Essential oil tincture and dropper with some solid pieces of frankincense. The ultimate guide to frankincense essential oil
Essential oil tincture and dropper with some solid pieces of frankincense. The ultimate guide to frankincense essential oil

The Ultimate Guide To Frankincense Essential Oil

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5 Amazing Benefits and Uses

Frankincense essential oil in a glass bottle sealed with a cork and surrounded by chunks of frankincense

What is Frankincense Essential Oil Good for?

“The King of Oils”, a name often given to this very powerful, effective and incredibly therapeutic essential oil.

It is one of the most precious and prized essential oils.

It’s anti-inflammatory, anti-arthritic, anit-proliferative, antimicrobial and analgesic effects can reduce inflammation and pain in the body and relieve the related symptoms of many diseases (1)

It also shows therapeutic benefits of relieving anxiety and chronic stress, boosting our immune system, cells and respiratory system, and Yes, it also has been shown to potentially help fight cancer cells.

WHAT IS FRANKINCENSE?

Where can Frankincense be found? And how is Frankincense made?

Frankincense (also known as olibanum), is extracted from the Boswellia tree, in which there are four different Species: (1)

A boswellia tree growing off the edge of a rocky cliff overlooking the ocean

Frankincense can come from any boswellia tree, but boswellia trees can vary greatly in the type of boswellia extracts they produce, having slightly different medicinal components.

  1. Boswellia Frereana: found in the mountainous regions of Northern Somalia. Is also known as Maydi and is often referred to as the King of all Frankincense.
  2. Boswellia Carterii: found in the mountainous regions of Northern Somalia, East Africa and in China
  3. Boswellia Sacra: found in the Middle East
  4. Boswellia Serrata: found in India, Northern Africa and the Middle East.

Today the most traded frankincense is produced in Oman, Yemen, and Somalia.

Golden frankincense resin dripping off the bark of a boswellia tree

Frankincense is the resin (dried sap, called tears) that is gleaned from the Boswellia tree, which has abundant pinnate leaves and white or pale pink flowers.

These are very hardy trees or shrubs, which grow in difficult conditions, they need very little soil and like dry and desolate conditions. 

A boswellia tree growing off the edge of a rocky cliff

The Boswellia tree can grow 2 to 8 metres (7 to 23 feet) tall. They start producing resin at about eight to ten years old.

Frankincense is harvested two to three times a year by tapping the tree, that is, making incisions into the bark of the tree allowing the white, milky sap to seep out. This sap then dries and hardens into a resin (frankincense).

Man in white clothing kneeling under a boswellia tree

The first cut releases whatever impurities are in the wood. Two to three weeks later they make a second and third cut in which the sap comes out yellow, or bright green, or brown or even black

The final tap of the season produces the best tears (resin) due to their higher aromatic terpene, sesquiterpene and diterpene content. (2)

This resin is then taken off the tree and can either be burned as incense or taken through a process to make the essential oil.

A ceramic pot burning frankincense incense

To make essential oil the resin which is in chunks is then crushed and steam distilled.

There is another method called CO2 extraction, a process which preserves sensitive plant constituents and avoids destroying biological active components through oxidation and heat.

Three copper containers holding different colours of frankincense

The resin can range in colour from silvery-white to brown. The more opaque the resin the better the quality.

It has a warm, woodsy and spicy aroma that helps to ground and calm the mind.

A Little History

What has frankincense been used for throughout the ages? What is frankincense used for spiritually?

Essential oils have been around for thousands of years and often seen referenced through history for their healing properties.

The philosophy underlying aromatherapy: the essential oils from plants can help restore harmony to the mind and health to the body

Frankincense is best known as one of the three gifts given to baby Jesus by the three wise men, along with gold and Myrrh.

A display of three lines of frankincense, gold, and myrhh

The word Frankincense appears 17 times in the Bible. And the word incense (which is a reference to spices including frankincense and myrrh) is mentioned 113 times.

  • Frankincense is the oil, which through the centuries has been used during worship, meditation and spiritual practices by religious followers.
  • Both frankincense and myrrh were well known for their uses as incense in ancient rituals and were key ingredients in the embalming process.
  • Throughout history it was also the oil that was often referred to as gold due to its medicinal benefits. Both frankincense and myrrh were also once considered effective healing remedies for everything from toothaches to leprosy.
  • The name ‘frankincense’ comes from the Old French ‘franc encens’, meaning pure incense or, more literally, high-quality incense.

