Because of his travels, Gary Young has immersed himself in the study of frankincense. Here, Gary recounts some of this precious substance’s legendary history.
Frankincense was anciently associated with longevity. For instance: In the tales of Alexander’s adventures in India at the oracle of the sun and the moon, the Indian guardians of the oracle lived in a bower of sacred trees, which wafted the aroma of frankincense and balsam. They lived on pure water, balsam, and frankincense; a diet on which they had thrived for 300 years.
Legend also tells about Adam having been given gold, frankincense, and myrrh by God as a consolation for having lost paradise. According to the legends, he hid these gifts safely high in the mountains where they were treasured by Noah after the waters of the flood had receded. These sacred gifts were said to be passed down from generation to generation and kept carefully until the time came that they were to be brought to the newborn Jesus.
As early as 2800 BC, frankincense was carried either north to Mesopotamia or west to the Red Sea. There it was loaded on boats bound for Egypt where it was valued as an offering worthy of the gods. The Egyptian Book of the Dead considered incense far more than a ceremonial trapping. Frankincense was believed to enhance the afterlife journey of the deceased using the words of the ritual pyramid text: “A stairway to the sky is set up for me that I may ascend on it to the sky. And I ascend on the sense of the great sensing, frankincense.”
Of all the ancient scripture oils, frankincense has the greatest story and the longest history—widely regarded as the most powerful aromatic substance in ancient times. The writings of Ptolemy comment that the small fragments that crumble off of the worked frankincense lumps as well as the frankincense dust and powder were called manna.
Many other medicinal uses of frankincense throughout the ages appear in ancient records. The early physicians described the properties of frankincense as being hot, dry, astringent, detergent, and extractant. Childbirth was protected by fumigation of frankincense and fresh frankincense was traditionally used in poultices and plasters to treat a wide variety of skin lesions. The gum was made into pills to treat thinning of blood and of abdominal and chest pain, cholera, and a wide variety of problems. Frankincense mixtures were claimed to cure all known ails and to be an antidote to all known poisons. Frankincense was thought to be very good for the healing of bone fractures and it was also thought to aid conception. Even the pollen was prescribed in a remedy for gout, and the buds and the berries for the cleansing of an infected throat.
However, no modern studies have yet investigated the validity of these claims.
Stayed tuned for more information about the 12 Oils of Ancient Scripture! Next, I’ll focus on the history and therapeutic benefits of sandalwood.