Thursday, March 13, 2014


Exodus 30 (KJV)
34 And the Lord said unto Moses, Take unto thee sweet spices, stacte, and onycha, and galbanum; these sweet spices with pure frankincense: of each shall there be a like weight:
35 And thou shalt make it a perfume, a confection after the art of the apothecary, tempered together, pure and holy:
36 And thou shalt beat some of it very small, and put of it before the testimony in the tabernacle of the congregation, where I will meet with thee: it shall be unto you most holy.
37 And as for the perfume which thou shalt make, ye shall not make to yourselves according to the composition thereof: it shall be unto thee holy for the Lord.
38 Whosoever shall make like unto that, to smell thereto, shall even be cut off from his people.

Frankincense, also called olibanum, is an aromatic resin obtained from trees of the genus Boswellia, particularly Boswellia sacra, B. carteri, B. thurifera, B. frereana and B. bhaw-dajiana (Burseraceae). The English word is derived from Old French "franc encens" (i.e., high quality incense) and is used in incense and perfumes.

There are four main species of Boswellia that produce true frankincense and resin from each of the four is available in various grades. The grades depend on the time of harvesting. The resin is hand-sorted for quality.
Frankincense can also be found in the Bible as one of the three gifts the wise men gave to the young child Jesus.

Frankincense (l) and Boswellia sacra tree (r)

Flowers and branches of the Boswellia sacra tree, the species from which most frankincense is derived. Frankincense is tapped from the scraggly but hardy trees by slashing the bark, which is called striping, and allowing the exuded resin to bleed out and harden. These hardened resins are called tears. The aroma from these tears is more valuable for its presumed healing abilities and is also said to have superior qualities for religious ritual.

The tree that is harvested for frankincense is called Boswellia Sacra.  Here is a prime example of the tree growing out of solid rock.

There are several species and varieties of frankincense trees, each producing a slightly different type of resin. Differences in soil and climate create even more diversity of the resin, even within the same species. Boswellia Sacra trees are considered unusual for their ability to grow in environments so unforgiving that they sometimes grow out of solid rock. The initial means of attachment to the rock is unknown but is accomplished by a bulbous disk-like swelling of the trunk. This growth prevents it from being ripped from the rock during violent storms that frequent this region. This feature is slight or absent in trees grown in rocky soil or gravel. The trees start producing resin when they are about eight to 10 years old.

Man collecting myrrh in Somalia – Source: Somalia Ministry of Information and National Guidance, Wikimedia Commons.

Tapping is done two to three times a year with the final taps producing the best tears due to their higher aromatic terpene, sesquiterpene and diterpene content. Generally speaking, the more opaque resins are the best quality. Fine resin is produced in Somalia and along the northern coast of Somalia, from which the Roman Catholic Church draws its supplies.

Boswellia Sacra Trees

Recent studies have indicated that frankincense tree populations are declining, partly due to over-exploitation. Heavily tapped trees produce seeds that germinate at only 16% while seeds of trees that had not been tapped germinate at more than 80%. In addition, burning, grazing, and attacks by the longhorn beetle have reduced the tree population. Conversion (clearing) of frankincense woodlands to agriculture is also a major threat.

Frankincense burning on coal

Indirect burning of frankincense on a hot coal
Frankincense has been traded on the Arabian Peninsula and in North Africa for more than 5000 years. A mural depicting sacks of frankincense traded from the Land of Punt adorns the walls of the temple of ancient Egyptian Queen Hatshepsut, who died circa 1458 BC.  see mural

Frankincense was one of the consecrated incenses (HaKetoret) described in the Hebrew Bible and Talmud used in Ketoret ceremonies. The frankincense of the Jews, as well as of the Greeks and Romans, is also called Olibanum (from the Arabic al-lubbān).

Isaiah 60 (KJV)
6 The multitude of camels shall cover thee, the dromedaries of Midian and Ephah; all they from Sheba shall come: they shall bring gold and incense; and they shall shew forth the praises of the Lord.