From the biblical times, to the oil loving Egyptians, to the ancient Chinese medicines, to the Greeks, into Europe and on into modern medicine, essential oils have had a strong presence throughout our history.

3 RESEARCH STUDIES:

1. Frankincense oil has been shown to cause cell death in breast cancer cells, suggesting that this essential oil may be effective for advanced breast cancer.

Illustration of an eraser on the end of a pencil erasing the words breast cancer

Frankincense represses signalling pathways and cell cycle regulators that have been proposed as therapeutic targets for breast cancer. (4)

Tooth brush bristles with droplets of water falling around it

2. Frankincense essential oil (either extract or powder) led to remarkable decreases in inflammatory effects in the treatment of gingivitis

After treatment, participants showed significant decreases in gingivitis index, plaque index and probing pocket depth. (5)

3. Frankincense essential oil has shown to have antimicrobials and antifungal activity for management of skin, scalp and nail infections

Three dark bottles of essential oils with their molecular chemistry written out

Antibiotic resistance has become a global challenge and studies have shown that Frankincense essential oil has become a plausible therapeutic option to these infections. (6)

Which Frankincense Oil Is Best?

Is there a difference in the quality of oils?

Not all essential oils are created equally! There is absolutely a difference in the quality of oils.

When it comes to choosing an essential oil the same holds true to all of them…. Pick quality over Quantity.

You want to choose pure unadulterated oils. To be considered a truly therapeutic grade oil, it has to be free of chemicals. The method of extraction needs to be one that keeps the original compounds in their natural state

Look for oils that say “pure essential oil” or “100% essential oil”. You want to purchase oils that are ‘therapeutic grade’ or ‘Certified organic’

Six dark bottles of essential oil tinctures with their respective herbs and flowers

Avoid the ones that say “fragrance oil” or “Perfume oil” as these will more then likely be synthetic and will not provide any health benefits.

It takes massive quantities of raw plant material, leaves, petals, skins etc… to make a small amount of essential oil. This is why they are so expensive

Display of five essential oil tinctures in dark bottles with two of them open

These oils need to be stored in dark glass containers away from sunlight to prevent oxidation.

Bottom line, when purchasing an essential oil you want to make sure you are buying from a reputable company that is known for its quality and has their oils tested or verified by a third party.

The label also should provide not only the common name but also the Latin name.

And, if it is significantly cheaper and not in line with other reputable company pricing, chances are it is not a high quality oil.

I would ideally try and find a therapeutic grade oil that is a blend of the different Boswellia tree extracts.

How Do You Use Frankincense Oil?

There are many ways to use essential oils, here are a few:

Diffused: put into a diffuser to fill the air with its benefits.

Two essential oil diffusers diffusing essential oil into the air and one essential oil tincture
Woman pouring essential oil in hand to massage another person

Topically: Mixing Frankincense with a carrier oil such as jojoba oil, fractionated coconut oil, grapeseed oil or Sweet Almond oil which is neutral and non-allergenic for most people is how you would apply it topically. This way it can be absorbed through the skin.

Some oils can be applied neat (without mixing in a carrier oil). Read instructions and test on a small area of skin first as some may have a reaction to the oil

Older woman in white robe inhaling some essential oils

Direct Inhalation: a couple drops of the oil on a cloth/ tab, hold close to your face and inhale. You can add some drops to steamed water or simply a drop or two oil into your hands, rub them together, cup hands and breathe in.

Bath water: mix with carrier oil then add a few drops into bath salts or Epsom salts to help disperse the oil throughout the bath.

Young pretty woman taking a bath with frankincense bath water mix
Frankincense wrapped in a tightly compressed cloth

Healing Compress: added to a warm compress will increase the absorption of the essential oils.for healing benefits

Salves: a salve is an ointment that is used to soothe the surface of your body. Often used on cuts, scrapes and sore muscles.

Older woman applying frankincense salve ointment

Can you take Frankincense oil internally?

This is a big debate amongst many. Some say yes, some say no.

In the end, you should never take any essential oils internally under the advice of someone who is not trained to give it. Check with an Aromatherapist or your doctor.

