Frankincense Resin & Oil (Boswellia carterii, serrata, & sacra)
Frankincense is an aromatic resin used in incense and perfumes, obtained from trees of the genus Boswellia in the family Burseraceae, particularly Boswellia sacra (syn: B. bhaw-dajiana), B. carterii, B. frereana, B. serrata (B. thurifera, Indian frankincense), and B. papyrifera. The English word is derived from Old French “franc encens” (i.e., high quality incense). There are four main species of Boswellia that produce true frankincense. Resin from each of the four is available in various grades, which depend on the time of harvesting. The resin is then hand-sorted for quality.
Olibanum is characterised by a balsamic-spicy, slightly lemon, fragrance of incense, with a conifer-like undertone. It is used in the perfume, cosmetic and pharmaceutical industries.
Chemical Composition: Structure of β-boswellic acid, one of the main active components of frankincense. These are some of the chemical compounds present in frankincense:
- “acid resin (56 %), soluble in alcohol and having the formula C20H32O4”
- gum (similar to gum arabic) 30–36%
- 3-acetyl-beta-boswellic acid (Boswellia sacra)
- alpha-boswellic acid (Boswellia sacra)
- 4-O-methyl-glucuronic acid (Boswellia sacra)
- incensole acetate, C21H34O3
- (+)-cis- and (+)-trans-olibanic acids
Blending: Frankincense oil blends well with other oils such as Lime, Lemon, Orange and other Citrus oils as well as Benzoin, Bergamot, Lavender, Myrrh, Pine, and Sandalwood oil. This makes it a popular element of various aromatherapy combinations.
Uses for Frankincense
Boswellia serrata is a tree native to India that produces special compounds that have been found to have strong anti-inflammatory, and potentially anti-cancer, effects. Among the valuable boswellia tree extracts that researchers have identified, several stand out as being most beneficial, including terpenes and boswellic acids, which are strongly anti-inflammatory and protective over healthy cells.
Frankincense is used in perfumery and aromatherapy. It is also an ingredient that is sometimes used in skincare. The essential oil is obtained by steam distillation of the dry resin. Some of the smells of the frankincense smoke are products of pyrolysis.
Frankincense oil is used by either inhaling the oil or absorbing it through the skin, usually mixed with a carrier oil, such as an unscented lotion or jojoba oil. It’s believed that the oil transmits messages to the limbic system of the brain, which is known to influence the nervous system. A little bit of oil goes a long way; it should not be ingested in large quantities as it can be toxic.
Frankincense Essential Oil
The health benefits of frankincense essential oil can be attributed to its properties as an antiseptic, disinfectant, astringent, carminative, cicatrizant, cytophylactic, digestive, diuretic, emmenagogue, expectorant, sedative, tonic, uterine, and a vulnerary substance. Frankincense oil relieves pain associated with rheumatism and arthritis. It helps to heal boils, infected wounds, acne, circulatory problems, insomnia, and various types of inflammation as well.
The essential oil of frankincense is produced by steam distillation of the tree resin. The oil’s chemical components are 75% monoterpenes, sesquiterpenes, monoterpenoles, sesquiterpenols and ketones. It has a good balsamic sweet fragrance, while the Indian frankincense oil has a very fresh smell. Contrary to what some commercial entities claim, steam or hydro distilled frankincense oils do not contain boswellic acids (triterpenoids), although may be present in trace quantities in the solvent extracted products. The chemistry of the essential oil is mainly monoterpenes and sesquiterpenes, such as alpha-pinene, Limonene, alpha-Thujene, and beta-Pinene with small amounts of diterpenoid components being the upper limit in terms of molecular weight.
Benefits of Frankincense Oil (DrAxe.com)
- Helps Reduce Stress Reactions and Negative Emotions: When inhaled, it’s been shown to reduce heart rate and high blood pressure. It has anti-anxiety and depression-reducing abilities, but unlike prescription medications, it does not have negative side effects or cause unwanted drowsiness.
- Helps Boost Immune System Function and Prevents Illness: Studies have demonstrated that frankincense has immune-enhancing abilities that may help destroy dangerous bacteria, viruses and even cancers.
