What Exactly Are Gold, Frankincense, and Myrrh?
This is not about any religion or a discussion of religion. I just wanted to find out what was so important about Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh that they were considered valuable. I ask that any comments please be strictly materials science related.
This one is easy, it is gold, the shiny metal that has been a symbol of wealth since it was first discovered. Gold is a chemical element with the symbol Au and atomic number 79. It is a dense, soft, malleable, and ductile metal with an attractive, bright yellow color and luster that is maintained without tarnishing in air or water. Chemically, gold is a transition metal and a group 11 element. It is one of the least reactive chemical elements, solid under standard conditions. The metal therefore occurs often in free elemental (native) form, as nuggets or grains in rocks, in veins and in alluvial deposits.
ⓐThis metal has been a valuable and highly sought-after precious metal for coinage, jewelry, and other arts since long before the beginning of recorded history. Gold standards have sometimes been monetary policies, but were widely supplanted by fiat currency starting in the 1930s. The last gold certificate and gold coin currencies were issued in the U.S. in 1932. In Europe, most countries left the gold standard with the start of World War I in 1914 and, with huge war debts, did not return to gold as a medium of exchange. The value of gold is rooted in its medium rarity, easily handling, easy smelting, non-corrosiveness, distinct color and non-reactiveness to other elements; qualities most other metals lack.
ⓐBesides its widespread monetary and symbolic functions, gold has many practical uses in dentistry, electronics, and other fields. Its high malleability, ductility, resistance to corrosion and most other chemical reactions, and conductivity of electricity has led to many uses, including electric wiring, colored-glass production, and gold leafing.
ⓐMost of the Earth's gold probably lies at its core, the metal's high density having made it sink there in the planet's youth. Virtually all discovered gold is considered to have been deposited later by meteorites that contained the element, with the asteroid that formed Vredefort crater having been implicated in the formation of the largest gold mining region on earth, Witwatersrand basin
ⓐ Gold has been used for more than 75 years to treat rheumatoid arthritis (RA). (Indeed, gold preparations are among the original medications targeting this form of arthritis). Before its use in RA, gold was used to treat infections, including tuberculosis. Gold is one of a class of medications known as disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs), because it not only decreases the pain and swelling of arthritis but also can prevent joint damage and disability. While gold can be very effective at suppressing the signs and symptoms of RA for some patients, it is used less frequently as new, better tolerated medications have been identified. http://www.rheumatology.org/Practice/Clinical/Patients/Medications/Gold_Preparations_(Myochrysine,_Ridaura,_Solganol)/
Gold nanoparticles are also used in cancer treatment.
As a delivery agent for anti cancer drugs.http://phys.org/news/2013-05-gold-nanoparticles-delivery-cancer-drugs.html
And tiny particles of gold are also used in thermal cancer treatment.http://web.mit.edu/newsoffice/2009/gold-cancer-0504.html
❊ Frankincense, also called olibanum Derived from tree sap, or gum resin, both frankincense and myrrh are prized for their alluring fragrance. Frankincense is a milky white resin extracted from species of the genus Boswellia, which thrive in arid, cool areas of the Arabian Peninsula, East Africa and India. The finest and most aromatic of this species is Boswellia sacra, a small tree that grows in Somalia, Oman and Yemen. These plants, which grow to a height of 16 feet (5 meters), have papery bark, sparse bunches of paired leaves, and flowers with white petals and a yellow or red center
ⓑ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.
I found two dissertations on Frankincense and they are a fascinating, very detailed discussion of Frankincense and its uses. More than you ever wanted to know about this sweet smelling incense. Chemotaxonomic Investigations on Resins of the Frankincense Species Boswellia papyrifera, Boswellia serrata and Boswellia sacra, respectively, Boswellia carterii
by Michael Paul http://scidok.sulb.uni-saarland.de/volltexte/2012/4999/pdf/Dissertation_Fertig_211112.pdfPHYTOCHEMICAL INVESTIGATIONS ON BOSWELLIA SPECIES
by Simla Basarhttp://www.chemie.uni-hamburg.de/bibliothek/2005/DissertationBasar.pdf
❊ Myrrh Myrrh is the aromatic resin of a number of small, thorny tree species of the genus Commiphora, which is an essential oil termed an oleoresin. Myrrh resin is a natural gum. It can also be ingested by mixing it with wine.
ⓓWhen a tree wound penetrates through the bark and into the sapwood, the tree bleeds a resin. Myrrh gum, like frankincense, is such a resin. When people harvest myrrh, they wound the trees repeatedly to bleed them of the gum. Myrrh gum is waxy, and coagulates quickly. After the harvest, the gum becomes hard and glossy. The gum is yellowish, and may be either clear or opaque. It darkens deeply as it ages, and white streaks emerge
ⓓMyrrh's uses are similar to those of frankincense, with which it is often combined in decoctions, liniments and incense
ⓓMyrrh is a common ingredient of tooth powders. Myrrh and borax in tincture can be used as a mouth-wash. A compound tincture, or horse tincture, using myrrh is used in veterinary practice for healing wounds. Meetiga, the trade-name of Arabian Myrrh, is more brittle and gummy than that of the Somalian variety and does not have the latter's white markings.
ⓓThe oleo gum resin obtained from Commiphora species, myrrh is well known as a fragrance used in incense and in perfumes. It is also used in traditional medicine for treating inflammation, stomach problems, asthma and other bronchial conditions. Studies indicate that myrhh has anti-inflammatory, cytotoxic, anti-trichomonas and antipyretic effects in vitro and in mice
Wiki - Has an excellent write up about Gold.
How Stuff Works.
Wiki on Frankincense
Wiki on Myrrh
Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center
Images: Frankincense on a hot coal Wiki
Gold plating on James Webb Space Telescope, NASA