It should not be ingested in large quantities as it can be toxic

SAFETY:

What are the Side Effects of Frankincense Essential Oil?

It is known that Frankincense essential oil is very well tolerated. There have been no reported serious side effects of using frankincense oil.

However it is always important to be safe and test a small area on your skin to check for any type of reaction.

Frankincense is known to have blood-thinning effects. Those with any blood clotting issues should consult with their health care provider.

Kimi Harris from The Nourishing Gourmet has a good article on essential oil safety.

5 BENEFITS & USES OF FRANKINCENSE

BENEFIT #1

May Fight Certain Cancers –

How do you use frankincense oil for cancer? Does Frankincense Cure Cancer?

Cancer has touched many of us, in one way or another. We may know someone with cancer or even lost someone to cancer. I personally have lost family and friends to this horrible disease.

Although they are still looking for the ‘cure’ I am happy to see that studies are being done using natural sources, such as essential oils.

Female doctor holding viles of frankincense for cancer research

These studies have shown good results, maybe not in curing but in fighting the disease (see works cited below for actual studies).

Graphic of all the diseases frankincense fights and cures

To date, studies suggest that frankincense may fight breast, prostate, pancreatic, skin and colon cancer cells.

There are compounds in frankincense that may help kill cancer cells and prevent cancer cells from spreading.

Boswellic acids in frankincense could help limit cancer growth by preventing the formation DNA in Cancerous cells. These studies were done with the resin taken from the Boswellia serrata tree. (1) (3)

The resinous part of Boswellia serrata tree possesses monoterpenes, diterpenes, triterpenes, tetracyclic triterpenic acids and four major pentacyclic triterpenic acids.

Out of these four boswellic acids, acetyl-11-keto-β-boswellic acid is the most potent inhibitor of 5-lipoxygenase, an enzyme responsible for inflammation. (3)

Note: the extraction processes could be different with each study and the potency levels could also vary.

If you are interested in adding frankincense to your treatment, consult your doctor so he/she may help determine whether this is the best option for you.

Man consulting a doctor for the use of frankincense essential oil

Additional essential oils that are beneficial to use are: Myrrh, Orange, Turmeric and Oregano to name a few.

Uses:

Diffuse: Add 3 – 4 drops into your diffuser for aromatic benefits

Topical: Massage a couple of drops of the oil (mixed with a carrier oil) onto the affected area. This will help to support a healthy immune system response.

BENEFIT #2

Anti-Inflammatory: May relieve joint inflammation and pain

Is Frankincense a good oil for inflammation?

As someone who suffers from osteoarthritis and fibromyalgia, I understand the pain people go through and finding pain relief is crucial. Along with diet and exercises I include essential oils as part of my alternative treatment.

Chronic inflammation or low-grade inflammation destroys the balance in your body making your more susceptible to aging and disease.

Frankincense has anti-inflammatory effects that may help reduce joint inflammation caused by osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis

Illustration of where frankincense can reduce joint inflammation: shoulder, wrist, foot, knee, hips, and spine

Researchers believe that frankincense can prevent the release of leukatriends which are compounds that can cause inflammation (7)

Clinical studies, so far have shown to reduce inflammation from some autoimmune diseases like asthma, rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis and bronchial asthma without the side effects normally associated with the modern drugs used for the treatment of these diseases. (8)

Uses:

Diffusing: adding 2 – 4 drops into your diffuser (follow diffuser instructions) can be beneficial.

Topical: Mixing a couple of drops of frankincense in a carrier oil and massaging it into the effective area is beneficial and soothing.

A display of four anti inflammatory essential oil tinctures with some herbs

Additional inflammation fighting essential oils that mix well with frankincense are: turmeric, patchouli, ginger, eucalyptus, lavender and rosemary to name a few.

BENEFIT #3:

Skin Care: Great for acne, wrinkles, scarring

How do I use frankincense oil for my face? And other parts of my body?

Frankincense is an excellent choice for so many different skin conditions! Its ability to revive and rejuvenate the skin makes it a top notch choice for any skin regime.

It can be mixed into carrier oils, aloe vera gel bases and soap bases. My whole family uses these for various conditions and we all love the results.

Various forms of aloe vera gel: soap, cream, powder, and drink

Whether it is for wrinkles, eczema, psoriasis, acne, roscea and other types of skin conditions, it’s healing and conditioning effects are very noticeable.

