Today, the Christian faith celebrates the birth of Christ. And you know the story of the Three Wise Men, or Magi, who arrived in Bethlehem from the East bearing three gifts: gold, frankincense, and myrrh.
Tradition holds that the Magi arrived on January 6th — 12 days after the birth of the Christ child. This Epiphany, or “little Christmas,” established the tradition of the 12 days of Christmas. So, don’t fret about the holidays ending, because the festivities are just getting started!
Appropriately enough, the three precious gifts the Wise Men brought with them — over thousands of miles of dry, harsh, rough terrain — all help combat joint pain (and are now what I refer to as my “ABCs” of joint health).
Healing extract dates back thousands of years
Frankincense is perhaps the most well-known of the three gifts. It had ceremonial and ritual uses among the ancient Egyptians, Hebrews, Greeks, and Chaldeans. And we can actually date its trade as far back as 2,000 B.C.
Ancient traders brought frankincense (as well as many other prized spices) back to Europe from Asia, essentially using the same trade route taken by the Three Wise Men. Beginning in ancient Roman times and continuing on for the next millennium and a half, this spice route influenced worldwide trade, economies and settlement patterns.
Interestingly, the spice actually earned its popular name “frankincense” much later than the time of the Three Magi, thanks to the Frankish king, Frederick Barbarossa (or “Red Beard”). King Frederick led one of the European Crusades of the 11th to 13th centuries to the Near East. And some experts believe the spice came back to Europe along with King Frederick’s many spoils. In the language of the “Old French,” the spice became known as the incense brought back by the Franks.
Boswellia — the botanical name for frankincense — came to be even later, from the Scottish Botanist John Boswell (1710-1780).
Trade route bore many gifts
In addition to frankincense, many other key spices and herbal remedies came from the spice trade.
For example, turmeric root (curcumin), used in curry dishes, came from India. In fact, turmeric is known as the “golden spice of India,” as I explained last Friday.
Turmeric is probably the world’s most versatile healing spice. It’s been featured in more than 6,000 scientific studies and has been shown to have more than 600 benefits, including the ability to:
- prevent and reverse dementia
- prevent and reverse cancer
- act as an antioxidant
- act as an anti-inflammatory
- balance the immune system
The phytochemical curcumin gives turmeric its golden yellow hue. As elsewhere in botanical medicine, brightly colored pigments typically signal a plant’s powerful biological activities. In other words, the more vibrant a plant’s color, the stronger its health benefits.
Mind you, many natural products contain just isolated curcumin, which only delivers a small fraction of turmeric’s benefits. And it leaves all the other beneficial parts of the spice “on the table.”
Another ancient spice, ashwaganda, also came to Europe from India. The Hindi word ashwaganda translates to “mare sweat” — probably describing the tangy aroma of the roots.
Known botanically as Withania somniferum, or winter cherry, ashwaganda belongs to the biologically active nightshade family, which also includes eggplant, tomatoes, potatoes, and peppers.
In ancient Ayurvedic medicine, ashwaganda is traditionally administered for a variety of musculoskeletal conditions, such as arthritis and rheumatism, and as a general “tonic” to support overall health.
Of course, one of the keys to a botanical medical tradition like Ayurveda is knowing which part of the plant contains the most potent disease-fighting compounds. For ashwaganda, the roots have been reported to have both antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
Until the 20th century, these “spices” also played a critical role in food preservation and preparation and medicines.
More potent together as a trio
As I often report, boswellia, ashwaganda, and curcumin make a potent trio for effective and safe joint support. In fact, the trio is far more effective than the tired, traditionally used glucosamine and chondroitin supplements (which seem to be even older and more tired than the Magi, but not as wise).
Each of these three ingredients supports joint health individually. But recent research and my own observations reveal they’re even more effective when taken together — and at significantly lower doses.
I’ve written a great deal about these near magical ingredients. For more information regarding each of them and their healing effects on joints, simply search the archives on my website, DrMicozzi.com. (You can search using the keywords “ashwaganda,” “boswellia,” “curcumin,” or “ABCs of joint health.”)
Overall, this Christmas, it is my hope that you receive the gift of good health and the opportunity to celebrate in good spirits with family and friends.