And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense, and myrrh. (Matthew 2:11, KJV)
Both frankincense and myrrh have been used in herbal science for ages. The time of Christ is said to be around the year 5 BC, and both of these have been used for centuries even beyond that. (source)
Both frankincense and myrrh are resins – hardened sap from trees. In both cases, trees are slashed and allowed to “bleed.” The sap that comes from the trees hardens and forms beads or “tears.” While frankincense is used for incense and myrrh is mainly used in oral preparations, they both have many more uses.
Uses for Frankincense and Myrrh
- Frankincense is used as an aid in digestion. It can be chewed like gum or steam distilled. It can also be made into a tincture and taken as needed. See the recipe below to make your own tincture.
- Frankincense has also been used for arthritis. The tears can be infused in oil and made into a salve.
- Both frankincense and myrrh have been used for centuries as incense. They have been burned and laid on charcoal to smoke. Both have also been used in mummification and preparing bodies for burial. The antibacterial properties of both compounds may help to purify the air and aid in preservation in both cases. (source)
- Myrrh has been used for female problems including menstruation issues, menopause and uterine tumors. (source)
- Like Frankincense, myrrh has also been used for arthritis.
- Myrrh has long been used for oral treatments. It decreases inflammation in the mouth and can kill bacteria. This makes it a great aid in mouth ulcers, tooth problems and other oral issues.
- Myrrh has also been used for hemorrhoids, possibly due to its anti-inflammatory properties.
Many sources repeat over and over about how frankincense and myrrh were given to the Christ child as a gift along with gold. It’s been asked why those two items were chosen when other spices and metals were more valuable at the time. It’s been discovered that both were worth their weight more than gold at the time and were not in good supply.
More recent time has shown cultivation of frankincense and myrrh trees to be on the increase. While wild plants are diminishing, cultivated plants are increasing. The natural region they grow in is Africa and surrounding areas, but research has shown that they can be grown in greenhouses around the globe. There are several trees (or more shrubs, as they are) on display at botanical gardens around the world. A few years ago there was a very nice specimen of frankincense at the Como Park Conservatory in St Paul, Minnesota. Many others can be found at similar locations.
Where to find frankincense and myrrh
You can also purchase an extract to use in oral preparations or make your own. Here’s a simple way to make an extract or a tincture of frankincense, myrrh, or both:
Frankincense & Myrrh Tincture
Ingredients & Supplies
- 1 cup frankincense resin beads, myrrh resin or both
- 4 cups ethyl alcohol (i.e. vodka), preferably 90%
- large glass jar (like this one)
Place tears or beads in the jar and cover with alcohol. Let sit for a few weeks on a sunny windowsill, shaking daily. Much of the solids will dissolve. Strain out any remaining solids and store in a colored glass bottle (like this) away from light and heat. Label bottles well.
Place 5-10 drops in 8 ounces of water and take once a day. This mixture can also be used directly on wounds.
Want to include frankincense and myrrh in some of your gifts this year? Here’s a recipe for my favorite Christmas Soap.
Holiday-Scented Glycerin Soap
Ingredients & Supplies
- 1 pound clear glycerin soap base (find it here)
- frankincense and myrrh essential oil (find them here)
- gold flakes (find them here)
- soap mold (find it here)
Place enough soap to fill the mold in a heat proof container and microwave for 30 seconds at a time. (Many soap molds make 4-ounce bars.) Once melted, add 5 drops of each frankincense and myrrh and stir. Check for scent and add more if you like. Add a few flakes of gold and stir. If the flakes float or sink, stir for a bit longer until it suspends. Pour into mold and allow it to cool. Once completely cooled, pop out of the mold – it’s ready to use right away!
If you’re giving as a gift or saving it for a while, wrap bars in clear plastic wrap or put in a sealed zip top bag.
Do you have any other uses for frankincense or myrrh?