Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Frankincense and Myrrh

In my imagination, things were going to slow down once the shop finally got finished and open. Yes, I can hear you chuckling, and as the wholesale orders rolled in on Monday and yesterday, I realized the folly of my plan. The days are getting away from me, and now I'm thinking, "as soon as the next issue goes out....". That probably won't happen either, but I like to pretend. In the meantime, I'll post this snippet on these familiar yet exotic resins.

Frankincense and Myrrh

The two fragrant resins are often referred to, but rarely do we see them in use. Many people have never seen them or smelled their exotic perfume. Others who attend churches rich in ritual are much more accustomed to censors pouring forth the smoke of frankincense.

During the holidays, these are two of the famed gifts of the Magi from the Bible, given along with gold to the baby Jesus, and are found sometimes in small quantities packaged for gift giving.

They are both resins, or saps from plants. Frankincense comes from the plant Boswellia carteri, and is grown mainly in Ethiopia. The scent is sunny and piney. It comes in different sizes, tear, pearl, and powder and is a warm variety of yellows. It is also available in essential oil, a form that is easiest to use in winter. In aromatherapy, frankincense is used to calm and release tension. It is also said to assist in meditation. When blending fragrances, frankincense oil is very valuable, because it quickly grounds blends that are too heady or lightens blends that are too base.

Myrrh is from a plant native to northern Africa. It is Commiphora myrrha. It comes in shades of red, amber, and brown and can be found in chunks, granules, or powder. The fragrance of myrrh is dark and mysterious. It is perfectly balanced by the brighter frankincense. Myrrh is rarely used in aromatherapy blends, but is found in mouthwashes and toothpastes (often along with goldenseal) to heal gums and keep them healthy. It does NOT taste good. It was also used in mummification.

In the summer with windows open, these may be smoldered on charcoal blocks to release their fragrant full bodied scents. In the winter, that isn’t possible. Instead, try adding some to a simmering pot. It takes a little while, but the hot water releases the scent. They can go into the fireplace in small quantities, or set in a dish on a heat source. They will however ruin the dish, so keep that in mind. The small pea-sized pieces may also be strung using a heated needle and worn about the neck. Body heat will slowly release the fragrance and surround you with mystery.

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