they've been valued for millennia for their lovely quality. But I had no idea of these other uses and applications! Amazing!


The Frog Prince profile image

The Frog Prince 2 years ago from Arlington, TX

Pamela - Very timely article and informative. I knew most of this because of my upbringing. It does seem that the average person is a bit informed about the birth of Jesus Christ.

TFP


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 2 years ago from United States Author

Nellieanna, I can understand why the frankincense and myrrh was so valued too. I guess the bulk crystals do lose their aroma over time. I don't know how readily available new crystals are but I would love to smell both of them as I have never had them. I found the other uses very interesting also. Thank you so much for your comments.


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 2 years ago from United States Author

Jim, Thank you for your comments. I wasn't sure you were still on Hubpages. I was hacked a few months ago and had to set up a new email, so maybe I am not getting the messages.


Jackie Lynnley profile image

Jackie Lynnley 2 years ago from The Beautiful South

Strange I had a friend ask a question about this lately and so for the first time really thought about it and it could have been so many reasons. We know these men were rich and they had read the stars to know about a great man or king being born and by giving them gold that would have helped Mary and Joseph be able to flee with baby Jesus, whether it was their intention or not I am sure God the Father knew.

Great discussion subject. ^


Jodah profile image

Jodah 2 years ago from Queensland Australia

I found this very interesting Pamela. I didn't know much about frankincense or myrrh either, but now I am more informed. Thanks for doing the research on this. Well done. Voted up.


DDE profile image

DDE 2 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

Frankincense, Gold and Myrrh, is an awesome hub brought this one at a perfect time. I enjoyed learning more here and so glad to have stopped by


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 2 years ago from United States Author

Jackie, I think you are right. Thanks for your comments.


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 2 years ago from United States Author

Jodah, I am glad you enjoyed the hub and I appreciate your comments.


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 2 years ago from United States Author

DDE, I am glad you stopped by also and enjoyed learning something new. Thanks for your comments.


breakfastpop profile image

breakfastpop 2 years ago

I always feel so much smarter after I read one of your hubs. Voted up and interesting!


Nellieanna profile image

Nellieanna 2 years ago from TEXAS

There's something magical about tree resins. Amber, I believe, originated as tree resin and then petrified or something similar. Fascinating.

Pamela, I haven't shopped at Whole Foods for years, but perhaps they may still have the frankincense and myrrh among their bulk 'herbs and spices' bins. It's a reason for me to look up their newer locations! If I find they do have them, I'll be sure to let you know!


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 2 years ago from United States Author

Pop, Flattery will get you everywhere! Thanks for your comments.


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 2 years ago from United States Author

Nellieanna, I would appreciate that. We have a Whole Foods here but a long distance from my home. I do drive over there once in a while. I hope you have a wonderful holiday season.


AliciaC profile image

AliciaC 2 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

Thanks for the interesting information, Pamela. This is a lovely topic to read about at this time of year!


CraftytotheCore profile image

CraftytotheCore 2 years ago

What a great article! I had never taken the time to look in to this information. I found this Hub very knowledgeable. Thanks so much for sharing this with us.


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 2 years ago from United States Author

Alicia, Thank you so much for your comments. Merry Christmas.


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 2 years ago from United States Author

CraftytotheCore, I am glad you enjoyed the hub. Thanks for your comments.


breakfastpop profile image

breakfastpop 2 years ago

You are very easy to flatter and totally worth t!


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 2 years ago from United States Author

Pop, I really am touched and appreciate you so much. Thank you.


carolina muscle profile image

carolina muscle 2 years ago from Charlotte, North Carolina

I love this hub -- it's well written and researched. nice job, Pamela !!!


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 2 years ago from United States Author

Chris, It is god to hear from you as I haven't seen you around for a long time. I didn't know if you were still writing. I appreciate your comments on my hub. Have a great holiday season.


Nell Rose profile image

Nell Rose 2 years ago from England

How fascinating Pamela! I only think of them at Christmas but never really knew what they were or where they came from! it does makes sense to think that they are being tested for meds, purely because tree saps and other natural substances have proved to work over the years, Happy Christmas!


carolina muscle profile image

carolina muscle 2 years ago from Charlotte, North Carolina

Pamela: Happy Christmas to you and your family-- I hope all is well with you! :-)


anglnwu profile image

anglnwu 2 years ago

Very interesting details on frankincense and Myrrh. I know they hold significance as gifts but didn't know they've medicinal value as well. Very timely hub and an early Merry Christmas to you. Voted up.


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 2 years ago from United States Author

Nell Rose, Thanks so much for your comments and Happy Christmas to you.


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 2 years ago from United States Author

Chris, Thank you. Merry Christmas to you and your family also I am doing well and hope you are too. I'm sure you are still keeping in shape!


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 2 years ago from United States Author

anginwu, I enjoyed learning about them as well. I appreciate your comments.


Genna East profile image

Genna East 2 years ago from Massachusetts, USA

I knew what the three gifts were, but not the highly valued medicinal and healing purposes of frankincense and myrrh. This is an interesting hub. Best wishes for happy holidays to you and your family, Pam. :-)


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 2 years ago from United States Author

Genna, Glad you enjoyed the hub and I appreciate your comments. I hope you and your loved ones have a wonderful Christmas also.


drbj profile image

drbj 2 years ago from south Florida

So interesting, Pamela. Thank you for this history lesson. Probably the reason so many of us know so little about frankincense and myrrh is ... we never learned how to spell them. :)


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 2 years ago from United States Author

drbj, I think you made a valid point. Thanks for your comments and I hope you have a wonderful Christmas.


pstraubie48 profile image

pstraubie48 2 years ago from sunny Florida

hi Pamela

I had NO idea...I knew of the three gifts but that was about as far as my knowledge went.

Learning about the location and history makes this even more interesting.

Thank you for sharing, Pamela.

Merry Christmas...Angels are on the way to you and yours ...ps


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 2 years ago from United States Author

Patricia, I didn't know about these several of these facts either until I did research for this hub. I am glad you found in interessting. Thanks for your comments. Angels are lovely and sending some back to you. Merry Christmas to you and your family.


prasetio30 profile image

prasetio30 2 years ago from malang-indonesia

I had never heard about this before. I am glad to know this from you. Pamela....The days are so fast! so I wanna be the first to say “MERRY CHRISTMAS”.

Prasetio


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 2 years ago from United States Author

prasetio, I agree the days are moving fast and I have a lot of family members at my house. I am so glad to hear from you and appreciate your comments. I hope you are having some celebrations with your family also.

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