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Gold, Frankincense & Myrrh – Gifts From the Magi or Three Smart Women in Disguise?

Post by Sandy Powell on December 23, 2018

Discussions and debates have continued for centuries by theologians, evangelists, archaeologists and various historical experts on why these three gifts were presented to Jesus.

The gold is obvious, but why the frankincense and myrrh?  Because I work with these precious raw materials and teach courses on essential oils, I am asked about this subject all the time with inquiries escalating around the holiday season.  So, here are some of my thoughts on the topic.  Just to be clear, an essential oil obtained from these precious resins would not have been presented as distillation was not used to obtain vital elements from plants during this time in history.    Nevertheless, frankincense and myrrh as pure resins were very useful as they could be ground into powders, melted into ointments, salves, pomades or used to make incense sticks for ceremonial burning, purification and inhalation.

These two plant-based substances have fascinated humanity and hold an honoured place in history, transcending so many creeds, cultures and religions.   Physical, emotional and spiritual benefits were reported on these resins long before the arrival of Jesus. Many religious, spiritual and medicinal compilations such as the bible, dead sea scrolls and Vedic texts make mention or refer to their healing powers.  The Egyptian Book of the Dead refers to the oozing resin from the trees as “sweat of the Gods”. Even God apparently ordered Moses to carry significant amounts of both resins out of Egypt during the exodus and to provide healing salves made with them for everyone to carry.  Talk about a glowing celebrity endorsement!

Galen, one of the most famous of all ancient Greek doctors, further popularized the use of myrrh with his successful treatments of Gladiators for their wounds.  In fact, all Gladiators carried a pouch of myrrh paste into battle with them to stop the bleeding from some potentially catastrophic wounds.  I have experienced this use of myrrh personally and can attest to it’s incredible ability to coagulate blood.

Relaxation, easing pain, anti-ageing, wound care and cancer treatment have been explored and treated with these mysterious resins that ooze from trees native to India, China, Middle East and the Mediterranean regions.  Traces have even been found in mummified bodies unearthed from thousands of years ago.  Many churches and organizations still incorporate the use for religious and spiritual ceremony to this day.

Now, with the aid of advanced technology, detailed chemical analysis is available.   An impressive list of naturally occurring chemicals such as Lindestrene, elemene, bourolene, ocimene, p-cymene and sabinene which reads like a pharmaceutical company’s candy store have been identified. Boswellic acid found in the resin, not the distilled oil has the spotlight recently as a potential cancer treatment.

While both resins and their oil derivatives are great for many issues, I believe that the frankincense was gifted for matters of religious & spiritual ceremony, perfumery and general skincare, even to aid better sleep while myrrh would have been more practical for wound care and pain.  The gold? Well it would have been necessary to purchase more of these resins so there was always ample supply.

Now to explain the title of this piece. I am not qualified to determine whether this story is true.  I wasn’t there; however I do have difficulty believing that three guys would have thought of and then obtained  such complex practical offerings to be presented to their saviour and then, dressed up in their finest ceremonial robes with matching socks and sandals, trekked across the desert without asking for directions, getting lost, or somehow attracted to shiny stuff on the ground instead of the sky. Plus, managing to be being on time. I could more easily believe that women were involved somehow by either choosing the gifts and packing them in their suitcases with a detailed map. Or, is it possible that they simply stole the robes and set out leaving the men sitting at home naked to make sure the job was finished.

Otherwise, one of the most famous historical events in history left entirely to three “wise men” may have resulted in the pontificating drone of experts for the last 2000 years debating why Jesus was presented gifts that had big wheels, shot fire or made obnoxious loud noises.

Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Joyous Kwanzaa, Feliz Navidad, Happy Holidays!

Sandy Powell



This article is not meant to be a replacement for medical advice, grossly over expensive drugs which may or may not help if you can afford them, or treatment of any illness identified by medical overlords. Conversely, weekend warrior essential oil sellers with nary a shred of anatomy, medical, clinical or chemistry training in essential oils should not be providing treatment advice to those with serious illnesses by instructing the oil be placed under one’s tongue or rubbed on the forehead counter clockwise whilst howling at the full moon.

With all the hype surrounding these two oils in recent years and the annual spike of interest triggered by the holiday season, you should not be attempting to treat serious medical conditions with any substance unless medically qualified.




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