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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:

  • Fragrance
  • Embalming
  • Flavoring for food
  • Treating hay fever
  • As an antiseptic to clean and treat wounds
  • As a paste to help stop bleeding

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 Benefits

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:

  •  Potent Antioxidant
    A 2010 animal-based study in the Journal of Food and Chemical Toxicology found that myrrh could protect against liver damage in rabbits due to its high antioxidant capacity. There may be some potential for uses in humans also.
  • Anticancer Benefits
    A lab-based study found that myrrh also has potential anticancer benefits. The researchers found that myrrh was able to reduce the proliferation or replication of human cancer cells. They found that myrrh inhibited growth in eight different types of cancer cells, specifically gynecological cancers. Although further research is needed to determine exactly how to use myrrh for cancer treatment, this initial research is promising.
  • Antibacterial and Antifungal Benefits
    Historically, myrrh was used to treat wounds and prevent infections. It can still be used in this manner on minor skin irritations such as athlete’s foot, ring worm, and acne. Apply a few drops to a clean towel first before applying it directly to the skin.
  • Anti-Parasitic
    A medication has been developed using myrrh as a treatment for fascioliasis, a parasitic worm infection that has been infecting humans worldwide. This parasite is generally transmitted by ingesting aquatic algae and other plants. A medication made with myrrh was able to decrease symptoms of the infection, as well as a drop in parasite egg count found in the feces.
  • Skin Health
    Myrrh can help maintain healthy skin. It can help soothe chapped or cracked skin. It is commonly added to skin care products to help with moisturizing and also for fragrance. Ancient Egyptians used it to prevent aging and maintain healthy skin.
  • Relaxation
    Myrrh is commonly used in aromatherapy for massages. It can also be added to a warm bath or applied directly to the skin.


(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.

Opoponax Essential Oil Benefits


Opoponax essential oil benefits include: It is an astringent thus it is able to decongest the mucus in the respiratory tract, it is carminative and can be used to treat stomach ailments. It has anti-inflammatory properties and acts as a stimulant to get the circulation going. It has antiseptic qualities suitable for treating wounds and bruises.


King Solomon used it as one of the major components of incense for temple rituals, while the Chinese used it for homeopathic treatments. Traditionally the Somali used it to treat stomach ailments and wounds. In other parts of the world, the resins were used treat arthritis.

Instruction For Use

The Opoponax Oil can be applied topically on the body spots that need soothing or treatment from infection. It can also be blended for massage purposes. It can be directly inhaled via steam to decongest the respiratory tract. Diffusion can also enable its use as a mild aphrodisiac.