Herbs, spices and incense in the Christian Culture - Sirius Herbal

As part of our regular posts about how different cultures use herbs, spices and incense, today we’re looking at how they are used in Christian Culture, as part of rituals and ceremonies.

Research into the medicinal plants from the Bible identifies 45 species of plants, herbs and spices which were referenced, either explicitly or more generally. These include fig, nard, hyssop, Balm of Gilead, mandrake, myrtle, coriander, cumin, date palm, pomegranate, garlic, black cumin and cedar.

Incense plays a much bigger part in the Bible and of course in the daily ceremonies and rituals performed in the Roman Catholic Church, Orthodox and Lutheran churches particularly. It is used as part of religious ceremonies believed to symbolise the prayer of the faithful rising to heaven thanks to references in Psalm and the Revelation of John.

A mix of different sacred incenses is used and burned over hot charcoal in a thurible, a type of incense burner on a chain which is swung to diffuse the smoke by a priest during the service. Mixes of incense differ, but common components include frankincense, benzoin, myrrh, styrax and copal.

Myrrh in Christianity

Myrrh is mentioned in the Bible both as a pain reliever offered to Jesus on the cross mixed with vinegar but refused, as part of the sacred anointing oil mentioned in Exodus and of course as an incense. It was one of the three gifts presented to the baby Jesus, along with Frankincense and Gold and was also referenced in relation to his death and burial.

As well as being used as incense as part of religious ceremonies in the Catholic, Orthodox and Anglican or Episcopal churches, liquid myrrh is also sometimes added to the mix which make icons. Myrrh oil and other fragrances are used in the sacrament of chrismation in the Eastern Orthodox Church. Myrrh is also a wonderful incense which can be burned at home to enjoy its uplifting and energising properties and its cleansing smoke, which has powerful anti-microbial properties.

Frankincense in Christianity

Frankincense is also cited in the Bible as a key part of the holy incense which God asks Moses to make in Exodus and place before the Ark of the Covenant. It is presented to Jesus by the Wise Men to acknowledge that the child is divine, as it was forbidden to use this sacred incense for personal use. It was highly valued and prized, also because it was very expensive. It had to be transported from remote places in Arabia and North Africa and was also difficult and time consuming to harvest. It had already been a key component in the burial rights and ceremonies of the ancient Egyptians and in fact some think that Jews who were working as slaves for the Pharaohs could have learned to use these incenses while in Egypt and brought the knowledge back to the Holy Land. Find out more

Frankincense is still a key component of incense used in Roman Catholic and Orthodox church services. It is also used as an essential oil which is said to ease stress, boost immune function, relieve pain and much more. As an incense, Frankincense is fantastic to cleanse a space and your own energy, leaving you with a sense of balance and harmony. Our customers say it is very calming and burning it gives them a calmer, clearer mind and it is being studied for its link to relieving anxiety and depression. It is also popular as an aid to meditation.

Buy quality Myrrh and Frankincense

We source quality incense from sustainable sources, which our customers love for being highly aromatic and well prepared. Our team can advise you on the best incense to buy to suit your mood and ship it to you quickly, so you have beautifully fragrant incense to enjoy when and where you want it. Our Boswellia Serrata Frankincense and our Commiphora Myrrha Myrrh can be purchased in our online shop from €2.42 for 15 grams. We also sell two forms of copal, which is commonly mixed with frankincense and myrrh in incense blends in the Christian church and can also be burned separately. Copal white is highly prized for its calming fragrance which grounds you and stimulates self-awareness and confidence. Copal gold is said to open the soul and stimulate creativity and imagination and has a gentle, soft and warming fragrance.

All of these incenses are resins, which do not burn naturally. Therefore, we recommend purchasing charcoal disks, placing them into an incense burner, or a heat proof dish full of sand or salt and placing the resin on top when the charcoal disks are grey and have stopped smoking.

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