- May Help Fight Cancer or Deal with Chemotherapy Side Effects: Frankincense oil has been shown to help fight cells of specific types of cancer.
- Astringent and Can Kill Harmful Germs and Bacteria: Frankincense is an antiseptic and disinfectant. It has the ability to eliminate cold and flu germs from the home and the body naturally and can be used in place of chemical household cleaners.
- Improves Oral Health: The same antiseptic qualities also make frankincense oil a useful preventive measure against oral issues, like bad breath, toothaches, cavities, mouth sores, and other infections.
- Heals Skin and Prevents Signs of Aging: Frankincense has the ability to strengthen skin and improve its tone, elasticity, defense mechanisms against bacteria or blemishes, and appearance as someone ages. It helps tone and lift skin, reduces appearance of scars and acne, and heals wounds. It can also be beneficial for fading of stretch marks, surgery scars or marks associated with pregnancy, and for healing dry or cracked skin.
- Balances Hormone Levels: Frankincense oil reduces symptoms associated with menstruation and menopause by balancing hormone levels. It can help relieve pain, cramps, constipation, headaches, anxiety, nausea, fatigue and mood swings. Frankincense oil also helps with regulating estrogen production and may reduce the risk of tumor or cyst development in premenopausal women.
- Reduces Scars: This is an interesting property of Frankincense oil. When applied topically or inhaled, it can make the scars and marks of boils, acne, and pox on the skin fade at a much faster rate. This also includes the fading of stretch marks, surgery marks, and fat cracks associated with pregnancy and delivery.
- Eases Digestion: Frankincense helps the digestive system properly detox and to produce bowel movements, reduces pain and cramping in the stomach, can relieve nausea, helps flush out excess water from the abdomen that can cause bloating and even relieves PMS-related stomach pains.
- Acts as a Sleep Aid: Frankincense essential oil is useful in lowering levels of anxiety or chronic stress that can keep you up at night. It has a calming, grounding scent that can naturally help you to fall asleep. It helps open breathing passages, allows your body to reach an ideal sleeping temperature and can eliminate pain that keeps you up.
- Helps Decrease Inflammation and Pain: Frankincense can inhibit the production of key inflammatory molecules associated with conditions like arthritis, asthma, painful bowel disorders like IBS and many more conditions.
- Acts as Tonic: Overall, frankincense essential oil tones and boosts health and is, therefore, considered a tonic. It benefits all the systems operating in the body, including the respiratory, digestive, nervous, and excretory systems, while also increasing strength by aiding the absorption of nutrients into the body. Furthermore, frankincense oil strengthens the immune system and keeps you strong.
- Stimulates Urination: If you think that Lasix and its variants are the only drugs that can help you release water from the body through urination, you are incorrect. These pharmaceutical options may be instantaneous, but not very safe. Frankincense essential oil is a natural and safe alternative. It promotes urination and helps you lose that extra water weight, as well as fats, sodium, uric acid, and various other toxins from the body, with the added advantage of lowering blood pressure. The best part about this is that frankincense essential oil is completely safe and has no adverse side effects.
- Reduces Respiratory Issues: It soothes cough and eliminates phlegm deposited in the respiratory tracts and the lungs. Frankincense essential oil also provides relief from bronchitis and congestion of nasal tract, larynx, pharynx, bronchi, and lungs. Its antidepressant and anti-inflammatory properties also help relax the breathing passages, which can reduce the dangers of asthma attacks, and its antiseptic qualities give it the reputation of being an immune system booster! It also eases body pain, headaches, toothaches, and balances the rise in body temperature commonly associated with colds.
Using Frankincense at Home
- Stress-Relieving Bath Soak: Frankincense oil immediately induces the feeling of peace, relaxation and satisfaction. Add a few drops of frankincense oil to a hot bath for stress relief. You can also add frankincense to an oil diffuser or vaporizer to help fight anxiety and for experiencing relaxation in your home all the time. Some people believe that the fragrance of frankincense can increase your intuition and spiritual connection.
- Natural Household Cleaner: Frankincense oil is an antiseptic, meaning it helps eliminate bacteria and viruses from your home and clean indoor spaces. The plant has been commonly burned to help disinfect an area and is used as a natural deodorizer. Use it in an essential oil diffuser to help reduce indoor pollution and deodorize and disinfect any room or surface in your home.
