Monday, December 6, 2010

Christmas Science 1: Frankincense

In the run up to Christmas, Communicate Science offers you 20 Christmas Science Facts. We'll post one every day until the 25th December.

According to the Christmas story, one of the Magi brought a gift of frankincense to the infant Jesus shortly after his birth. It is an aromatic resin that comes from trees of the genus Boswellia and is used in perfumes and incense.

The bark of the tree is slashed to release the resin which hardens on the bark of the tree.Depending on the location of the tree and the climate, different grades and quality of frankincense can be produced, its quality based on colour, purity, aroma and age.

Frankincense was used in religious rites and ceremonies and the Egyptians ground the charred resin into a black powder called kohl. This was used to make the distinctive black eyeliner seen on many figures in Egyptian art.

Frankincense has been investigated as a treatment for ailments from Crohn's disease and arthritis to various cancers.


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