Song of Solomon 4 (KJV)
14 Spikenard and saffron; calamus and cinnamon, with all trees of frankincense; myrrh and aloes, with all the chief spices:

Leviticus 2 (KJV)
1 And when any will offer a meat offering unto the Lord, his offering shall be of fine flour; and he shall pour oil upon it, and put frankincense thereon:
2 And he shall bring it to Aaron's sons the priests: and he shall take thereout his handful of the flour thereof, and of the oil thereof, with all the frankincense thereof; and the priest shall burn the memorial of it upon the altar, to be an offering made by fire, of a sweet savour unto the Lord:
15 And thou shalt put oil upon it, and lay frankincense thereon: it is a meat offering.
16 And the priest shall burn the memorial of it, part of the beaten corn thereof, and part of the oil thereof, with all the frankincense thereof: it is an offering made by fire unto the Lord.

Leviticus 6 (KJV)
15 And he shall take of it his handful, of the flour of the meat offering, and of the oil thereof, and all the frankincense which is upon the meat offering, and shall burn it upon the altar for a sweet savour, even the memorial of it, unto the Lord.

Leviticus 24 (KJV)
7 And thou shalt put pure frankincense upon each row, that it may be on the bread for a memorial, even an offering made by fire unto the Lord.

It was offered on a specialized incense altar in the time when the Tabernacle was located in the First and Second Jerusalem Temples. The ketoret was an important component of the Temple service in Jerusalem. It is mentioned in the Hebrew Bible book of Exodus 30:34, where it is named levonah (lebonah in the Biblical Hebrew), meaning "white" in Hebrew.

It was one of the ingredients in the perfume of the sanctuary (Exodus 30:34), and was used as an accompaniment of the meal-offering

Malachi 1 (KJV)
11 For from the rising of the sun even unto the going down of the same my name shall be great among the Gentiles; and in every place incense shall be offered unto my name, and a pure offering: for my name shall be great among the heathen, saith the Lord of hosts.

Song of Solomon 1 (KJV)
3 Because of the savour of thy good ointments thy name is as ointment poured forth, therefore do the virgins love thee.

Psalm 141 (KJV)
2 Let my prayer be set forth before thee as incense; and the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice.

Luke 1 (KJV)
10 And the whole multitude of the people were praying without at the time of incense.

Revelation 5 (KJV)
8 And when he had taken the book, the four beasts and four and twenty elders fell down before the Lamb, having every one of them harps, and golden vials full of odours, which are the prayers of saints.

Revelation 8 (KJV)
3 And another angel came and stood at the altar, having a golden censer; and there was given unto him much incense, that he should offer it with the prayers of all saints upon the golden altar which was before the throne.

Song of Solomon 3 (KJV)
6 Who is this that cometh out of the wilderness like pillars of smoke, perfumed with myrrh and frankincense, with all powders of the merchant?

Song of Solomon 4 (KJV)
6 Until the day break, and the shadows flee away, I will get me to the mountain of myrrh, and to the hill of frankincense.

Matthew 2 (KJV)
11 And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense and myrrh.

When burnt it emitted a fragrant odour, and the incense was a symbol of the Divine name and an emblem of prayer. It was often associated with myrrh and with it was made an offering to the infant Jesus. A specially "pure" kind, lebhonah zakkah, was presented with the showbread.

"While burning incense was accepted as a practice in the later Roman Catholic church, the early church during Roman times forbade the use of incense in services resulting in a rapid decline in the incense trade."

Frankincense was reintroduced to Europe by Frankish Crusaders, although its name refers to its quality, not to the Franks themselves. Although it is better known as "frankincense" to westerners, the resin is also known as olibanum, in Arabic al-lubān (roughly translated: "that which results from milking"), a reference to the milky sap tapped from the Boswellia tree. Some have also postulated that the name comes from the Arabic term for "Oil of Lebanon", since Lebanon was the place where the resin was sold and traded with Europeans.


