Frankincense, a fragrant resin offered, along with gold and myrrh, by the three kings on the occasion of Christ’s birth, was considered a great gift then, and it’s no less valuable today. Western demand for frankincense provides a livelihood for many villagers in Somaliland, located on the Horn of Africa.
Known for harvesting the finest frankincense in the world, generations of Somalilanders have tapped Boswellia trees for their resin. Two or three times a year village men scrape the bark off the trees, and allow the resin to bleed out and harden before removing it. The women clean and sort the resin.
“The girls must remove the bark and stones and then separate the resins by their quality. It’s difficult, but women are the most patient,” Luul Chama, who runs a frankincense storehouse, told Ashley Hamer for an article in RoadsandKingdoms.com.
Used primarily in perfumes, aromatherapy, and cosmetics, frankincense also continues to play a role in Christian churches. In the Catholic Church, chrism — the holy oil used in the sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation and Holy Orders — is often made of frankincense, along with other fragrant oils such as eucalyptus, balsam, myrrh and lavender.
As the world’s appetite for frankincense increases, harvesters are forced to tap the trees more often, according to Hamer. The trees have become weaker, more prone to disease, and are in danger becoming extinct within 50 years unless action is taken to make the Boswellia trees a sustainable resource. Read the whole story here.