by Julia Scalise, DN, PhD
The Bible relates the story of the visit of the Three Kings, men of wisdom or Magi, who traveled to give homage to the infant Jesus. Historians write that although it probably did not happen on the actual date of His birth, it is written that travel they did and homage they gave. The gifts of the magi mentioned were gold, frankincense, and myrrh. I never really understood the full significance of those gifts till much later in life, both from a spiritual connotation and from a practical perspective.
During the course of my academic education in holistic health, one of the required courses was Herbology. I learned that frankincense and myrrh were used by past and current cultures for their healing properties. And the gold mentioned in the bible story I just assumed was a precious metal (i.e. money).
In my past academic training and more recently in my continuing education, we learn more and more that 2 of the biggest underlying causes of disease are chronic inflammation and infection. I found it both interesting and fitting that these Wise Men thought to give gifts of money, an anti-inflammatory, and an anti-infective. All three being important in their own right.
The spiritual symbolism for the gifts of the Magi represent gold, a precious metal often given to kings, frankincense, an aromatic resin used as incense by ancient priests in ceremonies, and myrrh, a substance used in anointing and embalming in ancient cultures. But I also see the gifts as having practical applications due to their healing benefits.
GOLD: (Turmeric, the Golden Spice)
Gold as money would have been a much appreciated gift. However, I recently saw a webinar series, The Truth About Cancer, and it was suggested that the “gold” given by one of the kings may have been the “golden spice” Turmeric, and not money as is most often suggested it was. Turmeric is a spice that has been used for millennia. It has anti-inflammatory properties and is showing benefit in the treatment of various health conditions from cancer to cognitive decline, in addition to its benefits for the aches and pains of arthritis and joint stiffness. For some, Turmeric has proven to be beneficial for multiple health complaints. Some of the uses for Turmeric are:
- Improves joint and muscle health
- Decreases systemic inflammation in the body
- Nourishes the skin, increases skin elasticity, and promotes a skin radiance
- Improves immune system function
- Reduces stress, anxiety, and helps with mood balance
- Boosts detoxification, aids digestion, and helps with weight loss
- Promotes healthier blood, liver function , and supports cardiovascular function
- Helps with cognition, brain support, and sleep support
- Helps with cholesterol levels to maintain them within normal ranges
Overall, Turmeric has many benefits and would have been a good choice of a gift for a healthier life, had this been the actual gift versus a precious metal.
Frankincense is derived from a tree known as Boswellia sacra. It is found in many forms for oral consumption, in essential oil form for topical use, and also as an aromatic incense used in homes and in Christian, Catholic, Judaic, and Islamic spiritual rituals and practices. There are varying grades of Frankincense and also alternate names such as Boswellia. Its many uses, over the centuries up to current times make this a popular substance to have on hand. Some properties attributed to Frankincense are:
- Anti-inflammatory for aches, pains, joint and muscle complaints
- Mood soother in times of anxiety, stress and anger
- Lifting, toning, and healing of skin complaints from acne to scars, wounds, and boils
- Shown to benefit respiratory, digestive, nervous, and circulatory systems for some
- Improves immune system function as an anti-septic and disinfectant
- Anti-oxidant and improves cellular/ tissue health
I have used Frankincense in various forms both personally and in my practice for clients when warranted with noted success. It makes practical sense why this was considered such a gift so many centuries ago and has stood the test of time, based on all the issues with which its benefits have been documented.
Myrrh is extracted from a tree known as Commiphora Mukul. It too is another plant derivative that has been used both for medicinal and spiritual practices. It too has been used for a myriad of infective, inflammatory, and mood complaints. Some touted beneficial uses of myrrh are:
- Skin issues to help heal wounds, eczema, ringworm, and even chapped skin
- Gum and mouth preparations that contain myrrh alleviate tooth/gum irritations and infections
- Improve uterine health and help with spasms, cramps, and menstrual regulation
- Digestive issues such as gas, diarrhea, overall stomach health, and used against parasites
- Strengthens the immune system, and useful for common childhood diseases such as mumps, measles, chicken pox
- Calms the nervous system, and improves thought / cognition
There are many more benefits for which myrrh has been utilized. In fact there are more benefits for each of the “gifts” listed, but allotted space prohibits going on and on about them. Suffice it to say that although the Gift of the Magi has been known mostly for its spiritual significance, I like to think it was not just a symbolic offering but also a practical one. As always, if you choose to incorporate Turmeric, Frankincense, or Myrrh for any health complaint you have, make sure to check with your healthcare team for any contraindication to YOUR health or medications taken.
Wishing you health, enjoying your holiday season however you celebrate, and living your best life.
(Top image is a photo taken by Nina Aldin Thune)