Secrets of Ancient Egypt

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Did you know that Essential Oils have been around since 1500 B.C. ?

 

The Beauty Secrets of Ancient Egypt

Egyptian BeautyHerodotus once described Egypt as “a gift of the Nile,” and much has been written about the history of Ancient Egypt. Along with building astonishing pyramids and starting civilization as we know it, the Egyptians were also very much enamored with beauty and pleasure.ScentsFor the average Egyptian, enjoyment was measured above all by the nose. In fact, scents were considered so important that a nose hieroglyph was used in every word that meant “pleasure” or “to be pleased.”Incense and myrrh were burned constantly in temples to glorify the gods. “Heaven and earth shall overflow with incense,” proclaimed the god Amun to Queen Hatshepsut. There was even a god dedicated to perfume: Nefertem, the “Lord of the Nose.” Nefertem was usually depicted with a lotus blossom upon his head, and in Egyptian banquets this flower decorated the tables and heads of all guests.The Greeks regarded the Egyptians as experts in perfume, both for their subtle and refined mixtures as well as their longevity. The Greek philosopher Theophrastus proclaimed that the perfumes which lasted the longest were Egyptian ones. A perfume-maker was said to have reported that he had Egyptian perfume in his shop for eight years and that it was better by far even than fresh perfume.
Perfumes and Essential Oils in Ancient Egypt

Stakte, Susinum, Cyprinum, the Mendesian.

nefertitiOnce upon a time, those names resonated with the impact of Opium or Chanel Number Five. And for good reason: up until and during the first few centuries of the Common Era, Egypt was the prestigious center of an international perfume industry. Although perfumes were created and mass-marketed elsewhere in the ancient world, it was Egypt that was most renowned and identified with the international perfume trade. Egypt was so identified with perfume that during Julius Caesar’s Roman triumphs, perfume bottles were tossed to the crowd to demonstrate his mastery over Egypt.

Fragrance was common and accessible throughout Egypt; perfume was not. Beautifully scented flowers were readily accessible in the Nile River valley to even the humblest individuals. We know from artifacts and art that the Egyptians were fond of floral garlands, much in the manner of today’s Hawaiian lei. However, perfume was an expensive luxury item created in Egypt for the elite and for export.

As befitting a luxury item, the Egyptians taste in perfume ran towards the exotic. Perfume formulae remain to us; although we have countless images of lotuses being worn and sniffed, nowhere does this indigenous and, at that time, common flower appear in perfumery recipes. Instead, imports like myrrh, frankincense, cinnamon and cassia were favored. With the sole exception of timber, fragrant materials were ancient Egypt’s top import. With these materials, precious, lavish fragrances were created and then exported throughout the ancient world. Because these materials had to be transported over great distances, the most popular perfumes were created from hardy components: resins and roots.

At least as far as packaging goes, what the Egyptians would have called perfume would be recognizable to us, meaning that specific and reasonably consistent formulas were created and marketed. In other words, if you were to go perfume shopping today, let’s say to purchase a bottle of “Miss Dior,” you would possess certain expectations of what that product should look and smell like. In much the same way, back in ancient days, were you to purchase a bottle of Susinum, the famed and very popular fragrance based upon the aroma of lilies, you would also have expectations of fragrance and appearance.

Beyond expectations, there was also a standard of excellence to meet. Thus international debate of the time centered on exactly who made the finest Cyprinum, a fragrance based upon the scent of henna (Lawsonia inermis): the perfumers of Egypt (specifically those from Canopus) versus their competition from Ashkelon, Cyprus or Sidon? (Both Pliny and Dioscorides believed the Egyptian product to be superior over all others.)

Ancient perfumes were marketed in elaborate luxurious containers. Just as today, attractive and eye-catching packaging was an integral aspect of the luxury perfume experience. Alabaster, according to Pliny, was the finest material for storing scent. Large quantities of varied perfume bottles have been excavated. Among the cargo excavated from the Ulu Barun shipwreck (named after the Turkish town near where the ship was discovered), were bars of blue glass. This glass is so similar to the cobalt-blue glass beloved by modern aromatherapists that it’s quite tempting to speculate that they would have been turned into blue perfume bottles. (The ship, laden with fragrant materials, apparently sank on its way to Egypt, bearing botanical cargo for further processing. The date of the voyage has been approximated based upon the discovery on the ship of a golden signet ring bearing Nefertiti’s cartouche.)

