The “gifts” of the Magi to medicine: Frankincense, gold and myrrh

Historically, gold has been used in dentistry. Its most obvious application has been in dental restorations.

Myrrh, Gold and frankincense. The gifts of the Magi to the baby Jesus.

These were the three gifts that the Magi brought to the child God, and history tells that these offerings are now considered by scientists as precious gifts due to the benefits they bring to health.

Clinical findings show that they can help treat arthritis and asthma, and perhaps help cope with one of the worst diseases known: cancer.


Two of the gifts, frankincense and myrrh, are being studied by Dr Ahmed Ali, a scientist at Cardiff University in the UK, for their healing properties.

Both are resins extracted from plants and, when solidified, frankincense looks like golden raisins, while myrrh looks like colored crystals reddish brown.

Ali, of Somali origin, is a renowned frankincense expert of that country.

in the school of British University Biosciences, tries to develop drugs to tackle a variety of problems, from cancer to wrinkles.

She has found that Somali frankincense has a different chemical profile compared to other types of frankincense and can be used in a variety of treatments.

“We found that when a variety of Somali frankincense is harvested, it can be used to mitigate cancer cell metastasis invitro. That is, it can stop the spread of cancer,” he said.


Myrrh is also being studied in his lab for its anti-cancer benefits, specifically a type known as scented myrrh.

Professor Richard Clarkson, who worked with Ali on this research, suggests that these discoveries could be the breakthrough that is needed in cancer research.

“In a general sense, the identification of new drugs and new agents that could stop the spread of cancer through the body is highly sought after, but very difficult to implement at the clinical level,” he notes.

These clinical trials are long, expensive and complicated, he explains.

But the professor assures that, in the laboratory, finding something that targets cancer cells and kills them, without harming healthy cells, is considered the Holy Grail.

“If you’re looking for a combination of something like a myrrh extract, which targets cancer cells and kills them without harming healthy cells, with a frankincense extract, which prevents the cancer from spreading further, then that could be a great combination,” he said.

“And given its historical importance it’s really interesting.”

among the others somali frankincense benefits, Ali said, his lab found that it can be used to stop inflammation, or swelling.

“It can be used to help with arthritis. It also seems particularly effective in reducing ulcerative colitis symptoms, an inflammatory bowel condition.

He added that frankincense can also help prevent gum disease.

Much of this research is still young and, for now, confined to laboratories.

Many uses

Dr Rachael Gillibrand, a professor of medical history at Aberystwyth University, said she was surprised by some of the ways these three substances were previously used.

“Olibanum wasn’t used for just one thing. It seems like it was used for a number of different ailments,” he said.

“Myrrh is a bit more interesting: it’s never used alone, it’s always mixed with other things. It’s mixed with other herbs like a syrup and prescribed to help with asthma.”

He added that myrrh was also mixed with juniper berries and rum as a treatment for parasites in young people in Victorian times.

Gold is slightly different, but medically it also has its benefits.

According to Gillibrand, the father of modern medicine, Hippocrates, prescribed gold for use in dentistry, and centuries later gold is still used in dentistry in some parts of the world.

“During an excavation in Greece, they discovered the skull of a Greek soldier. The soldier had previously been wounded in battle and gold thread had been used to bind his jaw,” he added.

“It just proves that these weren’t just things that were written, they were actually practiced.”

Between medicine and religion

The precious metal has also played its part in the treatment of cancer.

As an inert metal, gold does not react much and its isotopes are used to load tumors before radiotherapy, in order to absorb X-rays and make the treatment more effective.

Two millennia ago, however, gifts had very different meanings.

Frankincense and myrrh have both been used as incense and it was as such that they were perhaps presented to the infant Jesus.

Myrrh was also used as an embalming oil.

While gold commanded a high price, largely because of its attractive appearance.

The Rev. Gregory Cameron explained that the three gifts also have religious significance, although there is little mention of the nativity in the Bible.

“Jesus is described in Christianity as having the triple office of prophet, priest and king,” he said. “So that myrrh adheres to its role as prophet, frankincense to that of priest, and gold to its role as king.”

In China

In traditional Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine (traditional Indian medicine), frankincense and myrrh have been used to treat chronic diseases.

This is what the authors of the article point out: Seeing the Unseen of the Combination of Two Natural Resins, Frankincense and Myrrh: Changes in Chemical Constituents and Pharmacological Activities. chemicals and pharmacological activities), published in the specialized journal Molecules, in 2019.

“In traditional Chinese medicine, frankincense and myrrh have been combined as drug pairs in the same prescription for thousands of years, and their combination has a better therapeutic effect on diseases than a single drug.”

“The pharmacological effects of the combination seem magically powerful, such as synergistic anti-inflammatory, synergistic anticancer, synergistic analgesic, synergistic antibacterial, synergistic blood activation, etc.”

Source consulted here.

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