It has also shown to help scarring.

Illustration comparing a woman's skin clear with frankincense and full of acne without frankincense

Studies have shown that the extract from the Boswellia Serrata reduces redness and irritation in the skin and helps to produce an even skin tone

The soothing effect on irritated skin is due to the pentacyclic triterpene (steroid-like) structure sared in different boswellic acid compounds. (1)

The AKBA (another compound found in the extract) is reported to be an effective topical agent to soften facial lines and relax the skin. (1)

Uses:

Topical: can be mixed with jojoba oil, evening primrose oil, pomegranate oil, vitamin E oil, carrot seed oil along with other beneficial essential oils to make a nice blend to use in the mornings and evenings.

Along with Frankincense you can mix in one or more other good essential oils for the skin. Such as:

  • Acne: Clary sage, geranium, lavender, lemongrass, orange, patchouli, peppermint, rose and tea tree
  • Aging: clary sage, cypress, lavender, myrrh, orange, patchouli, rose, sandalwood and ylang ylang
  • Dry skin: cedarwood, clary sage, geranium, jasmine, myrrh, patchouli, roman chamomile, sandalwood
  • Oily Skin: Bergamot, cedarwood, clary sage, cypress, lavender, orange, peppermint, roman chamomile, rosemary, sandalwood, tea tree, ylang ylang
  • Sensitive skin: Helichrysum, jasmine, lavender, roman chamomile, rose, Ylang Ylang
  • Dark Spots: lavender, lemon, lemongrass
  • Infections: lavender, myrrh, roman chamomile, rosemary, tea tree
  • Elasticity: geranium, lavender, myrrh, ylang ylang

Mixing six drops of oil to one ounce of unscented oil, then applying to the skin. Make sure to always do a small patch area test first to make sure there are no possible allergic reactions.

BENEFIT #4

Relieves Cold & Flu Symptoms, Asthma:

What are the best essential oils for colds? Will frankincense help asthma?

No one likes a cold or flu… or any other type of respiratory ailment for that matter. We all look for ways to get back on our feet again quickly. There are essential oils that can help with that, frankincense being one of them.

Frankincense essential oil has antiseptic, astringent, anti-inflammatory and expectorant properties that make it a great aid in fighting colds and flu by helping to clear the airways in the body.

Young woman in red shirt inhaling essential oils for antiseptic astringent properties

There have been numerous studies showing the benefits of frankincense against colds by soothing a cough and reducing phlegm.

Frankincense has been traditionally used for its beneficial effect on the respiratory system. Typically it has been used in steam inhalations, baths and topically to treat cough, bronchitis and asthma.(1)

The inhibition of leukotriene biosynthesis can reduce and prevent the inflammation in many chronic inflammatory diseases like asthma. (1)

Uses:

Topical: Blending equal amounts of frankincense, ginger and niaouli (Melaleuca) and storing it in a dark glass jar. When needed add 3 – 5 drops to a teaspoon of carrier oil such as fractionated coconut oil and rub it onto your chest and back.

Direct Inhalation: add a few drops to a cloth, bring cloth near to your face and breathe in

Diffuse: add a few drops to your diffuser during the day or by your bed at night time.

BENEFIT #5

Dental Health:

Can frankincense get rid of bad breath? Or help treat gingivitis?

If you are struggling with any kind or oral infection reach for your frankincense

Woman brushing her teeth with a toothbrush using frankincense as toothpaste

There have been numerous studies  showing, that thanks to its antiseptic properties, frankincense is a natural solution to fighting the bacteria in your mouth.

It is this bacteria which can cause plaque and bad breath. (5)

Uses:

Prevent tooth decay and fight plaque: add 2 drops of frankincense to your toothbrush. Brush gently and spit out the excess oils and saliva, do not swallow.

Promote healthy gums and fresh breath: use 5 – 10 drops per one cup of water. Swish one tablespoon of the mix at a time and spit out like you would any other mouthwash.

 

Summary

Frankincense is an essential oil that through the ages has been used both as a healing agent and for spirituality.

There have been many scientific studies done on the healing and potential healing benefits of Frankincense.

Some of the amazing benefits of frankincense are seen in Dental health, relieving cold and flu, as well as having a positive effect on asthma.

We also see the benefits in skin care and decreasing inflammation and pain in the body.