Just as the ancient customer held reasonable expectations of a product, so the ancient perfumer held clear goals:
· The finished product had to be reasonably consistent: one bottle of Susinum was expected to be reasonably identical with any other.
· The finished product could not turn rancid.
· The finished product had to maintain a lengthy shelf life.

It was the consistent fulfillment of these three goals that created the fame and reputation of ancient Egyptian perfumers. Bottles of Susinum or the Mendesian were renowned for retaining their scent for as long as twenty years.

Modern consumers take those goals for granted. Think about it: if you were to buy a bottle of Chanel, Joy or Guerlain today, and if you care it for it reasonably properly, keeping it tightly capped and out of direct sunlight, wouldn’t you automatically assume that the fragrance would last and linger for years? The ancient customer held the same expectations. The finest Egyptian perfumes filled the same luxury niche that fine French fragrances hold today. Purchasers knew that they could depend upon them not only for their beautiful fragrance but also because they were consistent and enduring. The ancient perfumer was more than a craftsperson: he (or she) was an artist. The key to long lasting, consistent fragrance came in knowing which ingredients to blend together, in what order and in precisely what quantity.

The Egyptians used three methods of releasing fragrance. Perhaps the oldest method was via burning. This technique is evoked and recalled in the modern word perfume, literally “through smoke.” Fragrant materials could also be added to oils or to animal fats (goose, ox or pork) or fruit pastes, like the legendary kyphi, a temple fragrance, which was based upon raisins. As you can imagine, these fragrances would have felt different from what we call perfume today.

Perfume balls sit atop the head

Unguents, fragrant ointments or pastes, are similar to what we know today as solid perfume or perfumed cream. Because they are liquid, perfumed oils are perhaps closest to the texture associated with modern perfume.

Oil alone was considered a necessity of life in Egypt’s arid climate. Even the common working man typically received a daily allocation of oil, amongst his wages, The addition of scent, however, transformed a daily necessity into a luxury. Although the Egyptians had access to some twenty-one different types of vegetable oil, two were favored above all others by the ancient perfumers: balanos and ben. An oil would be favored for two reasons. First, the oil itself would have to possess a bland, pleasing aroma so as to cause minimal interference with the anticipated final fragrance. In addition, oils that retained fragrance longest, helping to sustain the fragrance over an extended period of time, would be preferred. Balanos oil was derived from the fruit of the Balanites aegyptiaca tree.

Although the tree can still be found in Egypt, it is rare and as far as I can tell, no modern oil is derived on any kind of commercial scale. The ancient perfumer’s other favored choice was ben oil, also variously known as moringa, behen, baq or horseradish tree oil (Moringa pterygosperma or M. aptera.) Ben oil was a popular choice, used not only for perfumery but also for various therapeutic purposes. (It was favored in facial skin care.) Unlike balanos, ben oil is once again a component of the perfume trade, grown and extracted in India, from whence it is shipped to Parisian perfume manufacturers. Ben oil is indeed light, pleasantly fragrant and highly absorbent. The scent of the essential oils added to it were vivid and long lasting while the oil itself seemed to disappear quickly, leaving no greasy heavy feeling behind on the skin.

Ancient perfumes were traditionally named for their town of origin or their main ingredient. Thus the Mendesian is named after the ancient city of Mendes, although eventually that perfume would be created elsewhere, even outside Egyptian borders. The Mendesian featured myrrh, cassia and assorted gums and resins steeped in oil. Stakte contained an even stronger aroma of myrrh: it consisted either of bruised myrrh itself, or the resin added to balanos. Cyprinum, is not named after the island of Cyprus but after a plant generally taken to be henna, with the addition of cardamom, cinnamon, myrrh and southernwood. Susinum was a perfume of lilies with myrrh, cinnamon in a base of balanos oil. The eponymous “Egyptian” consisted of cinnamon and myrrh steeped in sweet-smelling wine.

