Are Frankincense and Myrhh Used Today?

The Gospel of Mark mentions these as two of the gifts brought to the baby Jesus. My question: are these substances still used today? What are they used for? And, where can you buy them?

Frankincense and myrrh have a lot in common – both are aromatic oils. Definitions from :

frankincense: An aromatic gum resin obtained from African and Asian trees of the genus Boswellia and used chiefly as incense and in perfumes.

myrrh: An aromatic gum resin obtained from several trees and shrubs of the genus Commiphora of India, Arabia, and eastern Africa, used in perfume and incense.

I’ve got no clue what either of them smell like. I’d be interested to know if either is used in major-label perfumes.

I initially Googled myrrh, industrial uses and learned that Ethiopia was today a major exporter of both frankincense and myrrh.

You can buy bottles of frankincense and myrrh here in an interesting Xmas gift pack.

Googling both frankincense, perfume and myrrh, perfume uncovered loads of perfumes available on the market right now. I didn’t see any made by major labels like Chanel, Dior or Borghese. Perhaps their scents are more popular in Asia and Africa than they are in Europe and the Americas.

Go to a lot of Catholic churches and you’ll sure smell the frankincense (especially when the insense censers are swung about) . :slight_smile: It’s a very woody, slightly bitter heavy scent. This cite says it’s sweet-smelling, but there’s more of a woody scent, IMHO.

I have a 1/4 dram of Frankincense oil and once I accidentally spilled some on my clothes. I smelled like a cathedral had exploded on me. :slight_smile:

Yep - you can buy frankinsense, though not exactly at nearest corner shop! And I cannot describe the smell, but, as zweisamkeit says - wander into an R.C. church and you can encounter it. I have never gone looking for myrhh though - sorry.

Frankincense is a rather heavy smell - not everyone would like it, I think.

Somebody at my workplace sold incense sticks and I bought some frankinscence and myrrh. I then found a really tiny gold medal and I brought all of this with me when I went to visit my nephew after he was born. His birthday is January 10 and close to the Epiphany.

The parents found the gifts quite cool.

According to How Stuff Frankencense & Myrrh are both tree resins, as bordelond said, and are commonly used to scent incense.

There are links to more info, including a vendor, from that page.

Having just come from Divine Liturgy, I can assure you that frankincense is still burned as part of Orthodox services. I believe that myrrh is also one of the ingredients in the Holy Myron, or the scented oil that is used in several Orthodox sacraments. Most Orthodox or traditional Catholic bookstores would have some frankincense (possibly with other scented oils or resins mixed in) for sale for home use.

Aaah … OK. Yes, I know that odor well.

The last I checked (late 80’s/early 90’s) frankinsense, myrrh and a dizzying array of other fragrances were sold in all the marketplaces of Qatar, Yemen, etc. There were many shops with shelves of jars of fragrant organic substances that I couldn’t identify or read [mostly barks and such, not oils]. Such shops were frequented almost entirely by men, who sat with the proprietor, nose-shopping is wares and apparently discussing the gourmet details of each. They weren’t buying for their wives, they were buying for themselves

Maybe you wouldn’t be surprised. But trust me, it wasn’t a “Will and Grace Goes to Arabia” scenario

The men I saw were mostly in traditional garb, and their wives stayed home a lot more than your average Western soccer mom. These fragrances were a part of their traditional culture in many ways, from personal hygiene to ceremonial dishes to social/business gifts to… well, I don’t recall offhand, but I do recall being surprised. I’ve heard them compared to currency, but many things in the Middle East and Asia share that comparison -spices, jewelry, livestock- so I didn’t take it too literally.

I’d be very surprised if these fragrances weren’t still a big part of the local culture, and with the periodic resurgence of pride in Arab identity, it probably hasn’t faded much. That doesn’t make it a quaint dying backwater tradition (as some people tend to coo condescendingly when ever they read about practices that aren’t part of Main Street USA). Frankincense, myrrh and the like were vibrant Middle Eastern traditions 2000 years ago; why would they need to be anything more than Middle Eastern traditions to be as vibrant today as they were then?

Myrrh can also be used for an antiseptic. My dentist painted my gums in it after surgery. It tastes aswful. Not a taste I would want to try again. I can understand why Christ didn’t drink the wine mingled with myrrh on the cross.

I’ve some myrrh, coming from Yemen, but in its resin form. I never could find a way to burn it in order to release the perfume. I suppose that’s the basic stuff, and that I’m supposed to do something with it before being able to use, but I can’t figure out what. Beside, it’s quite old now. It looks like grey blocks of hard, slightly crystalized resin.

I bought some incense with a gift certificate I got last Christmas. One of the types was called “Frankensence & Myrrh.” Wasn’t half bad.

Does anybody know if frankinscence is used in a commerical brand of perfume? I like the smell!

jovan a rather long time ago had a perfume called frankinsence and myrrh. it was a fantastic scent. for some insane reason they discontinued it.

ralph and those who want to have it in a wearable scent, you can usually buy frankensence and myrrh separatly in essence oils. some places that hand make soaps and bath products will have one or the other in them. there are web sites where you can mix your own personal scent and they will ship it to you. some of the places will go from essence oils to shampoos and conditioners.

as ybeayf mentioned both are used in the orthodox church. as oils and incense. (angels or entrance, today?)

myrrh is mine, it’s bitter perfume… tells a life of gloom…

You can purchase special charcoal tablets from just about any new-agey shop/site (or you can just use a regular briquette). Get the charcoal nice and grey, and drop the resin onto it.

I’ve got straight frankincense and a blend called ‘Gloria’ that is basically the same as the aforementioned Catholic Church blend. Heavy on the frankincense, that is.

I use frankincense (oil and resin) in banishment rituals. The first time I did a whole-house banishment, Mr. Kitty (who was on the other side of the house) wound up leaving after about 5 minutes. ::snicker::

Hah! Trick question!

The Gospel of Mark has no infancy narrative, and thus, the gifts of the magi are not mentioned in Mark.

Only Matthew’s gospel has the magi visiting.

What do I win?


Synaxis of the Archangels (yay old calendar!) My namesday, in fact.

If you do use a regular briquette, be sure to use it outside, as regular (grilling) charcoal can produce dangerous levels of carbon monoxide in an enclosed space. I’m not entirely sure what the difference between the two types is (other than the incense ones being self-lighting and having a much finer texture), but everything I’ve read says not to use the grilling ones indoors.

The word myrrh comes from the Arabic word murr, literally ‘bitter’, adapted to an ancient Greek spelling.

The origin of the Arabian frankincense culture comes from the Jabal Qara hills of Dhofar, Oman. The Boswellia trees that produce frankincense still grow there. The highest quality frankincense in the world is produced there, but probably no one ever gets their hands on it but wealthy Arabs. The commercially exported frankincense available in America comes from Somalia.

You should be able to find it in the form of essential oils at a health food store.

It’s very concentrated so a drop will do for your purposes.

The prices will be in the $5 - $10 range, off the top of my head.