Frankincense and Myrrh
Boswellia thurifera & Commiphor myrrha
When frankincense is translated from the Chinese ru xiang into English it is "fragrant milk". The Latin name is gummi olibanum. This herb is used primarily to move blood and Qi. By moving blood and Qi this herb and others in the blood-moving category are able to relieve pain and heal such things as broken bones, carbuncles, and sores. Frankincense also relieves spasms. You can even gargle with it to relieve a sore throat and painful swollen gums. Frankincense can also be used to treat tuberculosis.
The Latin of myrrh is myrrha. The Chinese is mo yao. Myrrh has the above blood moving properties and functions. It is also used to treat masses in the abdomen. It is wonderful for amenorrhea or painful periods. It is a very good pain reliever without being a sedative.
Frankincense and myrrh are usually used together. Their common properties enhance each other. Together they can be used to treat "colicky or sharp chest pain caused by blood stagnation. They are also used together topically to heal the skin especially chronic nonhealing sores. These two herbs can be used with lumbricus, to relieve pain especially arthritis pain or pain that is increased with dampness. The Chinese translation of lumbricus is de long. In English it is the earthworm.
All this and frankincense and myrrh smell good too. It is often said that one of the reasons frankincense and myrrh were used for incense in medieval church rites was to cover the odor of unwashed people. Mrs. Grieve's gives a recipe for incense used by the Roman Church on p 328. I am sure this recipe is still in use by churches that burn incense as part of their church service.
10 oz of frankincense
4 oz of benzoin
1 oz of storax
Mrs. Grieve's (p 327) states that the steam of frankincense will relieve bronchitis and laryngitis. Hildegard of Begin used it heated for toothaches and stated that heated it kills bacteria. Another use for frankincense according to Mrs. Grieve's is eye make-up. The Egyptians used it charred to paint their eyelids. They also used it as a depilatory and as hand cream. According to Mrs. Grieve's (p 572) the Egyptians used myrrh for embalming and fumigation’s. Bensky also states that myrrh is a fungicide. Do you all know that myrrh is a common ingredient in toothpaste?
Another book that I enjoy using as a source book is A Druid’s Herbal: For the Sacred Earth Year. This book is written by Ellen Evert Hopman and published by Destiny Books in Rochester, Vermont. In this book, Ellen uses frankincense at the Winter Solstice or Yule. In Gaelic it is called Mean Geimhridh. Ellen uses myrrh at Candlemas or in Gaelic it is Imbolic or Oimealg which occurs around the time of the Chinese New Year. In classes around that time, I always talk about Ellen’s uses for myrrh along with her uses for frankincense. In addition to our previously mentioned functions of frankincense Ellen on p 35 states that it is can clear and calm the mind. She also says that it is sacred to the Sun God Ra and is used in rituals to purify and protect as well for "rites of exorcism".
Scott Cunningham says it is burned "at sunrise to honor Ra" on in Cunningham's Encyclopedia of Magical Herbs (p107 or 119). He also suggests using it in "sachets for luck, protection, and spiritual growth. He further states that burning it induces visions and therefore it is a good herb to burn while mediating.
On p 44, Ellen discusses the medical and magical properties of myrrh. She amplifies the Chinese functions and discusses using myrrh for ear problems. This really is a good book. I suggest you get it, if you are interested in both herbs and the Celtic magical system. She states that myrrh is a goddess plant and sacred to Isis. The incense properties are "peace, healing, consecration and blessings." This is a good herb to burn (to messy to simmer) while getting a healing treatment or in the place where you are meditating or doing Tai Chi or Qi Gong. Cunningham says the Egyptians burned this herb at noon to honor Ra. It was used to purify the temple of Isis. Myrrh increases the properties of any herb and so is added to any incense or sachet that is used to bless, purify, calm, heal and bless and consecrate.
These herbs can be used in medicinal decoctions but not over a long period of time and not if you bleed easily or have heavy periods. I grind them in the coffee grinder. I use 3-9 grams depending on the needs of the patient. I find that the decoction needs to be stirred to keep these herbs from settling to the bottom and clumping into a hard mass. Just a word of caution from the voice of experience, don’t let the herbs boil over onto the stove. It took me months to scrape the hardened mess off my stove.
Bensky states that a "good quality of frankincense is light yellow, semitranslucent, granular but without any sand, and aromatic (p 283). He also states that a "good quality of myrrh is clean, aromatic, and has a reddish brown color" (p283). If you are going to use these herbs medicinally please be sure they are pure and not adulterated. Do not use herbs sold as incense for medicinal use, not even external use.
When you combine cinnamon, frankincense and myrrh into a powdered incense experiment with the proportions for the most pleasing odor to you. Or you can vary the amounts according to the magical properties you are putting into your incense. I use them all for prosperity, health, peace and visions. I wish for you a New Year filled with prosperity, health peace and visions of a better world. The other herbs that I have mentioned as good incense herbs can be looked up for their magical properties in Scott Cunningham’s book. I will discuss their medicinal properties in other classes at Hygeia’s Bowl.
Chinese and Western Herbs are not to be taken without the personal advice of an Herbologist able to diagnose your condition. The information on these pages is only for knowledge not for self medication purposes.