The fragrances the Egyptians loved remain to us: cinnamon, frankincense, lemongrass, myrrh, rose. To approximate the fragrance, if not the texture of their perfumes, add a few drops of essential oil or absolute to a teaspoon of bland vegetable oil: sweet almond oil or grapeseed perhaps. For greater authenticity, mix the fragrance with ben oil.* (Cinnamon and lemongrass can irritate even the least sensitive skin; try a drop on your hair instead.)

Did you know that in the Bible there are over 600 references to essential oils and/or aromatic plants?

An Historical Perspective

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What made frankincense so precious that the wise men of New Testament fame bestowed it upon the infant Jesus? Scientists at Cardiff University in Wales have an answer that may have eluded the three kings of the Bible: It may help relieve and alleviate the painful symptoms of arthritis, which affects millions of people around the world.

Frankincense Plant

Frankincense and the other plant-derived treasure given to the newborn Jesus in the New Testament narrative—myrrh—have a long history dating back thousands of years. Though perhaps best known for their use in incense and ancient rituals, these substances—both of which boast proven antiseptic and inflammatory properties—were once considered effective remedies for everything from toothaches to leprosy. “We have textual—and also archaeological—evidence that both frankincense and myrrh were used as medicinal substances in antiquity,” confirmed Alain Touwaide, a historian of medicine at the Institute for the Preservation of Medical Traditions and the Smithsonian Institution. Today, researchers like the Cardiff team are drawing on this centuries-old knowledge to develop modern treatments for a variety of disorders. Find out more about these healing gifts of the magi.

What are frankincense and myrrh?
Both frankincense and myrrh are derived from the gummy sap that oozes out of the Boswellia and Commiphora trees, respectively, when their bark is cut. The leaking resin is allowed to harden and scraped off the trunk in tear-shaped droplets; it may then be used in its dried form or steamed to yield essential oils. Both substances are edible and often chewed like gum. They are also extremely fragrant, particularly when burned, with frankincense giving off a sweet, citrusy scent and myrrh producing a piney, bitter odor.

Because frankincense and myrrh can be collected from multiple Boswellia and Commiphora species, several different varieties are available. The shrubby trees that produce them are native to the Arabian Peninsula and regions of northeast Africa, though Boswellia has also been cultivated in southern China. (Frankincense has been a staple of traditional Chinese medicine since at least 500 B.C.) Early attempts to grow the trees in the Levant—and specifically in what is now Israel—failed, according to Touwaide.

Ancient uses and value
Both frankincense—also known as olibanum—and myrrh have been traded in the Middle East and North Africa for upwards of 5,000 years. It is believed that the Babylonians and Assyrians burned them during religious ceremonies. The ancient Egyptians bought entire boatloads of the resins from the Phoenicians, using them in incense, insect repellent, perfume and salves for wounds and sores; they were also key ingredients in the embalming process. Myrrh oil served as a rejuvenating facial treatment, while frankincense was charred and ground into a power to make the heavy kohl eyeliner Egyptian women famously wore. Sacks of frankincense and potted saplings of myrrh-producing trees appear in murals decorating the walls of a temple dedicated to Queen Hatshepsut, who ruled Egypt for roughly two decades until her death around 480 B.C.

According to the Hebrew Bible, frankincense and myrrh were components of the holy incense ritually burned in Jerusalem’s sacred temples during ancient times. The ancient Greeks and Romans also imported massive amounts of the resins, which they burned as incense, used during cremations and took for a wide variety of ailments. By this time, medical practitioners had recognized and documented the substances’ antiseptic, anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties, prescribing them for everything from indigestion and chronic coughs to hemorrhoids and halitosis. According to Touwaide, myrrh appears with more frequency than any other plant substance in the writings of the Greek physician Hippocrates, who revolutionized the field of medicine in the fourth and third centuries B.C. The Roman historian and botanist Pliny the Elder, who recommended frankincense as an antidote to hemlock poisoning, wrote in the first century A.D. that the pricey dried sap had made the southern Arabians the richest people on earth.

At the time Jesus is thought to have been born, frankincense and myrrh may have been worth more than their weight in the third gift presented by the wise men: gold But despite their significance in the New Testament, the substances fell out of favor in Europe with the rise of Christianity and fall of the Roman Empire, which essentially obliterated the thriving trade routes that had developed over many centuries. In the early years of Christianity, incense was expressly forbidden because of its associations with pagan worship; later, however, some denominations, including the Catholic Church, would incorporate the burning of frankincense, myrrh and other aromatic items into specific rites.