The lost city of Ubar

The lost city of Ubar, sometimes identified with Irem More on Ubar in what is now the town of Shisr in Oman, is believed to have been a center of the frankincense trade along the recently rediscovered "Incense Road". Ubar was rediscovered in the early 1990s and is now under archaeological excavation.

The Greek historian Herodotus was familiar with frankincense and knew it was harvested from trees in southern Arabia. He reported that the gum was dangerous to harvest because of venomous snakes that lived in the trees. He goes on to describe the method used by the Arabs to get around this problem, that being the burning of the gum of the styrax tree whose smoke would drive the snakes away.  The resin is also mentioned by Theophrastus and by Pliny the Elder in his Naturalis Historia.

Southern Arabia was a major exporter of frankincense in ancient times, with some of it being traded as far as China. The Chinese writer and customs inspector Zhao Rugua wrote on the origin of frankincense, and of its being traded to China:  "Ruxiang or xunluxiang comes from the three Dashi countries of Murbat (Maloba), Shihr (Shihe), and Dhofar (Nufa), from the depths of the remotest mountains.  The tree which yields this drug may generally be compared to the pine tree. Its trunk is notched with a hatchet, upon which the resin flows out, and, when hardened, turns into incense, which is gathered and made into lumps. It is transported on elephants to the Dashi (on the coast), who then load it upon their ships to exchange it for other commodities in Sanfoqi. This is the reason why it is commonly collected at and known as a product of Sanfoqi."


Silver (l) and Hojari  (r) are generally considered the highest grades of frankincense.

Frankincense comes in many types, and its quality is based on color, purity, aroma, age, and shape. Silver and Hojari are generally considered the highest grades of frankincense. The Omanis themselves generally consider Silver to be a better grade than Hojari, though most Western connoisseurs think that it should be the other way round.[citation needed] This may be due to climatic conditions with the Hojari smelling best in the relatively cold, damp climate of Europe and North America, whereas Silver may well be more suited to the hot dry conditions of Arabia.

Sultan Qaboos

Local market information in Oman suggests that the term Hojari encompasses a broad range of high-end frankincense including Silver. Resin value is determined not only by fragrance but also by color and clump size, with lighter color and larger clumps being more highly prized. The most valuable Hojari frankincense locally available in Oman is even more expensive than Somalia's Maydi frankincense derived from B. frereana. The vast majority of this ultra-high-end B. sacra frankincense is purchased by Sultan Qaboos bin Said the ruler of Oman, and is notoriously difficult for western buyers to correctly identify and purchase.


Boswellia sacra tree, from which frankincense is derived, growing inside Biosphere 2

Frankincense is used in perfumery and aromatherapy. It is also an ingredient that is sometimes used in skincare. The essential oil is obtained by steam distillation of the dry resin. Some of the smell of the frankincense smoke are products of pyrolysis.

Frankincense is used in many Christian churches including the Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox and Catholic churches. According to the gospel of Matthew 2:11, gold, frankincense, and myrrh were among the gifts to Jesus by the biblical magi "from out of the East." The Judaic, Christian and Islamic faiths have all used frankincense mixed with oils to anoint newborn infants, initiates, and members entering into new phases of their spiritual lives.

Conversely, the growth of Christianity depressed the market for frankincense during the 4th century AD. Desertification made the caravan routes across the Rub' al Khali or "Empty Quarter" of the Arabian Peninsula more difficult. Additionally, increased raiding by the nomadic Parthians in the Near East caused the frankincense trade to dry up after A.D. 300.

Traditional medicine
Frankincense olibanum resin

Frankincense resin is edible and is used in traditional medicines in Africa and Asia for digestion and healthy skin. For internal consumption, it is recommended that frankincense be translucent, with no black or brown impurities. It is often light yellow with a (very) slight greenish tint. It is often chewed like gum, but it is stickier.

In Ayurvedic medicine frankincense (Boswellia serrata), commonly referred to in India as "dhoop," has been used for hundreds of years for treating arthritis, healing wounds, strengthening the female hormone system and purifying the air. The use of frankincense in Ayurveda is called "dhoopan". In East African, Arabian, and Indian cultures it is suggested that burning frankincense daily in the house brings good health.

