Oleo-gum resins such as frankincense and myrrh are some of the economically and culturally valuable products obtained from trees and shrubs of the genera Boswellia and Commiphora, respectively. They are important natural plant products used in several industries that include pharmacology, food, flavour, liqueur and beverage, cosmetics, perfumery and others. Moreover, frankincense and myrrh have several local applications in medicinal, hygienic, and insecticide areas that could be developed through research. They are widely used in traditional medicines of several countries for treatments of a wide variety of ailments from embalming to cancer, leprosy, bronchitis, diarrhea, dysentery, typhoid, mouth ulcers, inflammatory complaints, viral hepatitis, female disorders, infections/wounds, coughs, tumour, and others. Although Ethiopia is one of the few countries that are endowed with large frankincense and myrrh resources, little proper exploitation of these resources has been made so far. In this paper a review is presented on pharmacological and industrial applications of these valuable resources. The information is expected to prompt the enormous economic opportunity that these resources could provide both at national and local levels. Concurrently, this opportunity, if properly exploited, will contribute significantly towards the conservation and management of the vegetation resources that yield frankincense and myrrh as well as their ecosystems.
Key words/phrases: Boswellia, Commiphora, folk medicines, industrial use, pharmacology
SINET: Ethiopian Journal of Science Vol.26(2) 2003: 161-172