Frankincense and myrrh today
While the advent of modern medicine dealt another blow to the market for frankincense and myrrh, some communities and alternative practitioners continue to prize the resins for their healing properties. For instance, both are commonly used in traditional Chinese medicine, Ayurveda and aromatherapy. Many popular natural toothpastes contain myrrh, which has proven beneficial to dental and gum health since ancient times.

In a series of clinical and laboratory studies over the last two decades, frankincense and myrrh have shown promise in addressing a number of common disorders. For example, a 1996 paper reported that myrrh blunts pain in mice, while a 2009 study suggested that it might help lower cholesterol. Frankincense has been investigated as a possible treatment for some cancers, ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease, anxiety and asthma, among other conditions. If these ancient remedies can indeed provide relief for the many patients who suffer from these potentially devastating illnesses, the great incense roads of antiquity may flourish once again.

The oils and aromatics mentioned in the Bible were more valuable than gold and silver.  Israel’s King Hezekaih kept “the spices, and the precious ointment” (2 Kings 20:13) together with silver and gold in the royal treasure chamber

Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary defines anoint as “to apply oil to as a sacred rite, especially for consecration.”  It has been suggested that the holy anointing oil described in Exodus 30:23-25 is a symbol of being set apart for special purposes in God’s kingdom.  People and objects were anointed throughout the Bible: Aaron and his sons were anointed priests, the Tabernacle and all of its vessels were anointed before being put into service, and Saul and David were anointed to be kings.  The Hebrew word for Messiah, Moschiach, means “Anointed One.”  Jesus Christ was twice anointed with the oil of spikenard, which was so expensive that Judas was indignant that it wasn’t sold to raise money for the poor.

God mandated that the anointing oil be fragrant when He instructed Moses to add spices and fragrant oils to the base of pure olive oil.  Psalm 45 informs us that the garments of the Messiah are fragrant with myrrh, aloes, and cassia.  In one Bible translation of Philippians 4:18, Paul described gifts given as “a fragrant aroma, an acceptable sacrifice, well-pleasing to God.”

Incense was offered twice daily in the Tabernacle and later in the temple in Jerusalem.  In Proverbs 27:9 we are told “ointment and perfume rejoice in the heart.”  The New Testament suggests that incense offering represents the prayers of saints.  In Revelation 5:8, “four beasts and four and twenty elders fell down before the Lamb, having every one of them harps, and golden vials full of odours, which are the prayers of saints,” the King James translators chose to translate the Greek word “thumiama” as “odours” rather than “incense”.  According to Strong”s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, “thumiama” ritual use of incense represented God’s power over life and death in Numbers 16:46-48 wherein the High Priest Aaron walked through the congregation with it, stopping a deadly plague.

Therapeutic Effects of the
Twelve Oils of  Ancient Scripture

Considering there are 12 oils mentioned numerous times throughout the Holy Scriptures it is no coincidence that God has given these oil to mankind to sustain a healthy body.  These oils alone address all the body systems and appear to be prophetic when considering the volatile times fast approaching God’s people.  A brief synopsis of the oils will be presented to further educate those interested in taking responsibility for their own health.

Aloes/Sandalwood – (Santalum album)

And there came also Nicodemus, which at the first came to Jesus by night, and brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about a hundred pound weight” (John 19:39).  Many botanists believe that aloes was derived from sandalwood, one of the oldest incenses known to man.  Its 4,000-year history includes use as a carved wood as well as distillation for its sweet-, woody-, and fruity-scented oil.  The great quantity of myrrh and aloes used in preparing Christ’s body for burial was indicative of respect.

Action:  Sandalwood is high in sesquiterpenes that have been researched in Europe for their ability to stimulate the pineal gland and the limbic region of the brain.  The pineal gland is responsible for releasing melatonin, a powerful antioxidant that enhances deep sleep.  Sandalwood is similar to Frankincense oil in its support of nerves and circulation.

Indications: Bronchitis (chronic), herpes, cystitis, and skin tumors.

Uses:  May help with cystitis and urinary tract infections.  It may also be beneficial for acne, depression, pulmonary infections, menstrual problems, nervous tension, and skin infection.  It may help dry or dehydrated skin.