Frankincense essential oil

Frankincense (Boswellia carteri) essential oil in a clear glass vial

The essential oil of frankincense is produced by steam distillation of the tree resin. The oil's chemical components are 75% monoterpenes, sesquiterpenes, monoterpenoles, sesquiterpenols, and ketones. It has a good balsamic sweet fragrance, while the Indian frankincense oil has a very fresh smell. Steam or hydro distilled frankincense oil does contain a number of boswellic acids (triterpenoids) which represents a method of validating the authenticity of the essential oil. The chemistry of the essential oil is mainly monoterpenes and sesquiterpenes with small amounts of diterpenoid components being the upper limit in terms of molecular weight.


Olibanum is characterized by a balsamic-spicy, slightly lemon, fragrance of incense, with a conifer-like undertone. It is used in the perfume, cosmetic and pharmaceutical industries.

Medical research

For therapy trials in ulcerative colitis, asthma and rheumatoid arthritis there are only isolated reports and pilot studies from which there is not yet sufficient evidence of safety and efficacy. Similarly, the long-term effects and side effects of taking frankincense has not yet been scientifically investigated. Nonetheless, several preliminary studies have been published.

A 2008 study reported that frankincense smoke was a psychoactive drug that relieves depression and anxiety in mice. The researchers found that the chemical compound incensole acetate was responsible for the effects.

In a different study, an enriched extract of "Indian Frankincense" (usually Boswellia serrata) was used in a randomized, double-blinded, placebo-controlled study of patients with osteoarthritis. Patients receiving the extract showed significant improvement in their arthritis in as little as seven days. The compound caused no major adverse effects and, according to the study authors, is safe for human consumption and long-term use.

In a study published in 2009, it was reported that "Frankincense oil appears to distinguish cancerous from normal bladder cells and suppress cancer cell viability."

A 2012 study in healthy volunteers determined that exposure to 11-keto-β-boswellic acid (KBA), a lead boswellic acid in the novel solubilized frankincense extract Boswelan, is increased when taken with food. However, simulations based on a two-compartment pharmacokinetic model with single first-order absorption phase proposed that the observed food interaction loses its relevance for the simulated repeated-dose scenario.

In a 2012 study, researchers found that the "behavioral effect [of insensole actetate] was concomitant to reduced serum corticosterone levels, dose-dependent down-regulation of corticotropin releasing factor and up-regulation of brain derived neurotrophic factor transcripts IV and VI expression in the hippocampus. These data suggest that IA modulates the hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal (HPA) axis and influences hippocampal gene expression, leading to beneficial behavioral effects supporting its potential as a novel treatment of depressive-like disorders."

Additional Information

Stacte (Greek: στακτή, staktḗ) or nataph (Hebrew: נָטָף, nataf) are names used for one component of the Solomon's Temple incense, the Ketoret.   An unspecified "gum resin" or similar, it was to be mixed in equal parts with onycha (prepared from certain vegetable resins or seashells parts), galbanum and mixed with pure frankincense and they were to "beat some of it very small" for burning on the altar of the tabernacle.

This incense was considered restricted for sacred purposes honoring Yahweh; the trivial or profane use of it was punishable by exile.

The Hebrew word nataf means "drop," corresponding to "drops of water Job 36 (KJV) 27." The Septuagint translates nataf as stacte, a Greek word meaning "an oozing substance," which refers to various viscous liquids, including myrrh. Rabban Shimon ben Gamliel explained, "Stacte is simply the sap that drips from the tapping of the wood of the balsam tree." It is not exactly clear from what plant nataf was derived. It might have been a myrrh extract of the highest grade, the resin of Styrax officinalis, the resin of Styrax benzoin (a close relative of and of the same genus as Styrax Officinalis), or even storax, the resin of Turkish Sweetgum (Liquidambar orientalis).

