History of Frankincense: An Ancient Remedy

frankincense resin

Frankincense also known as “olibanum” is a dried resin produced from the frankincense tree. When the bark of the tree is stripped, the sap called as the tears are collected and utilized for many purposes. In the ancient world, it was well-liked and used for aromatherapy and perfumery. Frankincense was also used religiously as well as medicinally. It’s popularity dates back to 1500 B.C. and more for then 5,000 years it was traded on the Arabian peninsula.

Pliny the Elder, the Roman botanist and historian wrote in the early century A.D that expensive frankincense resins had made the southern Arabians rich. At that time, the Arabians were known as some of the richest people on earth, due primarily to their mass production of frankincense.

Interesting enough, there are quite some mentions of the use of frankincense in the Bible. It is evident from the Bible that one of the three wise men presented baby Jesus with a gift of frankincense. The value of it may have been tremendously high during that time. The Egyptians considered it as a all-cure. Historically, it was used to treat asthma, bronchitis, snake bites, diarrhea, swellings and other ailments. It was also quite popular in traditional Chinese medicine and Ayurveda.

Many cultures believed the smoke of frankincense could calm one’s mood. It was a common practice to use the incense during rites of passages like funerals and weddings. The crystallized pieces were used as incense by burning the resin on top of lit coal, producing perfumed smoke. It is known that the ancient Greeks and Romans imported resins in massive quantity to be used as incense during cremations and for other purposes.

The Christians and Hebrews made use of the incense in many of their religious ceremonies and burials. It was quite popular among the Assyrians and Babylonians as well. Even the Egyptians used frankincense as an important element in their daily lives. They knew how to use makeup, and the ash from burned frankincense was sometimes used as an eyeliner for both men and women. Paintings of frankincense can be seen on walls of the temple of Queen Hatshepsut, a queen of Egypt that ruled for nearly two decades. Another use of it was the bark of the tree as a dye. In ancient days, the bark was utilized as a dye and is still practiced today.

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