LONDON —The Magi chose wisely. Who could argue that gold is beautiful and useful? Whilst frankincense and myrrh are ancient natural remedies, which also find favour as a base with which to mix herbs and spices to create incense of different scents.

Myrrh is obtained by tapping the sap of myrrh bushes, a plant that is indigenous to Somalia and Arabia, the likely homelands of the Magi. Once the oozing sap has dried on the bark, it is recovered. Over the Millennia, the dried resin has found its way into ointments, perfume, incense and embalming fluid. As a medicine, myrrh has been used to ease pain, heal wounds and neutralize bad breath. Nanqun Zhu and colleagues from the food science department of Rutgers University, New Jersey reported in 26 November Journal of Natural Products that they have — for the first time — isolated a compound from myrrh which kills...

Interested in reading more?

Become a Member of

Receive full access to more than 35 years of archives, as well as TS Digest, digital editions of The Scientist, feature stories, and much more!
Already a member?