Contenders for Stacte


Myrrh Extract
Most all ancient sources refer to Stacte as being a produce of myrrh. It is variously described as the transparent parts separated or extracted from the myrrh resin, the myrrh that exudes spontaneously from the tree, or the product of myrrh heated over fire.

The ancient Greek botanist Theophrastus describes the manufacturing of stacte: "From the myrrh, when it is bruised flows an oil; it is in fact called "stacte" because it comes in drops slowly." The ancient Roman historian Pliny in "A Natural History," describes stacte as, "the liquid which exuded naturally from the myrrh tree before the gum was collected from man-made incisions." Pancirollus says, myrrh is a drop or tear distilling from a tree in Arabia Felix; and stacte is a drop of myrrh, which is extracted from it, and yields a most precious liquid.

Dioscorides wrote that Stacte was made from Myrrh. He recorded that after having bruised the myrrh and dissolved it in oil of balanos over a gentle fire, hot water was poured over it. The myrrh and oil would sink to the bottom like a deposit; and as soon as this has occurred, they strained off the water and squeeze the sediment in a press.

Stoddart, who lists myrrh as a balm, informs us that "Myrrh—after the almost clear stacte has passed through—is reddish brown . . . Stacte is the thinnest moiety of myrrh, the very best of which is forced through tiny holes in the intact bark at the start of spring."

Pomet wrote that to obtain stacte one must first gather the myrrh "that flows spontaneously from the tree" and to look for portions of the resin which are "clear and transparent, apt to crumble, light." He says to choose the myrrh "that when it is broke, has little white spots in it." We are told that "stacte is that liquid part which is found in the center or middle of the lumps or clots of myrrh." Pomet also wrote that stacte is that "which is first so gather'd from the tree without force, and also press'd from the myrrh . . . there is prepar'd from it, an extract, an oil or liquor of myrrh."

The Gerrhaean tribute to Antiochus III in 205 BC included one thousand talents of frankincense and two hundred of "stacte myrrh."
Cant. 5:5 reads, “I rose up to open to my beloved; And my hands dropped with myrrh, And my fingers with stacte” referring to myrrh and the stacte which seems to have exuded from it. This would seem to agree with Sauer and Blakely who note that stacte was myrrh oil or liquid myrrh.

Abrahams informs that “With regard to the Tabernacle incense, most scholars agree that the term 'stacte' is of Latin and Greek origin, and that stacte represents myrrh." 

A. Lucas informs us in no uncertain terms that stacte is indeed a product of the myrrh tree. Tucker says that “Common myrrh is obtained from Commiphora myrrha ; this is the species from which . . . stacte, was obtained.”

R. Steuer, in his scholarly paper Stacte in Egyptian Antiquity, gives a convincing argument in favor of stacte being the product of the myrrh tree in ancient Egypt.

Styrax Offinalis

Styrax Officinalis
Most modern authorities identify stacte with the gum of the Storax tree (Styrax officinale, syn S. officinalis). One source states that stacte is “the product of the Storax"

The Septuagint name 'Stacte,' derived from the verb 'stazo,' to flow. By metonymy the name of the product, most probably, was transferred to the tree—as was the case in so many other instances among the ancient Israelites . 

It must not for a moment be confused or confounded with the Liquid Storax of commerce, which is the product of an altogether different Eastern tree . . . The Talmud contains several references to the Storax plant and its product. Of course in connection with the preparation of the holy incense for the Temple services." 

The ancient book of Jubilees, part of the dead Sea scroll collection found in Qumran, make reference to storax (styrax). Carroll and Siler says that "The Septuagint’s translation was most likely in error because it seems unlikely that nataph is a form of myrrh . . . it seems that its translation in the Septuagint as stacte was made simply because both nataph and stacte mean 'to drip' . . . the storax tree seems more likely.  Our word storax may even come from the Hebrew tsori." 

Styrax Benzoin

Styrax Benzoin
(Styrax benzoin syn. Styrax Tonkinensis)
In his commentary on Exodus 30:34 Cook writes that “it seems by no means unlikely that the stacte here mentioned was the gum known as Benzoin, or Gum Benjamin, which is an important ingredient in the incense now used in churches and mosks, and is the produce of another storax-tree (Styrax benzoin) that grows in Java and Sumatra."

