Deeply revered for many thousands of years. Frankincense has perhaps the greatest association with the spiritual practice of any natural plant material on earth. In many great ancient cultures, including the Egyptian, Babylonian, Persian, Hebrew, Greek, and Roman civilizations, it has played a role in religious and domestic life. Valued as highly as gold the resin has been sought by the Kings. More recently, the essential oil is gaining popularity with spiritual seekers and natural healers alike. What’s so unique about the rich smelling resin and it’s essential oil? And how might we use it for our own benefit?
The Olibanum Tree
The Olibanum tree from which Frankincense is extracted, upon first glance may seem rather unremarkable. It appears as a giant shrub, with many knurled branches topped with abundant slender leaves and occasionally, small white flowers. A native to northern Africa, it even looks like it belongs in the desert, growing in some of the world’s harshest conditions. When the tree’s bark is pierced with a ‘mingaf’ knife, a milky-white resin is exuded and collected; though the tree is not harmed. The resin forms droplets known as tears or pearls, which harden into the orange-brown gum known as Frankincense.
The most medicinally efficacious essential oil is possibly the “supercritical carbon dioxide” distillation of Boswellia carteri. This fancy new distillation method makes a more complex, thicker, and possibly more healing oil than the classic steam distillation. The plant does not get as heated as when processed with steam. The result is a product closer to the original in the chemical formulation. Some prominent aromatherapists who didn’t particularly care for this extraction method with other plants have given it the “thumb’s up” when used with Frankincense.
The essential oil has a very diverse set of therapeutic uses. For skincare, it is one of the best oils for mature skin. Especially skin with damaged due to overexposure of the sun. The tough, desert trees somehow belie this use. Scientific research has even “proven” the effects, by testing Frankincense extracts in skincare preparations side by side on participant’s faces. The results showed a significant improvement in skin texture and the reduction of fine lines.
You can easily benefit from this property yourself. Add four to twelve drops of the essential oil per fluid ounce to any cream or lotion you’re already using. Or if creating a new, personal aromatherapy skin care blend. Try adding the oil, alone or in combination with other essential oils, at a concentration between 1/2 and 2 percent.
Boswellia extracts (like the CO2 distillation) have found their way into many common over-the-counter pain relieving and anti-inflammatory preparations for joint and muscular pain. Natural chemicals in the oils inhibit the action of pro-inflammatory enzymes.
Frankincense essential oil in combination with other anti-inflammatory and analgesic oils can be of great support for arthritis, fibromyalgia, and other painful conditions. A blend to consider for these needs. In each ounce of carrier oil (sweet almond is fine), add 40 drops Frankincense, 40 drops Ginger CO2, 40 drops Sweet Marjoram and 40 drops Plai. Greatly reducing your pain while making you smell wonderful
Perhaps the most impressive therapeutic potential of Frankincense lay in its now extensively researched anti-cancer activity. The resin and its extracts have targeted cancer cells in a number of different organs. Causing apoptosis (normal cell death, which doesn’t “normally” occur in cancer cells) to the cancerous cells, leaving healthy ones unaffected.
While treatment protocols are still a ways off, it is possible to include daily doses of Frankincense as a protective measure. The essential oil is absorbed rapidly through the skin and into the bloodstream. Small doses can also be ingested under the guidance of a natural health professional.
Using the oil in aromatherapy should not be over looked. It is just as impressive as the rest of its uses. The aroma of the carteri species has uplifting citrus and woody notes. It is an excellent antidepressant. That of the seratta is grounding and calming, lending itself to meditative use and deep introspection. Leading therapists have discussed the ability of the aroma to slow the breath. Deeper breathing allowing more air with few breaths taken.
This has interesting implications. While some physicians believe the way to measure a lifespan is the number of breaths, others believe it is the number of heartbeats. Either way, the stress-relieving effect of the oil is almost certain to lead one to better health! It’s plain to see Frankincense is a very worthwhile aromatic in the therapist’s toolkit.
With anti-aging, anticancer, antidepressant and anti-stress activity, it’s likely that the essential oil can easily find a way into your overall wellness program. You’ll likely be happier and healthier for it, and will have another valuable natural medicine to enjoy and share.