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Posts Tagged ‘Bible Plants’

The Mysterious Myrrh & Frankincense

Posted by addisethiopia / አዲስ ኢትዮጵያ on July 30, 2009

FrankincenseOriginMyrrh and Frankincense have had spiritual significance since ancient times and they also were adopted as medicines for physical ailments. When referring to this pair of herbs, many people might immediately think of their historic importance in religion.

The herbs are best known through the story of the Three Wise Men (Magi) delivering gold, frankincense, and myrrh for the baby Jesus; myrrh was also used to anoint Jesus’ body after the crucifixion.

These herbs, valued like gold, were mentioned repeatedly in the Old Testament, in instructions to Moses about making incense and anointing oil, and in the Song of Solomon, where, among other references, are these:

Who is this coming up from the wilderness

Like palm-trees of smoke,

Perfumed with myrrh and frankincense,

From every powder of the merchant?”

Till the day doth break forth,

And the shadows have fled away,

I will get me unto the mountain of myrrh,

And unto the hill of frankincense.

Frankincense (Boswellia) and Myrrh (Commiphora) species are economically and ecologically important plant species found mainly in the horn of Africa particularly in Ethiopia, Somalia and Kenya. They are the source of aromatic gum resins, frankincense and myrrh.

Frankincense and myrrh have been valued for their sacred and ceremonial uses as well as in medicinal contexts since several millennia. Still today, they are widely used as raw materials in several industries such as pharmacology, food, beverage, flavoring, liqueurs, cosmetics, detergents, creams and perfumery, paints, adhesive and dye manufacturing.

Ethiopia is one of tropical African countries with large potentials of frankincense and myrrh resources and has been known as one of the major producers. Nevertheless, little efforts have been made at national level to explore the vegetation resources that provide these valuable products.

Both myrrh and frankincense grow as small trees or shrubs; they are of the botanical family Burseraceae. Their natural growing range is limited, but this has been extended by cultivation, and the current supplies are adequate to meet worldwide demand.

Today, most of the internationally-traded myrrh and frankincense are produced in the southern Arabian peninsula (Oman, Yemen) and in northeast Africa (Ethiopia, Somalia). The primary species relied upon today are Commiphora myrrha for myrrh and Boswellia caraterii for frankincense.

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