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Frankincense: A Christmas gift that fights cancer?

Could frankincense provide a cure for cancer?  Photo A Boswellia tree Wikipedia/Scott Zona

Could frankincense provide a cure for cancer? Photo A Boswellia tree Wikipedia/Scott Zona

When Jesus was born, the Bible records that magi through their study of astronomy realized something significant was happening. Using an ancient Biblical prophecy, God led them to Jesus (Mathew 2:1-8). We are not told how many magi there were or exactly when they showed up, but we do know they came bearing gifts.

Though it’s highly doubtful Jesus was born on December 25, it is a good day as any to celebrate the occasion. The Bible focuses on Jesus’ birth much as it does His death and resurrection suggesting God wants Jesus’ birth remembered as well.

One of the gifts the magi brought to honour Jesus’ birth was frankincense:

After coming into the house they saw the Child with Mary His mother; and they fell to the ground and worshiped Him. Then, opening their treasures, they presented to Him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh..  (Mathew 2: 11 NASV)

What is frankincense?

Frankincense is a pungent gum taken from the Bosweilla tree. Because of its exotic fragrance, it was a popular ingredient in incense.  It was also used as perfume and in cosmetics (Song of Solomon 3:6). It grows only n a few areas in the Middle East making it extremely valuable and a popular trade item.

Israelites incorporated frankincense in their worship. Priests used frankincense as an incense (Ex 30:34-36). It was also put on shewbread (Lev 24:7) and the first fruit offering (Lev 2:15-16) — making it a unique gift to Jesus considering His ultimate sacrifice.

According to the Jewish encyclopedia, at the time of crucifixion by the Romans, Jewish women offered condemned prisoners a drink — which included frankincense — that sedated prisoners helping them deal with the ordeal to come.  It was a drink Jesus seems to have refused (Luke 23:28-31).

Ancients used frankincense as a medicine

Though not referenced in the Bible, frankincense was also used medically in ancient times. It was put on open wounds and used to treat multiple ailments such as arthritis and digestion problems.

Today, researchers are looking at frankincense as a possible cancer cure:

Frankincense tackles the tough cancers

Recently researchers at Leicester University in England reported there is a compound in frankincense effective in killing cells of difficult cancers — such as ovarian cancer. There are about 7,000 cases of ovarian cancer each year in England and well over half (4,000+) will die.  Ovarian cancer is particularly difficult as it is notoriously hard to diagnose.

The researchers said:

‘This finding has enormous potential to be taken to clinical trial in the future and developed into an additional treatment for ovarian cancer.”

Read: Frankincense fights cancer: Aromatic substance from the nativity story could treat ovarian cancer: Dailymail

Frankincense resets cancer cells

According to immunologist Mahmoud Suhail from the University of Oklahoma, frankincense stops cancer by resetting the cells back to their original non-cancerous state:

Cancer starts when the DNA code within the cell’s nucleus becomes corrupted. It seems frankincense has a re-set function. It can tell the cell what the right DNA code should be.

Frankincense separates the ‘brain’ of the cancerous cell – the nucleus – from the ‘body’ – the cytoplasm, and closes down the nucleus to stop it reproducing corrupted DNA codes.”

The problem at this point is scientists are not sure what property in Frankincense does this.  The scientists are very interested because frankincense only has this effect on cancer cells. This is unlike other forms of treatment such as chemotherapy which kills both cancer cells and healthy cells.

Read: Frankincense: Could it be a cure for cancer?: BBC

Frankincense fights skin cancer

Researchers at Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine at Virginia Polytechnic Institute discovered Frankincense was effective in fighting skin cancer in horses. In their study, they used frankincense on six horses suffering from the cancer.

In three horses, they injected frankincense and in three they applied it as a topical treatment. After a two-week treatment, the researchers noted in all six horses there were dead cancer cells and the tumours had shrunk.

John Robertson with the research team said, “(Frankincense) has been used as a wound treatment for a long time. It’s interesting that it has useful properties for us.”

They believe there is a chemical compound in frankincense that kills skin cancer cells. Because of the similarity between skin cancer on horses and humans, it’s possible frankincense could be effective for humans as well, but further testing in necessary.

Read: Frankincense Shows Promise in Fighting Skin Cancer: Fox News


  1. hey Dean that is a great write up and factual stats on Frankincense…it is a powerful oil and I am glad I use Young Living Essential Oils. I knew that it was very Cancer cureable with horses the Frankincense is a real uplift for me when I am not balanced/moody So many uses for it! thanks for the extra info!


    • Thanks for the comment Donna. I saw an article on scientists using frankincense on cancer and thought it would make an interesting story considering the season. Did a bit more searching and found a number of other instances where scientists think it might have cancer-fighting properties. It actually surprised me.


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