Frankincense boswellia sacra birdw burseraceae

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Boswellia carteri Birdw. Notes (Frankincense):

And the LORD said unto Moses, Take unto thee sweet spices, stacte, and onycha, and galbanum; these sweet spices with pure frankincense: of each shall there be a like weight:

Exodus 30:34 (KJV)

And the LORD said to Moses, "Take sweet spices, stacte, and onycha, and galbanum, sweet spices with pure frankincense (of each shall there be an equal part).

Exodus 30:34 (RSV)

And Jehovah went on to say to Moses, "Take to yourself perfumes; stacte drops and onycha, and perfumed galbanum, and pure frankincense. There should be the same portion of each.

Exodus 30:34 (NWT)

It is nice when all three versions translate it as frankincense, all three actually being pretty consistent in the formula for a holy incense. On reading Zohary (1982), I see he had a change in plans just before publication, eliminating one species of Boswellia, for he says "the resins from the two species listed above" (but he only listed one). He even hints, without clearly stating, that frankincense may involve resins from as many as 24 species of Boswellia. Boswellia carteri has been reduced to synonymy with Boswellia sacra. Frankincense came to the Holy Land via the famous spice route across southern Arabia and some of the littoral stations of East Africa, the same caravan highway used also for goods from India and points farther east (Zohary, 1982). Zohary rationalizes his conclusions by pointing to similarities between the Arabic luban and the Hebrew levonah. Today, the Catholic Church may be the major consumer, often using frankincense in ceremonial incenses.

Another true scholar, botanical historian John W. Thieret (1996), seems to agree with Zohary, noting that a main source of frankincense is Boswellia sacra. "Herodotus (born 484 BC) wrote that the frankincense trees were guarded by vast numbers of small winged serpents; he was wrong." (ZOH) Most frankincense comes from Somalia (following bananas and cattle as leading export) where it provides work for some 10,000 Somali families, but some is gathered in Arabia. Most goes to Saudi Arabia, Yemen, and Egypt, the major markets, but it heads off in lesser quantities in all directions. Early botanist Theophrastus, some three centuries before Christ, said that most frankincense came from Saba (southwestern Arabia, once ruled by the famed Queen Sheba). That ancient country became rich from the incense trade. Approximately 333 B.C., Alexander the Great's army captured Gaza, plundering its frankincense and sending it to Greece. Tons of incense were buried in the temples of Babylon and Nineveh. And in King Tut's tomb, 3000-year-old balls of frankincense were recovered. "In today's churches, frankincense is an ingredient in the incense that sometimes nearly suffocates the faithful Because frankincense and myrrh no longer enjoy the esteem that they did two millennia ago, I wonder what the Wise Men would bring today. Perhaps gold, dates, and oil" (Thieret, 1996). I would have guessed saffron.

Planta Cacahuate

FIGURE 1.14 Frankincense (Boswellia sacra).

Import statistics are difficult to come by. Scholarly historian Thieret (1996) suggests total yearly production of myrrh is perhaps 500 tons, of frankincense 1000 tons. Recently, U.S. imports run 5 to 20 tons. The United Kingdom imports circa 30 tons frankincense each year, one perfume manufacturer alone consuming 5 tons annually (Thieret, 1996).

Ghazanfar (1994) notes that in southern Arabia, luban trees occur in wadis extending to the coast on the lower slopes of the gullies and runoffs. The gum exuding from cuts is the major medicinal incense, being burned to give a perfumed smoke, used to improve the aroma of clothing, hair, and residences. The resin, used to stimulate digestion, to treat mastitis, and strengthen the teeth is also mixed into hair products. Soot collected from burning the resin is used as kohl memory device collyrium for soothing sore eyes. Pregnant Yemenis chew the gum, and it is also chewed for emotional and psychological problems. Arabians often chew it as a masticatory, believed to improve the memory, or add it to coffee. The resin is presumed to be diuretic and purgative. Thieret (1996) adds that in Greco-Roman medicine, frankincense was prescribed for abscesses, bruises, chest ache, hemorrhage, hemorrhoids, paralysis, and ulcers. In northern Africa, it is used for back problems, chest congestion, chronic coughs, poliomyelitis, and venereal ailments (Thieret, 1996). I fear that much of the information I have compiled should be viewed as generic rather than specific. I have focused on Boswellia sacra and carteri (HHB and WO2 data below; however, refer to B. serrata, so-called Indian Olibanum, syn. B. glabra Roxb.). I doubt that there are many people who can swear on a stack of Bibles as to whether a resin is frankincense, myrrh, or one or the other species or genera or a mixture of many species. Let the buyer beware. The frankincense problem is a franken-steinian taxonomic nightmare. I think the common name probably conveys, in this case, as much accuracy as the scientific name, for those resins for which there is no voucher specimen. I have, with that in mind, added the EFS common names for frankincense below, finding much congruence with names derived from other sources.