Emotional Uses:  May unlock emotional trauma fro DNA of cells, oxygenate the pineal and pituitary glands, thus improving attitude.

Cassia – (Cinnamomum cassia)

All thy garments smell of myrrh, and aloes, and cassia, out of the ivory palaces, whereby they have made thee glad” (Psalm 45:8).  Two of the oldest known spices in the world are cinnamon and cassia.  It was an ingredient in the holy anointing oil and the incense that was burned daily in the temple.  While its aroma is similar to cinnamon, cassia is chemically and physically quite different.

Action: Antibacterial, antiviral, and anti-fungal.

Traditional Uses: The British have used this oil specifically for flatulent dyspepsia or colic with nausea.  In Chinese medicine it is used particularly for vascular disorders.  Cassia oil is among the most antiseptic of essential oils.

Cedarwood – (Cedrus atlantica)

Then the priest shall command to take for him who is to be cleansed two birds alive and clean and Cedarwood and scarlet material and hyssop.” (Leviticus14:4).  The cedars of Lebanon were used to build Solomon’s Temple and Herod’s Temple where Christ taught.  Cedar was an integral part of two biblical purification rituals – one for lepers and another for those who were impure from touching a dead body.  Cedar was noted for its incorruptibility; and in ancient times, clothing was anointed with cedar to protect if from humidity.

Action:  Mildly antiseptic, Cedarwood may be effective against tuberculosis, bronchitis, gonorrhea, urinary infections, and skin disorders such as acne and psoriasis.  It can reduce hardening of the artery walls.  It also may help stimulate the pineal gland, which releases melatonin, an antioxidant hormone associated with deep sleep.

Traditional Uses:  Cedarwood may help with acne, anxiety, arthritis, congestion, coughs, cystitis, dandruff, psoriasis, respiratory system, sinusitis, skin diseases and fluid retention.

Emotional Uses:  It is high in sesquiterpenes that can stimulate the limbic region of the brain (the center of our emotions).  It is recognized for its calming and purifying effects.

Cypress – (Cupressus sempervirens)

He hewest him down cedars, and taketh the cypress and the oak, which he strengthen for himself among the trees of the forest” (Isaiah 44:14).  The cypress tree is renowned for its durability.  The sturdy cypress doors of the St. Peter’s in Rome, for example, show no signs of decay, even after 1,200 years!  The mighty cypress groves of Lebanon were described in the Apocryphal Book of Ecclesiasticus as trees “which groweth up to the clouds” (50:10).  Some Bible scholars believe that cypress may be the “gopher wood” used to build Noah’s Ark.

Action:  Improves circulation and supports the nerves and intestines.  Anti-infectious, antibacterial, anti-microbial (causative agent of tuberculosis), and strengthens blood of capillaries.

Traditional Indications:  Arthritis, bronchitis, circulation, cramps, hemorrhoids, insomnia, intestinal parasites, menopausal problems, menstrual pin, pancreas insufficiencies, pulmonary infections, rheumatism, spasms, throat problems, varicose veins, and fluid retention.

Historical Use:  This oil may be beneficial for asthma, strengthening blood capillary walls, reducing cellulite, circulatory system, strengthening connective tissue, coughs, edema, improving energy, gallbladder, bleeding gums, hemorrhaging, laryngitis, liver disorders, muscular cramps, nervous tension, nose bleeds, and ovarian cysts.  It is outstanding when used in skin care, lessening scar tissue.

Emotional Use:  Cypress influences, strengthens, and helps ease the feeling of loss.  It creates a feeling of security, grounding, and helps heal emotional trauma.

 Frankincense– (Olibanum-Boswellia carteri)

Who is this that cometh out of the wilderness like pillars of smoke, perfumed with myrrh and frankincense, with all powders of the merchant?” (Song of Solomon 3:6).

An ancient synonym for frankincense is “olibanum”, derived from the Latin Olium libanum (oil from Lebanon).  Because frankincense symbolizes divinity, it was one of the three gifts given to the Christ child.  The temples of antiquity were fragrant with the aroma of burning frankincense.  It was well known for its healing powers during the time of Christ.  “Used to treat every conceivable ill known to man”, frankincense was valued more than gold during the ancient times.  Frankincense is now being researched and used therapeutically in European hospitals and is being investigated for its ability to improve human growth hormone production.

