The second wise man brought frankincense to the manger of the baby Jesus.
Frankincense is used mainly as a fragrance, but it does have useful properties meaning it is still used by some as an alternative medicine. As an essential oil, frankincense can demand high prices, with a single litre fetching up to $6000!
Frankincense is a hardened resin from the Boswellia tree, native to northern Africa, India, Oman and Yemen, but due to being over-tapped for their sap they are at a near-threatened state.
Harvesters cut into the tree trunks and scrape out the oozing sap. This is left to dry in the sun, and the harvesters return after about 14 days to collect the dried resin.
The harvesting of frankincense happens twice a year – in the spring and autumn. The process is risky – the trees can grow on cliff edges and canyon walls, with shallow root systems, making them unstable, leading to many workers falling and injuring themselves.
Let’s hope your gifts this Christmas don’t rely on people risking their lives for you to receive them!
Until next time, keep calm and apply some Science!