Frankincense was mentioned 22 times in the Bible, 16 times as an item of worship, 3 times as a product of the garden of Solomon, twice as a tribute of honor, and only once as an item of merchandise. It is chiefly used in incense as a perfume, especially in Catholic ceremonies. Recent authorities maintain that the "incense" used in the service of the Tabernacle was a mixture, in definite proportions of frankincense, galbanum (Ferula gumosa), onycha (Styrax benzoin), and stacte (Styrax offi-cinalis), and the use of any incense not composed of these four ingredients in the proper proportions was strictly forbidden. Frankincense was highly regarded by Egyptians for embalming and fumigating. The gum is used as a masticatory, to clean the mouth. Oil of olibanum is used in high-grade perfumes, especially for oriental and floral types, and was once used as a depilatory. Resin is imported into Lebanon, primarily as incense, but secondarily as a cosmetic and medicine (BIB).

Common Names (Frankincense):

Ârbol del Incensio (Sp.; USN); Arbre à Encens (Fr.; USN); Baga ul Bân (Syria; HJP); Bakhor (Arab.; GHA); Encens Mâle (Fr.; EFS); Frankincense (Eng.; CR2; FAC); Hsun lu Hsiang (China; EFS); Incenso (It.; USN); Incienso (Sp.; EFS); Ju Hsiang (China; EFS); Kapitthaparni (Sanskrit; EFS); Levonah (Heb.; ZOH); Lobhan (India; EFS); Lubân (Arab.; Yemen; EFS; GHA; ZOH; X15890471); Lubân Dhakar (Syria; HJP); Magher (Arab.; USA); Menjan Arab (Malaya; EFS); Mogar (Arab.; USA); Moxor (Somalia; USN); Mughur (Arab.; USA); Mustikim (Malaya; EFS); Oliban (Fr.; USN); Oliban (Sp.; USN); Olibano (It.; Sp.; EFS; USN); Olibanum (Eng.; CR2; FAC); Olibanum Tree (Eng.; USN); Ru Xiang (Pin.; DAA); Ru Xiang Shu (Pin.; AH2; USN); Salai (India; EFS); Saleh (India; EFS); Weihrauchbaum (Ger.; USN); Weihrauchpflanze (Ger.; USN); Wierookboom (Dutch; EFS).

Activities (Frankincense):

Abortifacient (f; EFS); Alterative (f; BIB; EFS); Analgesic (f; HHB); Anticomplementary (1; PH2); Antidote (hemlock) (f; BIB); Antielastase (1; X12244881); Antihepatitic (1; PR14:510); Antiinflammatory (1; X12244881); Antileukotriene (1; X12244881); Antiseptic (1; PH2); Antitussive (f; X15890471); Astringent (f; BIB); Carminative (f1; BIB; EFS; PH2); Decongestant (f; BOW); Depilatory (f; BIB); Digestive (f; GHA; HAD); Diuretic (f; BIB; EFS; GHA); Ecbolic (f; EFS); Emmenagogue (f; EFS); Expectorant (f; BIB; BOW); Fumigant (f; BIB); HCV-Protease Inhibitor (1; PR14:510); Irritant (1; PH2); 5-Lipoxygenase Inhibitor (1; X12244881); Memorigenic (f; BIB; GHA); Purgative (f; GHA); Sedative (f; BIB; EFS); Stimulant (f; BIB; EFS); Tonic (f; BIB; EFS).

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