Action:  Expectorant, anti-tumoral, immune-stimulant, anti-catarrhal, and anti-depressant.

Traditional Indications:  Asthma, depression, and ulcers.  Supports the immune system.  It increases the activity of leukocytes in defense of the body against infection.

Historical Uses:  This oil may help with allergies, bites (insect and snake), bronchitis, cancer, respiratory infections, diphtheria, headaches, hemorrhaging, herpes, high blood pressure, inflammation, stress, tonsillitis, typhoid, and warts.

Galbanum – (Ferula gummosa)

And the Lord said unto Moses, “take unto thee sweet spices, stacte, and onycha, and galbanum; these sweet spices with pure frankincense; of each there shall be a like weight” (Exodus 30:34).  There is an interesting suggestion in the Jewish Talmud as to why this powerful, less-than-fragrant resin was used in the holy incense: “Every communal fast that does not include sinners of Israel is not a fast.”  This has been linked to the fact that incense included spices or perfumes with lovely fragrances, but was not complete without one spice, galbanum, with its earthy odor.  Also during Biblical times this oil was used for its medicinal properties.

Action: Anti-infectious, anti-inflammatory, stimulant, supporting to the kidneys and menstruation, analgesic, light antispasmodic, and strengthening for the body.

Indications: Asthma, inflammation, poor circulation and wounds.

Historical Uses:  May help with abscesses, acne, asthma, bronchitis, chronic coughs, cramps, cuts, indigestion, muscular aches and pains, nervous tension, rheumatism, scar tissue, stress, wrinkles, and wounds.

Hyssop – (Hyssopus officinalis)

Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow” (Psalm 51:7).  The hyssop plant was used during the exodus from Egypt to dab the Hebrews’ doorposts with lamb’s blood, protecting them from the plague of death.  Hyssop may be the most difficult biblical plant to identify because so many possibilities have been suggested.  However, because hyssop (along with cedar) was used in purification rituals, modern-day hyssop with the chemical constituent carvacrol, which has antibacterial properties, make it a likely choice.

Action:  Anti-asthmatic, anti-catarrhal, anti-infectious, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, anti-parasitic, antiseptic, antispasmodic, antiviral, astringent, decongestant, diuretic, mucolytic, and sedative.

Traditional Indications:   Arthritis, asthma, bruises, respiratory infections, coughs, cuts, dermatitis, indigestion, fatigue, nervous tension, parasites (expelling worms), rheumatism, sore throats, viral infections, and wounds.

Historical Uses:   This oil may help with colds and coughs, digestions, fever, gout, regulating lipid metabolism, raising low blood pressure, clearing lungs, discharging mucus, strengthening and toning the nervous system, preventing scarring, and viral infections.

Emotional Uses:  Hyssop may be beneficial for anxiety and may also aid concentration and alertness by stimulating and clearing the mind.

Myrrh – (Commiphora myrrha)

I have perfumed my bed with myrrh, and aloes, and cinnamon” (Proverbs 7:17).  Christ was given myrrh at His birth; and along with aloes, it was used in preparing His body for burial.  Myrrh was included in the holy anointing oil and was well known to the ancient perfumers.  From Ester 2:12, one learns that the candidates from which King Ahaseuerus was to pick his queen were prepared by anointing: “six month with oil of myrrh, and six months with sweet odours.  The Arabian people of antiquity used myrrh for a variety of skin conditions.

Action:  Anti-infectious, antiviral, parasitic (worms), hormone-like, anti-inflammatory, soothes skin conditions, anti-hyperthyroid, and supports immune system.

Traditional Indications:  Bronchitis, diarrhea, dysentery, hyperthyroidism, stretch marks, thrush, ulcers, vaginal thrush and viral hepatitis.

