Aromas of the Ancients: Frankincense

Aromas of the Ancients: Frankincense

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There is something very intriguing about Frankincense. Its fragrance is intense, but its history is rich too. Did you know that Frankincense was once as valuable as gold? Yes, it spurred many battles and, at times, ended them. But what is Frankincense? It is an orange-brown gum hardened from a milky-white resin harvested from a frankincense tree's trunk.

Historical references

Frankincense is mentioned in the Ebers Papyrus of Egypt, which dates back to 1500 BC and suggests its usage for throat infections and asthmatic episodes. First century AD, Roman writer Pliny cited it as a remedy for hemlock; Islamic philosopher Avicenna advised it for tumors, ulcers, and fevers in the tenth century AD.

Additionally, Frankincense is mentioned in the Mingyi Bielu Chinese medicinal book from the 6th century AD, as well as in both the Old and New Testaments of the Bible. It is stated in the Periplus Maris Erythraei, a first-century sailor's voyage guide to shipping channels in the Mediterranean, Arabian Gulf, and Indian Ocean maritime routes, that South Arabian frankincense was superior to East African Frankincense in terms of quality and value.

Herodotus, a Greek writer of the 5th century BC, claimed that frankincense trees were protected by winged serpents of varied sizes and hues.

Uses of Frankincense

For centuries, Frankincense resin has been utilized for many reasons. It is likely to be its most well-known use to burn crystalized portions during rites of passage such as marriages, childbirth, and funerals. For centuries, soot from incense burners was used to beautify oneself and to smooth and grease hair.

Cracked pots and jars can be repaired using melted frankincense resin Textiles have been dyed red and brown using the tree's bark. You can taste the flavor of some resins by adding them to coffee or chewing on them.

The various Species of Frankincense 

Boswellia carterii and B. freraeana are the two most commercially viable species of frankincense tree that produce resins appropriate for incense. As the tree grows, it has resin that differs not only between species but also within the same species because of regional climate variations.

An olibanum tree (also known as "dragon's blood" or "dragon's blood") is thought to be the B. carterii. As well as Somalia and Oman's Dhofar Valley. In contrast to the surrounding desert, the Dhofar valley is a lush green oasis fed by the monsoon rains. As of today, the valley is the world's primary source of Frankincense, and only Silver and Hojari resin can be found there.

Ethiopia and Sudan are home to the B. papyrifera plant, which yields an oily resin.

Boswellia frereana and Boswellia thurifera grow in northern Somalia, and they're used to make the precious Coptic, and Saudi Arabian Frankincense is known as "May." The resins in question have a lemony scent and are used to create a popular gum.

B. Serrata is an Indian frankincense with a golden brown hue and is utilized in Ayurvedic medicine as an incense, providing relief for several ailments.

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