FRANKINCENSE, an aromatic tree oil and in Christian tradition one of the three wise men's gifts to the baby Jesus, may be a helpful treatment for bladder cancer, according to a study published today.
US scientists tested an enriched extract of the frankincense herb boswellia carteri on both human bladder cancer cells and normal bladder cells in laboratory experiments.
The oil suppressed cancer growth and activated mechanisms which kill the dangerous cells, they said.
"Frankincense oil can discriminate bladder cancer cells and normal urothelial cells in culture. The oil suppresses cell survival and induces apoptosis in cultured bladder cancer cells," said the study.
Lead researcher Doctor Hsueh-Kung Lin of the University of Oklahoma said: "Frankincense oil may represent an inexpensive alternative therapy for patients currently suffering from bladder cancer."
The study noted that the oil originated from Africa, India and the Middle East and has been "important both socially and economically as an ingredient in incense and perfumes for thousands of years".
According to the Bible, it was presented to the infant Jesus by the three wise men, along with gold and myrrh.
The study was published in the online British Medical Council journal Complementary and Alternative Medicine.