Telluride Acupuncturist, Joshua Geetter, L.Ac., shares the truth behind the legend of Frankincense, Myrhh, and Gold

A Tibetan doctor once taught me that “everything on the planet; animal, mineral and vegetable, is medicine when used in the right context, dosage and timing.” As a traditional Asian doctor, he was familiar with treasured medicines used across the Silk Road cultures from the Mediterranean Sea to the China Sea. The use of frankincense, myrrh and gold (FM&G) goes deeper than Biblical history and broader than Judeo-Christian cultures. Their status as material, medical and spiritual treasures dates to pre-history and crosses national and cultural boundaries. Whole societies and the Silk Road were built to facilitate the production and dissemination of FM&G across the known world. Simultaneously in the Americas, the Incas, Mayans and Aztecs independently used the resins of Copal and Macrophylla Burserea (related to frankincense and myrrh) with gold for similar medicinal and spiritual purposes.

People haven’t risked their lives in mines, deserts and trade routes for thousands of years worldwide just because the plant resins smell good and the gold looks pretty. The authors of the Bible didn’t include this combination on a whim. Around the world separate cultures discovered the same truths: that FM&G are some of the finest treasures on the planet. These truths are largely forgotten and unknown in the modern world. We could hold a month-long class unpacking the wealth of FM&G and barely scratch the surface. However, a short article on the subject can hopefully illuminate these sacred treasures enough to spark our appreciation and further investigation.

Frankincense (boswellia spp, olibanum spp) and myrrh (commiphora spp, burserea spp) are gum resins from extremely hardy desert dwelling trees of East Africa, the Middle East and India. The resins are the immune system of the trees. They defend from infection and heal wounds when the tree is cut or otherwise injured. In turn for humans the compounds function as broad spectrum anti-microbials, immune tonics and wound healers. Further, psycho-spiritually they have a profound effect on the limbic system and the autonomic nervous system, meaning they are anti anxiolytic, antidepressant and mood uplifting. In short, they heal both physical and psychological wounding and move us toward a calm, meditative, prayerful and spiritually uplifted state. Frankincense and myrrh have been used by innumerable people for millennia which translates to them residing in the collective human subconscious (Jung’s Zeitgeist) and being coded medicines by receptors in our brains and genetics.

Minerals and metals, as my Tibetan teacher stated, “are medicines.” No less than 275 medicinal minerals are listed in the classical Chinese Materia Medica text, the “Ben Cao Gong Mu” by Li Shi Zhen published in 1596 AD. Indeed many metals and minerals are used in modern Western medicine.

Calcium, magnesium and iron are standard supplements. Silver is antibiotic. Traditionally to be “born with a silver spoon in one’s mouth” indicated the family had enough wealth to have antibiotic silverware. Silver and platinum are standard modern chemotherapy agents. Gold is perhaps the king of medicinal metals.

Gold needles are used in Acupuncture when one wishes to tonify or enrich the purest essence of the patient. Gold is particularly used to cultivate and bring forth our immutable, un-tarnisheable, divinely aligned human potential. Silver needles are often used to treat our tarnished emotions, obscurations and to dispel dis-ease. The ancient alchemists from Europe to China weren’t so concerned with literal transmutation of lead into gold as they were with the metaphoric transformation of leaden, animalistic, and barbaric humans into their highest, enlightened and golden human potential. The Holy Grail is not a golden cup. We are the sacred chalice when we refine ourselves into our untarnished and golden aspect.

The “Three Wise Kings of East” were also doctors, meditation adepts, philosophers, astrologers and alchemists. They were renaissance men on a profound mission who arrived following the star of Bethlehem “from the East.” Through their wisdom, meditation and study they determined that an enormously important spirit would be born in Bethlehem that night. They knew this person would have a close alignment with the divine, and probably they knew he would also suffer trauma: both that of birth and that which was his destiny.

It made sense for the three kings to bring blessings and empowering medicines to assist this child and give potential to his ability to fulfill his divine destiny on this earth. The alchemic medicinal combination of frankincense, myrrh and gold fit the prescription of empowering highest human potential aligned with prayer, meditation and connection to the divine while effectively treating for trauma. From an Oriental medical perspective that was an excellent diagnosis and treatment to say the least.

The point of this discussion is not to simply elucidate on medical historical perspective. This type of medicine is not extinct. It is some of the most effective and critically needed medicine for 21st Century humanity. The real importance lies in the fact that these incredible medicines and this kind of practice, though rare, are available in the modern world. May they be of benefit to all beings.

— Joshua Geetter L.Ac is an acupuncturist who hails from a lineage of medical doctors. He has served the Telluride community with Oriental medicine for nine years. He enjoys studying medicine and history of the Silk Road and antiquity. He can be reached at 728-6084 or