Here's another Christmas helping from the CAB Abstracts – this time on the seasonal subjects of frankincense and myrrh. These two precious plant resins have numerous uses in perfumes and medicines – not to mention anti-wrinkle creams! Frankincense comes from trees of the genus Boswellia and myrrh from species of Commiphora, both members of the Burseraceae. Boswellia and Commiphora are both native to Africa and the frankincense and myrrh are aromatic gum resins tapped from the trees by scraping back the bark.

Widely used in alternative medicines, the many applications of frankincense are reported in CAB Abstracts including its use for improving the memory (Ota and Houghton, 2008), effects on fertility (Nusier et al., 2007) and larvicidial activities (Amer and Mehlhorn, 2006). Myrrh is also reputed to have many health benefits including the potential to treat gastrointestinal parasites (Massoud et al., 2007a) and use as a molluscicide (Massoud et al., 2007b).

If you’d like to know more then read the Christmas issue of the British Medical Journal where you can find a systematic review of the use of frankincense in clinical trials.



Ota, M., Houghton, P. J. 2008. Boswellic acids with acetylcholinesterase inhibitory properties from frankincense. Natural Product Communications, Vol. 3, No. 1, pp. 21-26.

Nusier, M. K., Bataineh, H. N., Bataineh, Z. M., Daradka, H. M. 2007. Effect of Frankincense (Boswellia thurifera) on reproductive system in adult male rat. Journal of Health Science, Vol. 53, No. 4, pp. 365-370, 27 ref.

Amer, A., Mehlhorn, H. 2006. Larvicidal effects of various essential oils against Aedes, Anopheles, and Culex larvae (Diptera, Culicidae). Parasitology Research, Vol. 99, No. 4, pp. 466-472, 26 ref.

Mulugeta Lemenih, Tarekegn Abebe, Olsson, M. 2003. Gum and resin resources from some Acacia, Boswellia and Commiphora species and their economic contributions in Liban, south-east Ethiopia. Journal of Arid Environments, 2003, Vol. 55, No. 3, pp. 465-482, many ref.

Massoud, A. M., El-Shazly, A. M., Morsy, T. A. 2007a. Mirazid (Commiphora molmol) in treatment of human heterophyiasis. Journal of the Egyptian Society of Parasitology, Vol. 37, No. 2, pp. 395-410, many ref.

Massoud, A. M., El-Shazly, A. M., Nagaty, I. M., Morsy, T. A. 2007b. Commiphora molmol extracts as plant molluscicide against Lymnaea natalensis. Journal of the Egyptian Society of Parasitology, Vol. 37, No. 2, pp. 437-448, many ref.

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