- Natural Hygiene Product: Due to its antiseptic properties, frankincense oil is a great addition to any oral hygiene regimen. Look for natural oral care products that contain frankincense oil, especially if you enjoy the aroma. It can help prevent dental health issues like tooth decay, bad breath, cavities or oral infections. You can also consider making your own toothpaste by mixing frankincense oil with baking soda.
- Anti-Aging and Wrinkle Fighter: Frankincense essential oil is a powerful astringent, meaning it helps protect skin cells. It can be used to help reduce acne blemishes, the appearance of large pores, prevent wrinkles, and it even helps lift and tighten skin to naturally slow signs of aging. The oil can be used anywhere where the skin becomes saggy, such as the abdomen, jowls or under the eyes. Mix six drops of oil to one ounce of unscented oil and apply it directly to the skin. Be sure to always do a small patch area test first to test for possible allergic reactions.
- Relieves Symptoms of Indigestion: If you have any digestive distress, such as gas, constipation, stomach aches, irritable bowel syndrome, PMS or cramps, frankincense oil can help relieve gastrointestinal discomfort. It helps speed up the digestion of food, similar to digestive enzymes. Add one to two drops of oil to eight ounces of water or to a tablespoon of honey for GI relief. If you’re going to ingest it orally, make sure it’s 100 percent pure oil; do not ingest fragrance or perfume oils.
- Scar, Wound, Stretch Mark or Acne Remedy: Frankincense oil can help with wound healing and may decrease the appearance of scars. It may also help reduce the appearance of dark spots caused from acne blemishes, stretch marks, eczema and help with healing of surgical wounds. Mix two to three drops of oil with an unscented base oil or lotion and apply directly to skin. Be careful not to apply it to broken skin, but it’s fine for skin that’s in the process of healing.
- Natural Cold or Flu Medicine: Next time you have a respiratory infection from a cold or flu, use frankincense essential oil to help provide relief from coughing. It can help eliminate phlegm in the lungs. It also acts as an anti-inflammatory in the nasal passages, making breathing easier, even for those with allergies or asthma. Add a few drops to a cloth and inhale for the respiratory benefits or use an oil diffuser.
- Helps Relieve Inflammation and Pain: To improve circulation and lower symptoms of joint pain or muscle pain related to conditions like arthritis, digestive disorders and asthma, try massaging frankincense oil to the painful area or diffusing it in your home. You can add a drop of oil to steaming water and soak a towel in it, then place the towel on your body or over your face to inhale it to decrease muscle aches. Also diffuse several drops in your home or combine several drops with a carrier oil to massage into your muscles, joints, feet or neck.
History of Frankincense
Frankincense has been traded on the Arabian Peninsula for more than 5000 years. A mural depicting sacks of frankincense traded from the Land of Punt adorns the walls of the temple of ancient Egyptian Queen Hatshepsut, who died circa 1458 BC.
Frankincense was one of the consecrated incenses (Ha-Ketoret) described in the Hebrew Bible and Talmud used in Ketoret ceremonies, an important component of the services in the Temple in Jerusalem. It was offered on a specialized incense altar in the time when the Tabernacle was located in the First and Second Temples. It is mentioned in the Book of Exodus 30:34.
Frankincense also received numerous mentions in the New Testament (Luke 1:10 ; Revelation 5:8, 8:3). Together with gold and myrrh, it was made an offering to the infant Jesus (Matthew 2:11). Frankincense is a symbol of holiness and righteousness. The gift of frankincense to the Christ child was symbolic of His willingness to become a sacrifice, wholly giving Himself up, analogous to a burnt offering.
Frankincense was reintroduced to Europe by Frankish Crusaders, although its name refers to its quality, not to the Franks themselves. Although it is better known as “frankincense” to westerners, the resin is also known as olibanum, or in Arabic, al-lubān (roughly translated: “that which results from milking”), a reference to the milky sap tapped from the Boswellia tree.
