An Alchemist at Work

I stand before my kitchen counter. I’ve opened two dark, plastic almond oil bottles.

The dark brown coloring protects the oil from possible sun or light damage. I place a tiny plastic funnel into the older bottle’s mouth and pour some newer oil into it. Just some, to raise its low level a bit. Afterwards, I slowly funnel glycerin into both bottles. Glycerin is a commonly used moisturizing additive to oils, skin and other beauty products.

I recap the new almond oil bottle, slightly more than half full, and push it towards the wall. I then recap the now empty glycerin bottle for future reference when I replenish my stock.

If the experiment does not work, I want the newer almond oil unspoiled. Months ago putting sweet-smelling cinnamon oil into some almond oil, I made a mistake. Cinnamon, put onto one’s aging skin at night kept me awake so I was forced to return to using Xanax. I then purchased another bottle for night oil, adding lavender oil to the almond oil. Actually, this lavender concoction does not help me sleep. I still need my addictive Xanax. Cinnamon-almond oil is now only for morning use.

Frankincense resin

Reaching towards the frankincense which sits upon the stove, in one large plastic container, and atop of it, another, much smaller container with a special blend of frankincense with musk – my hand stops mid-air. Which one? I decide the special blend is worth the experiment, regretting I have already used the frankincense and amber with the initial test.

These two special blends are from Oman, at least eight or ten years old. Another large bag of frankincense sits in the living room. I am grateful the hardened resin appears time-resistant. Internet websites suggest storing it in the freezer. When I place small amounts over a burning charcoal, the incense smells fantastic, evoking Christmas and exotic times in Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Oman. There, five-star hotels often left braziers of frankincense burning in their foyers.

However, smokey incense can coat my lungs although I do not smoke cigarettes. Additionally, it would be impossible to use that large bag of frankincense in the living room. Already, I have given small amounts with accompanying charcoal in baggies to neighbors and friends during Christmas holidays. Why not let it fragrance my body oil?

Frankincense is also used in teas, medicinally. My Omani students taught me how honey was used as an antibiotic, which the internet confirmed. Nowadays, the internet lists many medical, but as often with non-Western resources, untested and unproven results. Websites suggest adding it, once crushed into a fine power, to oils. This website, like others, lists frankincense’s anti-aging benefits and more:

  1. arthritis and pain relief
  2. cancer
  3. skin
  4. digestion
  5. stress relief
  6. sleep
  7. oral health
  8. cold and flu
  9. immune system
  10. menstruation problems
  11. household cleaner

The above was unknown to me before making my own frankincense and almond oil concoction. I had heard in Arabia that some people added the frankincense resin to their tea for medicinal reasons. I hadn’t learned for which medical problems.

An acupuncturist had just treated me after being crippled for a year, from a twisted left knee. I had sought Western relief which included x-rays, a cortisone immune-compromising shot (with no positive result), a second opinion doc’s refusal for a knee replacement because I was too weak to successfully perform the after-surgery exercises, then physiotherapy three times a week for six weeks, then at home yoga six days a week for four months.

A friend, who once lived in Guapte, Colombia with its beautifully decorated homes,, told me she had visited an acupuncturist who greatly helped her problems.

One year. Frustrated, but with Covid levels and my Covid paranoia finally lessening, I embarked on a two hour public transportation trek to a highly recommended acupuncturist. Voila – cured! (I’m slowly stumbling into walking, shocked I can, afraid of open spaces that lack walls to cling onto just in case, and thus still carrying my cane. I think my body needs to relearn to walk, use all its muscles, re-balance my gyroscope – to retrain my brain to walk.)

I am thus no longer a non-questioning fan of Western medicine. Yes, Egyptian pharaohs had used willow bark for headaches, the foundation of aspirin. Now in my kitchen at home, I raise a heavy half of a sliced crystal rock (one of two book ends), then again stop.

How best to crush the frankincense-musk resin? Previously, I had trounced the last bit of frankincense-amber on the counter, then shoved the small bits into a small bottle of almond oil. Messy. But the smell was heavenly! Now, I lay a piece of paper onto the counter, sprinkle some frankincense-musk onto it, then place another piece of paper over it, then raised the half slice of a crystal rock and smashed it onto the papers. Yes, some flecks flew free, but most stayed, but smaller. I apply a second hit. Then, using the bottom paper as a funnel, I carefully pour the fine bits into the older bottle of almond oil. Cap it. Shake it. Place it on its side, roll it around, then store it in my bedroom closet. Let the resin perfume the oil for a while.

The second time, I found a deep-dish cake tin, and, taking that into my living room, sat like a toddler on the wooden floor. I poured a large amount of frankincense into the tin, covered it with paper then smashed most to smithereens with the crystal rock.

I return to the kitchen to clean my mess and stand still. I have acted as an alchemist would have hundreds of years ago! I shake me head, look at the tiny plastic funnel. I lament the lack of glass – or even silver or gold – as instruments. I smile, feeling my very old DNA applauding.

WARNING – Oil with frankincense may cause trouble getting to sleep. This also happened when I added cinnamon to my almond oil.

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