Frankincense comes from an old French term franc encens which translates to quality incense. It is also referred to as the king of essential oils. It is distilled from the resin of the boswellia carterii, boswellia ferreanna and boswellia serrata trees.
Frankincense originates from the small scraggly but hardy tree indigenous to the Middle East, which is small with abundant pinnacle leaves and white or pale pink flowers. The resin begins as a fragrant sticky milky-white liquid that flows from the trunk of the tree when cut. The dried tears are collected, and the resin is then hydro-distilled, releasing the compounds producing the precious oil, that has been known to target cancer cells in pancreatic, breast and prostate cancers. The resin is known as olibanum, derived from the Arabic al-luban or 'that which results from milking', referring to the milky sap.
The most common species are:
B. sacra - Oman, Yemen, South Saudi Arabia
B. carteri - Somalia
B. frereana - Somalia
B. payifera - Ethiopia
B. serrata - India
It is used as incense, and has been traded for 5,000 years. Widely used in ancient Egypt, Frankincense has been found in the remains of ancient Egyptian and Anglo-Saxon civilizations, and is associated with religious traditions and rites. it was one of the ingredients used in the holy oil described in the Talmud. Frankincense was brought back to Europe by Frankish Crusaders (Frank-incense), and the oil is still highly prized today in the perfumery industry, and widely used in the manufacturing of skin-care products.
Frankincense smells like pine, lemon and has a woodsy scent.
Monoterpenes and sequiterpenes are the most valuable element compounds of frankincense oil. Monoterpenes work in liver and kidney and lower cholesterol activity in the liver. They also have antiseptic, antibacterial, antiviral, antitumor and expectorant properties. Sesquiterpenes help stimulate the limbic system. This is responsible for the secretion of antibodies, serotonin, endorphins and neurotransmitters that influence your moods and emotions.
Frankincense is usually inhaled or mixed with a carrier oil like jojoba and absorbed through the skin. In powder or crystal form, it can be ingested as a tea, used with coconut oil to make toothpaste, or in pill form to help relieve pain due to inflammation.
There are many benefits to diffusing frankincense essential oils.
- Can help open breathing passages if you suffer from colds and asthma.
- Can help combat stress, anxiety and depression without side effects and drowsiness.
- Can help boost immune system function by destroying bacteria and viruses in rooms and on household surfaces. Frankincense is an antiseptic and disinfectant that has antibacterial properties.
- Can help reduce symptoms associated with menstruation and menopause such as cramps, mood swings, headaches, fatigue and anxiety by balancing hormone levels.
- As a sleep aid, inhaling or diffusing frankincense can help lower levels of anxiety. It has a calming scent that helps open breathing passages and can help your body reach an ideal sleeping temperature.
Use a few drops with a carrier oil to improve tone, elasticity, lift skin, reduce the appearance of scars and acne and heals wounds. Frankincense essential oil can help promote regeneration of cells and keeps cell and tissues healthy. The pentacyclic triterpene structure (steroid like) of frankincense oil helps sooth irritated skin.
Frankincense essential oil can also help decrease inflammation and pain associated with arthritis. The essential oil inhibits the production of inflammatory molecules associated with conditions like arthritis, asthma, IBS and helps prevent breakdown of cartilage tissues.
As is the case with all essential oils, it is imperative to consult a medical practitioner before using Frankincense essential oil for therapeutic purposes. Pregnant women are strongly advised against using Frankincense essential oil, due to its emmenagogue properties, which may induce menstruation that can be hazardous for the fetus. Pregnant and nursing women who insist on using it are advised to first seek the medical guidance of a physician. The oil should always be stored in an area that is inaccessible to children.