Mary and the Gifts

Like many women today, I have been searching out health and well-being techniques, or philosophies, that are either outside of the traditional medical establishment or can be used to complement traditional medicine.  To this end, I attended a “Healing Oil of the Bible” class last year that I found to be quite interesting.  The premise of the class was discovering the healing properties of essential oils, especially those named in Scripture. 

The class was taught by a naturopathic doctor and involved learning the compounds of essential oils as well as their original uses or intents.  Scripture passages were often referred to and I found the class very intriguing.  I love anything that can lead me back to Scripture and has roots deep into the past.  To look at the ways in which healing was approached many thousands of years ago was fascinating.

Over the course of the months following the class, my interest in essential oils continued to grow.  Once Christmas season made its way onto the calendar, myrrh and frankincense took center stage in my research.  It was as if I’d never heard of these Magi gifts before!  I suddenly cared deeply why each was given at the birth of the Christ Child.

“Lebonah” is the Hebrew word for frankincense, and it is the word found throughout Scripture, although in some Bible translations it has become, simply, “incense.”  As one of the gifts of the Magi, frankincense is reputed to have many healing properties that would have been useful to Mary after having given birth to Jesus.  Frankincense is said to act as a tonic to the uterus and can help ease postnatal depression.  Frankincense is also considered a good remedy for some coughs and even in treating various forms of bronchitis.  It is said to give a “lift” to aging skin and has a reputation for being a valuable skin care ingredient.  It comes from the bark of a Boswellia tree and is recognized by its woody fragrance.

The second precious gift given by the Magi was myrrh.  From the earliest time in Scripture, myrrh was used in a variety of ways.  After childbirth, myrrh was often used on the newborn’s umbilical cord to prevent infection.  Other medicinal uses for myrrh include its use on skin ulcers and eczema.  Like frankincense, myrrh is derived from the gum resin of a tree in the Burseraceae family, as is the Balm of Gilead.  Myrrh has a more exotic aroma than frankincense. 

Imagine, then, the way in which Mary may have rubbed myrrh onto the umbilical cord of Jesus or how she may have applied frankincense to her own skin.  The way she would have used these gifts for her own well-being and the well-being of her Son, our Savior is amazing.  Learning this has drawn me closer to Mary as I re-embrace how very human she was — to have received a gift that has known healing agents for something like postnatal depression.  Sometimes in our zeal for Mary we do forget that so much of what we experience as mothers, she, too, would have experienced.  We recognize the way these gifts of frankincense and myrrh foretold the priestly and sacrificial role of Our Savior.  But they are actually gifts to us as well, in allowing us a very private glimpse into the birth of Christ, from a mom’s perspective.

Cheryl Dickow


Cheryl Dickow is a Catholic wife, mother, author and speaker. Cheryl’s newest book is Wrapped Up: God’s Ten Gifts for Womenwhich is co-authored with Teresa Tomeo and is published by Servant (a division of Franciscan Media); there is also a companion journal that accompanies the book and an audio version intended for women’s studies or for individual reflection. Cheryl’s titles also include the woman’s inspirational fiction book Elizabeth: A Holy Land Pilgrimage. Elizabeth is available in paperback or Kindle format. Her company is Bezalel Books where her goal is to publish great Catholic books for families and classrooms that entertain while uplifting the Catholic faith and is located at To invite Cheryl to speak at your event, write her at

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