Styrax benzoin has a history steeped in antiquity and was once employed by the ancient Egyptians in the art of perfumery and incense. The apothecary of Shemot (book of Exodus) would have been familiar with its aromatic uses. All the compounds identified in benzoin resin were detected in an archaeological organic residue from an Egyptian ceramic censer, thus proving that this resin was used as one of the components of the mixture of organic materials burned as incense in ancient Egypt.

Morfit writes that the priests of Memphis burned benzoin incense every morning. The name "benzoin" is probably derived from Arabic lubān jāwī (لبان جاوي, "Javan frankincense"); compare the mid-eastern terms "gum benjamin" and "benjoin". H.J. Abrahams states that the use of benzoin in the Biblical incense is not inconceivable since Syro-Arabian tribes maintained extensive trade routes prior to Hellenism. Styrax benzoin was available via import to the Biblical lands during the Old Testament era.

The Hindustanis use Styrax Benzoin to burn in their temples-which Strong and McClintoch write is a circumstance strongly in favor of the hypothesis that the stacte of Exodus is a storax.  

Many scholars cite Styrax officinalis as the biblical styrax, however the yield of resin produced by S. officinalis, if any is produced at all, is extremely small. The large amounts of stacte needed for liturgical purposes, especially in the first temple period, would seem to have necessitated the import of a styrax that could have met the demand. Styrax benzoin yields a much larger yield of resin and could fill this need quite adequately. As mentioned above, Styrax benzoin is a close relative of and of the same genus as Styrax officinalis. Herodotus of Halicarnassus in the 5th century BC indicates that different kinds of "storax" were traded. Dioscorides referred to styrax as “storax” which was the name used of the styrax genus in antiquity (modern storax is usually liquidamber).  

Balsam trees

Gamaliel said that stacte was nothing more than the sap that drips from the branches of the balsam tree. Balsam is a term that has been used for a variety of pleasantly scented vegetable gums that usually contain benzoic acid such as is contained in benzoin gum from the balsam tree styrax benzoin.

Dioscordes describes two kinds of stacte; one which is derived from myrrh and one which was derived from styrax. He also refers to “another called gabirea also yields much stacte.”

Houtman writes that stacte refers to myrrh, but is also used for other types of gums.

Rosenmeuller records that “the Greeks also called stacte, a species of Storax gum, which Dioscorides describes, as transparent like a tear, and resembling myrrh.” The word 'Storax' is an alteration of the Late Latin styrax.   In the Orphic hymns, the Greek word for storax is στόρακας or στόρακα.

One ancient Egyptian perfume formula (1200 BC) consisted of “Storax, Labdanum, Galbanum, Frankincense, Myrrh, Cinnamon, Cassia, Honey, Raisins.”

The book of Ecclesiasticus lists storax as one of the ingredients when alluding to the sacred incense of the biblical tabernacle.

Benzoin oil (l) and Myrrh extract (r)

Myrrh Extract and Styrax Benzoin mixed
Some writers say that myrrh rarely consisted of one sole resin but was a mixture of resins. One kind of myrrh described by Dioscorides was "like the stacte, a composition of myrrh and some other ingredient".

Dioscorides said that one form of stacte was styrax (storax in antiquity) and a fat mixed. The essential of myrrh is often referred to as “the fat of fresh myrrh.” 

The book of Eccesiasticus (Sirach) 24:15 alludes to the sacred incense speaking of “a pleasant odour like the best myrrh, as galbanum, and onyx, and sweet storax, and as the fume of frankincense in the tabernacle.” Either myrrh and styrax were originally mixed together or styrax was treated with myrrh or by the time of the first temple period a fifth ingredient was added to the ketoret.

Styrax may have been the solid carrier for the liquid myrrh. For centuries, benzoin has been mixed with myrrh, particularly in the Middle East, to scent private homes and places of worship.

