Frankincense has a significant meaning in Christianity, and is believed to be one of the gifts offered by the three wise men to the newborn Jesus. Today, this fragrant resin is transformed into an essential oil that’s valued not only in religious practice, but also in aromatherapy and natural health. Read on to learn more about frankincense oil.
What Is Frankincense Oil?
Frankincense, also known as olibanum,1 comes from the Boswellia genustrees, particularly Boswellia sacra and Boswellia carteri. The milky white sap is extracted from the tree bark, allowed to harden into a gum resin for several days, and then scraped off in tear-shaped droplets.2
Boswellia trees grow in African and Arabian regions, including Yemen, Oman, Somalia, and Ethiopia.3 Oman is the best known and most ancient source of frankincense, where it’s been traded and shipped to other places like the Mediterranean, India, and China for thousands of years.4
The highest-quality frankincense is clear and silvery, but with a slight green tinge. Brown-yellow varieties are the cheapest and most readily available. In Oman, the best frankincense is usually reserved for the sultan and is rarely shipped out of the country.5
Frankincense is traditionally burned as incense, and was charred and ground into a powder to produce the heavy kohl eyeliner used by Egyptian women. Today, this resin is steam-distilled to produce an aromatic essential oil with many benefits.
Frankincense oil has a woody, earthy, spicy, and slightly fruity aroma, which is calming and relaxing. It’s said to be sweeter, fresher, and cleaner than frankincense resin.6
Uses of Frankincense Oil
Frankincense oil has long been revered in the Middle East, where it’s been used in religious ceremonies as an anointing oil for thousands of years. It is also a popular ingredient in cosmetics, and has even been found in the remains of Anglo-Saxons and ancient Egyptians.7
I believe that frankincense oil is one of the top essential oils you can use for your health. It’s known for its comforting properties, and is useful for visualizing, improving one’s spiritual connection, and helping overcome stress and despair.8
In aromatherapy, frankincense oil is either inhaled or diffused via a vaporizer – a very effective sedative that induces a feeling of mental peace, relaxation, and satisfaction, and helps relieve anxiety, anger, and stress.9
Frankincense oil promotes healthy cell regeneration and keeps existing cells and tissues healthy. It’s useful for skin health, and can help treat dry skin, reverse signs of aging, and reduce the appearance of stretch marks and scars.10 Frankincense oil’s astringent properties help:11
Strengthen gums and hair roots
Stop wounds from bleeding
Speed up the healing of cuts, acne, insect bites, and boils
Composition of Frankincense Oil
The main components of frankincense oil are ketonic alcohol (olibanol), resinous matters (30 to 60 percent) and terpenes such as a-and p-pinene, camphene, dipentene, and phellandrene.12 It also contains alpha pinene, actanol, bornyl acetate, linalool, octyl acetate, incensole, and incensyl acetate.13
The monoterpenes and sesquiterpenes are the most valuable elements of frankincense oil. According to the book Reference Guide for Essential Oils by Connie and Alan Higley, monoterpenes help prevent and discharge toxins from your liver and kidneys, and have antiseptic, antibacterial, stimulating, analgesic (weak), and expectorant properties.14 Meanwhile, sesquiterpenes can go beyond the blood-brain barrier and simulate the limbic system of your brain, as well as your hypothalamus, and pineal and pituitary glands