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 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 will often buy the ingestible powder at my local apothecary, grind it in my coffee grinder for 5 seconds, and then encapsulate the finely ground powder. You can certainly buy commercially-prepared brands of this, you don't have to hand-create it like me!

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 since it's a uterine stimulant.

The essential oil of myrrh is used topically 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. 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. Centuries may go by, but it's clear that frankincense and myrrh are still a wise gift of health.


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