Commiphora myrrha

Opobalsamum / Mecca Myrrh
Some writers believe that stacte was derived from the balsam tree, Commiphora opobalsamum, known as kataf in the Talmud, which grows wild in Yemen and around Mecca. 

The Revised Standard Version places "opobalsamum" in the margin by Exodus 30:34. From the commiphora genus, opobalsamum is a relative of the official myrrh known as commiphora myrrha and produces a myrrh resin known as Mecca myrrh.

Irenaeus referred to “myrrh called opobalsumum.”  The juice exudes spontaneously during the heat of summer, in resinous drops, but at other times the process is helped by making incisions in the bark.  It historically has produced a very pleasant aromatic resin with many alleged medicinal properties. The resin has a strong fragrant smell, with something of the lemon or citron flavour, a scent of vanilla, and the bitter, astringent aroma of commiphora myrrha. 

Balsam of Tolu

Balsam of Tolu
Sometimes called opobalsamum and is sometimes substituted for it, however it is not the true C. opobalsamum. Balsam of Tolu has a sweet, aromatic, resinous scent with an odour resembling vanilla or benzoin.  Opoponax (Commiphora erythraea var. glabrescens) is sometimes referred to as opobalsamum, and is a relative of but not the true C. opobalsamum.


It is believed by some that liquidamber was the stacte of antiquity. This ancient product was discovered in King Tut's tomb.

Cinnamon (l) and Myrrh Extract (r)

Myrrh Extract and Cinnamon mixed
Rosenmuller says that the etymology of the word stacte indicates "to distil," and that it was a distillate from myrrh and cinnamon which was mixed together.

Labdanum (l) and Myrrh (r)

Myrrh and Labdanum mixed
Moldenke writes that the myrrh of certain parts of Biblical history was actually labdanum. It is believed that many instances in the Bible where it speaks of myrrh it is actually referring to a mixture of myrrh and labdanum. According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary one of the definitions of “myrrh” is “a mixture of myrrh and labdanum.” If what was often referred to as myrrh was actually a mixture of myrrh and labdanum, then the manufacturing of stacte as described by Dioscorides could have reasonably been the product of this myrrh and labdanum mixture.



The fragrant resin obtained from some species of cistus and called in Arabic ladham, in Latin ladanum. Stacte is described as resin which exudes naturally without a manmade incision. Labdanum exudes from the rock rose bush naturally without any incisions being made.

Genesis 37 (KJV)
25 And they sat down to eat bread: and they lifted up their eyes and looked, and, behold, a company of Ishmeelites came from Gilead with their camels bearing spicery and balm and myrrh, going to carry it down to Egypt.

Genesis 43 (KJV)
11 And their father Israel said unto them, If it must be so now, do this; take of the best fruits in the land in your vessels, and carry down the man a present, a little balm, and a little honey, spices, and myrrh, nuts, and almonds:

Oil of Cinnamon

Oil of Cinnamon
Stacte might have been the sweetly fragrant resin that used to exude spontaneously from Amyris kataf, the bark of which, in other opinions, is the biblical “cinnamon.” or may have been the product of the cinnamon tree itself.

Jules Janick writes: “Stacte; unknown, probably oil of cinnamon or cassia or aromatic gem resins.”
From Websters Dictionary: “Stacte;One of the sweet spices used by the ancient Jews in the preparation of incense. It was perhaps an oil or other form of myrrh or cinnamon, or a kind of storax.”

Additional Biblical Scriptures on Frankincense

1 Chronicles 9 (KJV)
26 For these Levites, the four chief porters, were in their set office, and were over the chambers and treasuries of the house of God.
27 And they lodged round about the house of God, because the charge was upon them, and the opening thereof every morning pertained to them.
28 And certain of them had the charge of the ministering vessels, that they should bring them in and out by tale.
29 Some of them also were appointed to oversee the vessels, and all the instruments of the sanctuary, and the fine flour, and the wine, and the oil, and the frankincense, and the spices.
30 And some of the sons of the priests made the ointment of the spices.


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