Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh were gifts borne by the three wise men to celebrate the birth of Jesus. Although we are familiar with the biblical story of the gifts presented on this Christmas day, we can be uncertain about what exactly some of these items are.
Frankincense is a natural gum resin derived from tree sap and prised for its distinctive fragrance. It is a natural blend of essential oils and resin and is used in incense and perfumes.
The resin comes from species of the Boswellia tree, found in the Arabian Peninsula, East Africa and India. In particular it is derived from species Boswellia sacra, B. carteri, B. thurifera, B. frereana, and B. bhaw-dajiana. There are four main species of Boswellia which produce true frankincense and each type of resin is available in various grades. The grades depend on the time of harvesting,
To extract the sap from the Boswellia tree a longitudinal cut is made in the trees trunk, which pierces gum resin reservoirs located in the bark. A milky white resin oozes from the cut and hardens to form tear shaped droplets which harden on the side of the tree. The gum becomes hard after harvesting, and darkens with age to become yellowish in colour with a white powdery surface.
Differences in soil and climate create even more diversity of the resin, even within the same species. The trees start producing resin when they are about 8 to 10 years old. Tapping is done two to three times a year with the final taps producing the best tears due to their higher aromatic terpene, sesquiterpene and diterpene content. Generally speaking, the more opaque resins are the best quality
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