What Are Frankincense & Myrrh?

by Ploni Almoni
Frankincense and myrrh were spices used to make incense in the Jewish Temple.

Frankincense and myrrh were spices used to make incense in the Jewish Temple.

Frankincense and myrrh were two spices used to make various substances used in the ancient Jewish Temple of Jerusalem. Historically, they were also used to produce perfume, cosmetics and even medicine, and many of these uses continue to the present day.

Biblical References

The Book of Exodus describes several spices that go into the production of the ritual incense "ketoret," including frankincense , or levonah. Myrrh, or mor, was included as an ingredient in the oil used to anoint priests and later kings. The Magi offered the baby Jesus gifts of frankincense, myrrh and gold (Matthew 2:11).

Derivation

Frankincense and myrrh are both resins derived from the trees of the Boswellia and Commiphora family, respectively.

Contemporary Uses

Frankincense is sweet-smelling and is used extensively as a cosmetic, including the production of kohl, the eye liner depicted in ancient Egyptian art. Myrrh, despite its bitter taste, is used as a major ingredient in Asian and Middle Eastern medicine traditions.

About the Author

Ploni Almoni began writing professionally in 1990. Since then, he has published widely in scholarly journals such as "Slavic Review," "Transcultural Psychiatry" and "Thought and Action." Almoni earned a Doctor of Philosophy in history from the University of Toronto.

Photo Credits

  • Jerusalem, model of the jewish temple image by JoergK from Fotolia.com