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Saving Frankincense and Christmas For Future Generations
“Whilst we are all familiar with gold (especially in this Olympic year), it is the mention of frankincense and myrrh that really says ‘Christmas’ to us and and takes our imaginations back to ancient times,” opened an Oxford University Press news release about a study published earlier this month in the journal Annals of Botany called “Resin secretory structures of Boswellia papyrifera and implications for frankincense yield.”
Does it take your imagination back to “ancient times?” Do the the three gifts the Wise Men brought to welcome baby Jesus and “resin secretory structures” evoke Christmas like chestnuts roasting on an open fire or pink aluminum trees?
I think the majority of us wonder what frankincense and myrrh are- spices, plants, or are they candy? Please let them be candy!
Sadly, frankincense-the subject of today’s blog- is not candy, it’s billed as a fragrance, an anti-inflammatory, and a meditation oil.
Boswellia papyrifera is the tree Ethiopan frankincense is harvested from and Ethiopia alone trades around 4,000 tons of frankincense every year making them the main exporter. A single tree can produce an average of 200–350g of resin a year.
Maple trees are tapped to get syrup and similarly Boswellia papyrifera is tapped with a chisel-like tool to harvest the resin. Tapping is carried out at several spots along the stem: anywhere from eight to a dozen rounds during the eight month long dry season. But a high demand for the resin means the trees are being over-exploited and populations are at risk of dying out and this threatens the livelihoods of villagers who depend on the frankincense industry.
Apparently people purchase frankincense for the holidays to make their homes smell festive. The traditional sugar, cinnamon, and pine scents must not be authentic enough for their homes.
One reviewer on Amazon likened an essential oil derived from Boswellia serrata or Indian frankincense to the smell of a “compost heap” and another reviewer said it smelled like “cedar, or something woodsy.”
To still meet demand and protect the trees, Motuma Tolera and a team of botanists studied the inner tree bark and they think may have found a more efficient tapping method.
Tolera says, “Our results suggest that tapping can become more efficient. A cut that goes deeper, earlier in the tapping cycle, may drain the resin more effectively. Since the 3-D resin canal network may allow for long distance movement of resin when it is intact, this would be an option to reduce the number of cuts, and reduce the damage to the trees. New studies will be needed to show how such improvements may keep trees healthy but still productive for resin production. This opens new ways for a more sustainable frankincense production system.”
Hurray! Christmas is saved!
1944: Camano Class Light Cargo Ship was laid down for the US Army as FS-289 at Wheeler Shipbuilding in Whitestone, NY.
1955 - 1963: Used as a cargo supply ship for the Texas Towers, a network of advanced radar stations located off the Eastern Seaboard. In 1957, Capt. Sixto Mangual was commander of the AKL-17 and in 1961 it was rechristened the USNS New Bedford. The New Bedford, sailing out of State Pier, was keeping vigil when Texas Tower No. 4 callapsed off the New Jersey coast during a January 1961 nor'easter.
2006: Design of the Tesla Turbine began on June 11, 2006. The Sea Bird was sold by Defense Reutilization and Marketing Service for commercial service.