Giving the gift of the Magi from head to toe

Today, the Christian world celebrates the birth of Christ. And surely, you know the story of the Three Wise Men 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.

Appropriately enough, the three precious gifts the Wise Men brought with them– over thousands of miles of dry, harsh, rough terrain–are all effective joint treatments for arthritis.

Today, frankincense is perhaps the most well-known of the three gifts as a joint remedy. We can actually date its trade as far back as 2,000 B.C. It had ceremonial and ritual uses among the ancient Egyptians, Hebrews, Greeks, and Chaldeans. Actually, ancient traders brought many prized spices–in addition to frankincense–back to Europe from Asia, essentially using the same trade route taken by the Three Wise Men. From ancient Roman times for a millennium and a half, the spice route influenced worldwide trade, economies, and settlement patterns.

The spice earned the popular name “frankincense” much later than the time of the Three Magi, however, 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 also came back to Europe along with King Frederick’s many spoils. In the “Old French,” the spice became known as the incense brought back by the Franks.

Then, in the 1500s, Europeans discovered maritime routes around the horn of Africa to India, China and the storied Spice Islands. This discovery fundamentally altered trade patterns and profoundly influenced world politics, economics, and history. Including that of the early United States. (Port cities in the United States played major roles in the all-important spice trade: Boston, Salem, and Newburyport in New England, and Baltimore in the mid-Atlantic).

Of course, the second part of the name frankincense implies its use as a fragrance. They burned the spice in crowded places like churches to overcome the odors of unwashed bodies.

Boswellia–the botanical name for frankincense–came even later, apparently from the Scottish Botanist John Boswell (1710-1780), the uncle of James Boswell. A later English botanist also called John Boswell (1822-1888) was a second cousin of James Boswell (1740-1795), the famous biographer of Samuel Johnson.

Until the 20th century, these “spices” were critical for food preservation and preparation and for medicines. Besides frankincense, other key spices and herbal remedies came from the spice trade. Including turmeric (curcumin in the popular Indian curries) and ashwaganda from India (also known as winter cherry, or Withania somniferum).

Today, frankincense (boswellia), ashwaganda, and turmeric make a potent trio for effective and safe joint support. In fact, it’s far more effective than all the tired, old glucosamine and chondroitin supplements. (Which are older and more tired than the Magi, but not as wise.)

Each of these three ingredients support joint health individually. But new research and my own observations reveal that the combination is even more effective. It requires significantly lower doses, when taken together, to be effective.

Tomorrow, I’ll tell you more about turmeric, specifically. It’s turning out to be potent for the prevention and management of many other medical conditions. In fact, new research shows it’s a brain health powerhouse.

For today, I hope you receive the gift of good health and the opportunity to celebrate in good spirits with family and friends.