Historical Uses:  This oil may help asthma, athlete’s foot, candida, coughs, eczema, digestion, fungal infection, gingivitis, gum infections, hemorrhoids, mouth ulcers, ringworm, and sore throats, skin conditions (chapped and cracked), wounds, and wrinkles.
Myrtle – (Myrtus communis)

Go forth unto the mount, and fetch olive branches, and pine branches, and myrtle branches, and palm branches, and branches of thick trees, to make booths, as it is written” (Nehemiah 8:15). When the Jews came out of Babylonian captivity, Kin Nehemiah commanded that they gather branches from four trees, including myrtle.  To the ancient Jews, myrtle was symbolic of peace and justice.  One of the promises to Israel for the future is that “instead of the brier shall come up they myrtle tree”  (Isaiah 55:13)

Action:  Expectorant, anti-infectious, liver stimulant, prostate decongestant, light antispasmodic, hormone-like for the thyroid and ovary, and a tonic for the skin.

Traditional Indications:  Bronchitis, coughs, hypothyroidism, insomnia, thyroid hormone-like effects, prostrate decongestant, respiratory tract ailments, sinus infection, tuberculosis, and ureter infections.  Researched by Dr. Daniel Penoel, Myrtle has been found useful for normalizing hormonal imbalances of the thyroid and ovaries, as well as balancing the hypothyroid.  It has also been researched for its soothing effects on the respiratory system.

Historical Uses:  Asthma, respiratory infections, cystitis, diarrhea, dysentery, dyspepsia (impaired digestion), flatulence, hemorrhoids, hormonal imbalances, support immune system, infections, infectious diseases, pulmonary disorders skin conditions (acne, blemishes, bruises, oily skin, psoriasis, etc.), and sinusitis.  Use on children for chest complaints and coughs.

Onycha – (Styrax benzoin)

And to the Lord said unto Moses, Take unto thee sweet spices, stacte, and onycha, and galbanum; these sweet spices with pure frankincense; of each shall there be a like weight.” (Exodus 30:34).  The great Jewish scholar Rashi said that onycha is a kind of root, while the Tulmud states it came from an annual plant.  It is a possibility that styrax benzoin may be the plan source for onycha.  Like frankincense and myrrh, benzoin is a resin.

Action:  Anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant, antiseptic, carminative, and expectorant.

Traditional Indications:  Arthritis, gout, asthma, bronchitis and skin conditions.

Historical Uses:  Poor circulation, rheumatism, flu, chills, colic, coughs, laryngitis, cuts, chapped skin, and inflamed and irritated skin conditions.

Emotional Uses:  Traditionally known for its comforting and soothing properties for nervous tension and stress.

Rose of Sharon/Cistus – (Labdanum – Cistus Ladanifer)

I am the rose of Sharon, and the lily of the valley” (Song of Solomon 2:1).  In ancient times, the gum that exudes from this plant was collected from the hair of goats that had browsed among the bushes.

Cistus has been studied for its effect on cell regeneration.

Action:  Anti-infectious, antiviral, antibacterial, powerful anti-hemorrhaging agent helps reduce inflammation.

Traditional Indications:  Bronchitis, respiratory infections, urinary infections, wounds and wrinkles.

Historical Uses:  Coughs, rhinitis, and may strengthen and support the immune system (due to phenol action).

Emotional Uses:  Cistus may affect the upper part of the brain.  It may also help quiet the nerves and calm the insomniac.

Spikenard – (Nardostachys jatamansi)

And Jesus being in Bethany, in the house of Simon the leper, as he sat at meat, there came a woman having an alabaster box of ointment of spikenard, very precious, and she broke the box, and poured the ointment on his head.” (Mark 14:3).  Spikenard was transported to the Holy Land in sealed alabaster boxes all the way from the Himalayan Mountains.  When distinguished guest came visiting, the master of the house showed honor by breaking open the spikenard and anointing the guest.  The Hebrew and the Romans used spikenard in the burial of their dead.  This is why Jesus said of the woman who poured the precious spikenard oil on Him, “She is come aforehand to anoint my body to the burying” (Mark 14:8).

Action:  Antibacterial, anti-fungal, anti-inflammatory, and skin tonic.

Traditional Indications:  This oil is known for helping the treatment of allergic skin reactions.

Historical Uses:  Candida, flatulent indigestion, insomnia, menstrual difficulties, migraine, nausea, rashes, staph infections, and tachycardia.  According to Dietrich Gumbel, Ph.D. it strengthens the heart and circulatory system.

Emotional Uses:  Relaxing and soothing to the mind.

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