Gum resins (Frankincense, Myrrh and Opoponax) are, like gum Arabic, important commodities from the dry lands of sub-Saharan Africa with potential for spurring economic development of the communities and countries in the region.
The gum resins are produced in the rural and remote areas of producing countries, traded in urban centers and used in some of the sophisticated cities in the world and they therefore touch on the lives of a wide cross section of mankind in the society. Sound development of these commodities will thus have a huge impact on many people, and especially, the poor communities living in the rural areas in Africa who have fewer options for economic development due to the harsh climatic conditions.
The term “resin” applies to the exudate of a tree which is the result of the hydrocarbon secretion common to many plants, generally of coniferous trees like cedars, cypresses, pines and our own boswellia and commiphoras, the trees producing frankincense and myrrh. Tree resins have been valued for centuries for their chemical worth and also for valuable uses such as producing adhesives, varnishes, and even food glazing agents.
“Frankincense” is an oleo gum-resin which is also called olibanum, and the resin is harvested from several Boswellia species within the Burseraceae family: The species most commonly used for tapping and commercialization of the resource are Boswellia sacra (mostly present in Somalia), Boswellia serrata (India), Boswellia papyrifera (Ethiopia, Sudan) and Boswellia neglecta (Kenya, Somalia). The latter is what is collected in Kenya.
“Myrrh” is a resin that comes from the family of trees known as “Commiphora”. In Kenya there are several types of resins exuding commiphora, such as C.Guidotti, C.Confusa and C.Africana although the main types for commercialization are C.Myrrha (called “malmal” in Somali) and C.Holtziana (Hagar in Somali); this resin is commonly found in the Arabic peninsula, the Horn and East Africa. Traditionally, the resin and the essential oil were used for embalming and treating hay fever, it was popular as a fragrance, a flavoring agent and an antiseptic to treat wounds and reduce bleeding.
Frankincense is among the most widely used of all essential oils. Its benefits are numerous and it has been used extensively in traditional cultures for many thousands of years. Frankincense oil is revered for its powerfully uplifting and clarifying effects on the body and mind. When diffused in your home, it provides protection for you and your family encourages healthy moods. It will turn the fragrance of your home into that of a temple!
A few drops of this high-quality frankincense oil can be applied to the palms, rubbed together and directly inhaled. This produces an instantaneous clarifying effect and a strong activation of the life-force (prana). Frankincense essential oil can also be mixed with a carrier oil such as coconut or sesame and massaged into the skin to help the body stay limber and relaxed. It is particularly helpful for those who practice yoga. A few drops of the oil can be sprinkled on a hot, wet towel and applied to the chest to open the lungs and enhance deep breathing.
Among frankincense’s many attributes is its use as a spiritual tool for ritual, prayer and meditation. Used in worship for thousands of years, it is valued both for its many healing powers and for its intoxicating fragrance. Frankincense can properly be said to belong to the family of sacred scents.
Myrrh essential oil has been used for thousands of years in traditional healing therapies and in religious ceremonies. Common myrrh oil uses historically, include:
The Chinese frequently used myrrh as a medicine, and it remains a part of traditional Chinese medicine to this day. The main myrrh oil use by the Egyptians was for embalming and the Jews used it to make the holy anointing oil that was used in worship services.
The most common historical myrrh oil use was to burn the resin over hot coals. This would release a mysterious, spiritual quality into any room before a religious ceremony. It has also been used in aromatherapy for its meditative quality or for prayer, usually in combination with frankincense.
Myrrh oil has many potential benefits, although further research is needed to determine the exact mechanisms of how it works and dosages for therapeutic benefits. Here are some of the main benefits of myrrh oil use:
(Sometimes called “sweet myrrh” and “hagar” in Somali language)
For many centuries, Sweet Myrrh – Opoponax has been used in perfumery and for treating wounds and clearing respiratory congestion. Sweet Myrrh essential oil exerts a drying action on mucous membranes, allowing relief from bronchitis, colds, sore throats, and coughs.
Similar to Frankincense and Myrrh, Opoponax is used for its antiseptic and anti-parasitic properties. The oil also possesses powerful relief for stomach ailments, arthritis, inflammation, and muscle pain.