And I am very happy to see the continuation in Scientific studies on its effects on fighting cancer cells.

These are but only a few of the incredible benefits Frankincense brings to us.

‘The King of Oils” is definitely a fitting name for this prized and precious oil.

 

 

Works Cited: 

(1).Hamidpour, R., Hamidpour, S., Hamidpour, M., Shahlari, M., (2013) Frankincense (Boswellia Species); From the Selection of Tradional Applications to the Novel Phytotherapy for the Prevention and Treatment of Serious Diseases. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3924999/  

(2) BBC.co.uk http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/8505251.stm 

(3) Siddiqi, MZ., (2011) Boswellia Serrata, a potential anti-inflammatory agent: an overview. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22457547

(4) Shuail. M.M., Wu. W., Cao A., Mondalek, F.G., Fung, K.M., Shih, F.T., Fang, Y.T., ,Woolley, C., Young, G., Lin, H.K., (2011m December). Boswellia sacra essential oil induces tumor cell-specific apoptosis and suppresses tumor aggressiveness in cultured human breast cancer cells. BMC Complement Altern Med. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nim.nih.gov/pubmed/22171782

(5) Khosravi Samani, M., Mahmoodian, H., Moghadamina, A., Poorsattar Bejueh Mir, A., Chitsazan, M. (2011). The effect of Frankincense in the treatment of moderate plaque-induced gingivitis: a double blinded randomized clinical trial. Daru. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nim.nih.gov/pubmed/22615671

(6). Sadhasivam, S., Palanivel, S., Ghosh, S., (2016) Synergistic antimicrobial activity of Boswellia serrate Roxb, ex Colebr. (Burseraceas) essential oil with various azoles against pathogens associatd with skin, scalp and nail infections. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.min.nih.gov/pubmed/12683

(7) Ammon, HP., (2002) Boswellic acids (comonents of frankincense) as the active principle in treatment of chronic inflammatory diseases. Retrieved from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12244881

(8) Ammon, HP., (2006) Boswellic acids in chronic inflammatory diseases. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17024588/

Al-Yasiry, AR., Kiczorowska, B., (2016) Frankincense – therapeutic properties. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27117114

Grover, A.K., Samson, S., (2016) Benefits of antioxidanrt supplements for knee osteoarthritis: rationale and reality. Retrieved from https://nutritionj.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12937-015-0115-z

Frank, MB., Yang, Q., Osban, J., Azzarello, JT., Saban MR., Saban R., Ashley, RA., Welter, JC., Fung, KM., Lin, HK. (2009) Frankincense oil derived from Boswellia carteri induces tunor cell specific cytotoxicity. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19296830

Kew Science: Plants of the world online. http://powo.science.kew.org/taxon/urn:lsid:ipni.org:names:127065-1

Cohen, J., (2011) HISTORY: A Wiseman’s Cure: Frankincense and Myrrh. Retrieved from https://www.history.com/news/a-wise-mans-cure-frankincense-and-myrrh 

Al-Jawad FH, Al-Razzuqi RA, Hashim HM, Al-Bayati NJ. Glycyrrhiza glabra versus Boswellia carterii in chronic bronchial asthma: A comparative study of efficacy. Indian J Allergy Asthma Immunol 2012;26:6-8

Mayo Clinic Bauer B. MD, What are the benefits of aromatherapy?. May 24, 2017.

Mayo Clinic, Peterson S., Why aromatherapy is showing up in hospital surgical units, Oct 27, 2017.

Complete Guide to natural home remedies, National Geographic (2014) pp. 259-260

Axe, J., Bollinger, T., Rubin, J., (2016) Essential Oils Ancient Medicine. Pp. 146 – 148.

 

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  • Amanda @ Healthy House on the Block says:

    I have absolutely fallen in love with Frankincense. It took me a while to like the scent, but I really find it quite calming and enjoy it so much now. I’ve been using it for my skin care and have seen some really great side effects from applying it with a carrier oil morning and evening. I didn’t know it could be used for dental hygiene — I will certainly be trying that out! This is such a great post with so many great ideas — thank you SO much for posting!

    • Susan Manning says:

      Hi Amanda, thank you for your comment and we are glad you liked the post. It is definitely one of my ‘go to’ essential oils for so many things ๐Ÿ™‚

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