Frankincense and myrrh were highly prized in antiquity as fragrances and as essential oils. They could only be obtained from trees growing in southern Arabia, Ethiopia, and Somalia. Arab merchants used camel caravans to transport the resins across the desert. Some Arabian merchants utilized the incense route to transport not only frankincense and myrrh but also spices, gold, ivory, pearls, precious stones, and textiles. This was an immense traffic of goods on this well hidden route. The Incense Route ran along the western edge of Arabia’s central desert about 100 miles inland from the Red Sea coast but had been lost in history along with the ancient trading city of Ubar.
It is fascinating that some of these caravans would have as many as 3,000 camels in them. The Route stretched from the Persian Gulf, through Oman and Aden, south to Africa and north to Mecca and beyond, eventually linking with Asia making worldwide trade possible. It was only in 1992 through NASA satellite imagery that they were able to discover the ancient city of Ubar which was the center of commerce for well over 3,000 years. Merchants came to Ubar from Sri Lanka, China, and India bringing their spices and silks to trade for resins and precious oils. The caravans would then take these goods and travel across the Empty Quarter to the city of Petra where other merchants from Athens, Alexandria, and Damascus would trade for the silks, linens, spices, and resins and load their camel caravans and travel to their various countries. The location of the valuable frankincense trees were one of the best kept secrets of ancient times. They were actually able to find this trail because of the resins that had been dropped along the way for thousands of years. They showed up on infrarred red photography from space.
Why Were These Oils So Precious to the Ancient World?
Frankincense and myrrh are not just ancient oils–they have been studied by many scientists and found to be anti microbial-anti-bacterial and anti-viral. In a world where superbugs are the norm-this information has been a well kept secret. Frankincense was a universal healing oil used for everything from warts to brain damage. Myrrh was the midwives oil used in childbirth and to purify. The resins were burned as incense and distilled into oil.
To learn more about these ancient essential oils and how they can benefit humankind today, I invite you to attend an aromatherapy program that teaches the healing properties of therapeutic grade essential oils like frankincense and myrrh. The institute of Spiritual Healing and Aromatherapy teaches courses all over the United States.