Ancient Christmas treasure continues to give gift of good health

Today is Christmas Eve, and chances are, you’re getting ready, wrapping presents for under the tree. So I thought I’d take a moment to talk about one of the most notable Christmas presents in history: frankincense.

The Three Magi — who traveled many miles across the desert from the east — brought this precious gift together with gold and myrrh to the birth of the Messiah.

Of course, people at that point in history prized frankincense and myrrh as much as gold for their medicinal properties.

All three gifts of the Magi effectively treat joint pain, which the three wise, old, traveling dignitaries knew something about. In fact, I include frankincense — also known by its scientific name, Boswellia — as one of my “ABCs of joint health” together with ashwagandha (winter cherry) and curcumin (turmeric). Plus, new evidence suggests this ancient remedy could one day serve as an effective, natural treatment for ovarian cancer. I’ll tell you about that exciting research in a moment.

But first, let me tell you a bit more about this ancient treasure…

Frankincense is the fragrant plant resin extracted from the Boswellia sacra tree found across Africa and Arabia. Another species used as a potent Ayurvedic remedy in Indian medicine — Boswellia serrata — comes from South Asia.

We can trace the origins of frankincense to the Arabian Peninsula. In fact, according to the ancient Greek historian Herodotus (5th century BC), “Arabia is the only country that produces frankincense, myrrh, cassia, and cinnamon…the trees bearing the frankincense are guarded by winged serpents of small size and various colors.”

Ancient Egyptians referenced its healing properties in hieroglyphics. Hippocrates considered it among the first medicines in ancient Greece. You can also find it in the Bible as the holy incense of Exodus, with 16 references to the Hebrew word for frankincense.

Ancient wonder proves to be a modern marvel for drug-resistant cancer

The new cancer research on frankincense centers around a compound called acetyl-11-keto-beta-boswellic acid (AKBA), which derives from the tree’s resin. In vitro research (in a petri dish) shows AKBA can even combat cancer cells in late-stage ovarian cancer.

Of particular note: These cancer cells were resistant to chemotherapy but they were sensitive to AKBA. This finding suggests frankincense may help overcome drug resistance, which is an important factor for survival in women with late-stage ovarian cancer.

AKBA also shows potential for the treatment of several other cancers, including breast, colon, and prostate cancer.

The first successful treatment for some forms of ovarian cancer actually came from another tree — the Pacific yew tree, called Taxol. So — it doesn’t surprise me that early lab research shows frankincense could effectively treat ovarian cancer. The only real surprise is that researchers don’t study plant remedies more for the treatment of cancer — especially since mainstream treatments remain sadly lacking for most common cancers.

Many people also use frankincense today for asthma, gastroenteritis, and skin conditions — without side effects. As an essential plant oil, add one or two drops to a drink to relieve IBS and digestive upset. For skin health, rub a few drops onto the skin to improve its look and promote wound healing

You can also use frankincense as aromatherapy. Research shows its fragrance elevates mood, reduces depression, and decreases stress. Just place one or two drops into a humidifier.

You can also use frankincense as a natural cold remedy to help boost the immune system. Again, a few drops into a humidifier — or even straight on your tongue — can work wonders.

For joint health, look for boswellia as a supplement together with ashwagandha and curcumin. Typical doses range from 400 to 500 mg of each ingredient. But they are more potent at smaller doses when taken together, as are my three ABCs of joint health, due to their synergistic effects. For anyone with joint pain, soreness or stiffness, it makes a great gift under the tree or as a stocking stuffer. And you can be like the wise men and women too.


“Christmas gift brings treatment hope for cancer patients,” University of Leicester (