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Posted by Samina Cabral
Samina Cabral
Samina Cabral is a native Southern Californian who now resides on the shores of
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on Monday, 10 December 2012
in Mother Nature's Vegetation

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 andFrankincense and matchbox 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!

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Samina Cabral is a native Southern Californian who now resides on the shores of Lake Erie in Northeast Ohio. Samina and her husband believe that sustainability starts in the home and try to live their lives as simply as possible without compromising comfort.

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1945: Delivered to US Army.

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1950: Acquired by the US Navy on July 1, 1950 and placed in service as USNS New Bedford (T-AKL-17).

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1954: The movie, Mister Roberts, was made on the USNS New Bedford (T-AKL-17).

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