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Frankincense, Gold and Myrrh All Gifts of Health


When the three kings reportedly brought their three gifts of frankincense, gold and myrrh to the infant Jesus, these presents were considered a sign of wealth because they were rare. However, they are also gifts of health, and all three have applications in today’s medical world.

Three gifts of health through the ages

Myrrh comes from small trees or thorny shrubs that are native to Africa, South Arabia, and the eastern Mediterranean. The viscous liquid extracted from the bark has been used for centuries for medicinal purposes ranging from snake bites to leprosy, parasites, headache, indigestion, and skin infection.

Today myrrh is mostly used as an astringent and as an antiseptic for inflamed lesions of the mouth and throat. For these purposes myrrh is usually administered as a tincture or in tea, rinses, gargles, and dental powders. Myrrh should be avoided during pregnancy and breastfeeding, as it can promote menstruation and abortion.

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Frankincense is extracted from the gum resins of the tropical Boswellia thurifera tree. A recent study published in Dermatologic Therapy reported on the effects of a base cream that contained boswellic acids, which have anti-inflammatory properties. The cream was used by female volunteers in a double-blind, placebo-controlled study to determine its effect on photoaging. The investigators concluded that the cream may be a suitable treatment for roughness, fine lines, and other signs of skin photoaging.

Frankincense is also being studied for its possible role as a cancer treatment. One of the more recent studies, published in Cancer Research, found that a component of boswellia may inhibit prostate tumor growth. A University of Oklahoma study also suggested that frankincense oil may be an alternative agent for bladder cancer treatment.

Gold has several applications in today’s medical world, including nanotechnology. In a recent study, gold nanobeacons were used along with photoacoustic tomography to achieve superior imaging details of new blood vessel growth, which is necessary for new tumors to form. Gold is also used in the treatment of prostate cancer and to repair damaged blood vessels, bones, and membranes.

The three gifts of frankincense, myrrh, and gold delivered more than two millennia ago are all gifts of health, and they keep on giving today.

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Frank MB et al. BMC Complementary & Alternative Medicine 2009 Mar 18: 9:6
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Pang X et al. Cancer Research 2009 Jul 15; 69(14): 5893-900