The Greek historian Herodotus was familiar with frankincense and knew it was harvested from trees in southern Arabia. He reported that the gum was dangerous to harvest because of venomous snakes that lived in the trees. He goes on to describe the method used by the Arabs to get around this problem, that being the burning of the gum of the styrax tree whose smoke would drive the snakes away. The resin is also mentioned by Theophrastus and by Pliny the Elder in his Naturalis Historia.
Frankincense is used in many Christian churches including the Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox and Catholic churches. According to the Biblical text of Matthew 2:11, gold, frankincense, and myrrh were among the gifts to Jesus by the biblical magi “from out of the East.” Christian and Islamic Abrahamic faiths have all used frankincense mixed with oils to anoint newborn infants, initiates and members entering into new phases of their spiritual lives.
Conversely, the spread of Christianity depressed the market for frankincense during the 4th century AD. Desertification made the caravan routes across the Rub’ al Khali or “Empty Quarter” of the Arabian Peninsula more difficult. Additionally, increased raiding by the Parthians in the Near East caused the frankincense trade to dry up after A.D. 300.
Frankincense Oil DIY Recipes
Scar Reducing Body Butter: Time: 5 minutes; Serves: 4
- 2 ounces shea butter or coconut oil
- 10 drops of jasmine oil
- 10 drops frankincense oil
- Small container or jar to mix the ingredients
In a double boiler, melt the shea butter until it’s liquid.
Make sure the oil is not so hot that it will burn you, then add the other oils and stir together to combine. Having the shea butter be room temperature or a little warmer is best.
You can either smear it on your scar right away, or if you’d like to make it into a shelf-stable cream texture, place the mixture in the fridge until it’s cool for a few minutes, then use a hand mixer on high speed to whip the oils into a white cream.
Pour into a glass jar or containers, and keep it at room temperature to use whenever you want.
Sleep-Inducing Facial Cream or Body Rub: Time: 5 minutes; Serves: 1
This all-natural night cream is great to help you fall asleep. It also doubles as a skin health-booster if you apply it to your face and may be able to help clear up blemishes or breakouts.
- 5 drops frankincense essential oil
- 5 drops lavender essential oil
- 1/4 tablespoon organic coconut oil
- 1/2 teaspoon olive oil
- Small container or jar to mix the ingredients
Use coconut oil that’s not solid but rather soft. If need be, heat it first in a double broiler.
Add the other oils and stir together to combine. Spread over your face and body. You may want to pat yourself off after to not allow the oil to seep into your bed sheets. You can also store this to use at another time.
Homemade Frankincense and Myrrh Lotion: Total Time: 90 minutes; Serves: 30
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1/4 cup coconut oil
- 1/4 cup bees wax
- 1/4 cup shea butter
- 2 tbsp vitamin E
- 20 drops frankincense essential oil
- 20 drops myrrh essential oil
- BPA free plastic lotion dispenser bottles
Put olive oil, coconut oil, beeswax and shea butter in glass bowl then place that bowl in sauce pan with water.
Heat stove to medium and mix ingredients together.
Once mixed put in refrigerator for an hour until solid.
With a regular mixer or hand mixer beat the mixture until it is whipped and fluffy. Then add essential oils and vitamin E and mix.
Fill container and store in cool place.
Homemade Frankincense Soap Bar: Total Time: 30 minutes; Serves: 30
- 20-30 drops frankincense essential oil
- Soap Base
- 5 drops pomegranate oil
- Oval Bar Molds or Decorative Soap Mold
Put soap base in glass bowl then place that bowl in sauce pan with water.
Heat stove to medium and allow base to melt.
Remove from heat and let cool slightly. Then add the frankincense and pomegranate oil
Mix well and transfer to a soap mold
Let mixture cool fully before popping bar out of mold. Keep at room temp
Frankincense Interactions/Side Effects
For oil safety concerns, you should know that frankincense essential oil is extremely well-tolerated, especially compared to prescription medications. To date, there are no reported serious side effects of using frankincense oil, as long as you do not ingest large quantities, which can result in it becoming toxic.
Rarely frankincense oil can cause certain reactions for some people, including minor skin rashes and digestive problems like nausea or stomach pains. Frankincense is also known to have blood-thinning effects, so anyone who has problems related to blood clotting should not use frankincense oil or should speak with a doctor first. Otherwise, the oil may have potential to negatively react with certain anticoagulant medications.