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  • Writer's pictureCarla Allison, CHHP

All About Frankincense and How to Use It

No doubt you have heard of frankincense, or maybe you are already an avid user of the precious oil. Many know of it from scriptural references. It is so valued that it's use has survived thousands of years. But, how much do you really know about this gift from the earth? Let's talk about the history, why it is so treasured, and beneficial ways to use Frankincense in your daily life.

The name frankincense is derived from the Medieval French word for "real incense." It comes from a small, shrubby tree with white flowers and has a distinctive rich, balsamic scent that comes from the naturally-occurring constituent alpha-pinene. Incisions in the bark produce a milky-white oleo-gum resin that hardens into frankincense. It is considered the "holy anointing oil" in the Middle East and has been used for thousands of years. It was valued more than gold during ancient times, and only those with great wealth possessed it. It is mentioned in one of the oldest known medical records, Ebers Papyrus (dating from 16th century BC), an ancient Eqyptian list of 877 prescriptions and recipes.

Frankincense is from the genus Boswellia and is also known as "olibanum." There are different species of frankincense. One source lists 42 different varieties of frankincense. The most important varieties are Boswellia carterii, Boswellia sacra, Boswellia freeana, and Boswellia serrata. Boswellia carterii is among the most studied frankincense species.

Benefits of Frankincense

Frankincense contains terpenes called sesquiterpenes that are known to cross the blood-brain barrier and oxygenate the brain. Sesquiterpenes directly affect the limbic system and help soothe nervous tension, fear, stress, and a "noisy brain." Frankincense also contains monoterpenes. In fact, they make up as much as 90% of the essential oil. Monoterpenes support cellular function and have oxygenating abilities as well.

Frankincense literally smells divine while promoting deep calm and uplifting the spirit. It is most valuable for slowing and deepening breathing and is often used during meditation. Scientists have discovered that frankincense has a positive effect on a person's emotional state.

If you have dry, sensitive, or mature skin, frankincense is typically the first skin care essential oil that is recommended though it is suitable for all skin types. Frankincense is rich in constituents such as a-pinene and limonene which contain powerful antioxidant properties. It is known to be anti-aging, improving skin tone as well as preventing and smoothing wrinkles.

During the fall and winter season, many find frankincense to be very soothing on the throat and chest or added to a diffuser for easy breathing.

How to Use this Gift

You can use Frankincense essential oil topically, add it to a diffuser, use it in a massage or bath, or inhale it directly. Frankincense can be taken internally as well, but make sure to follow the directions on the bottle label. The bottle should be specifically labeled as a dietary essential oil for internal use. When used internally, frankincense may provide strong immune support. Using it topically can influence the immune system as well, because it supports emotional balance which has a beneficial effect on immunity and all of the systems in the body.

To Support the Brain and Nervous System

Diffuse the essential oil or inhale directly. You may also try applying a drop to the crown of the head, over the brain stem, forehead, temples, or on the Vita Flex points on the feet.

To Use Internally for Immune Support

Add a couple of drops to a capsule along with a carrier oil, try a drop under the tongue, or add to an herbal tea. (Again, the bottle of frankincense should be specifically labeled for internal use.)

To Ease Sore Muscles

Mix a few drops with a carrier oil and massage into sore muscles or add to a bath.

For Glowing Skin

Mix a drop or two with an oil such as rose hips oil or jojoba oil and apply to the face and neck. Or, simply add to your favorite non-toxic moisturizer.

Frankincense DIY Recipes

Calm & Serenity Roller

20 drops Frankincense essential oil

15 drops Lavender essential oil

15 drops Peace & Calming essential oil

Organic fractionated coconut oil or carrier oil of your choice

Add drops of essential oils to a glass roller bottle. Fill the remainder of the bottle with carrier oil. Apply to temples, wrists, and back of the neck.

Frankincense Eye Cream

10 drops of Frankincense essential oil

1 ounce unrefined shea butter

1 ounce pure aloe vera

1/2 teaspoon vitamin E

1 ounce unrefined coconut oil

Mix all ingredients in a small bowl. If necessary, you can gently heat the shea butter and coconut oil in a pan to make it easier to blend. Add the rest of the ingredients, blend well, then transfer into a glass jar. Use morning and night around the eyes.

How to Find Genuine Frankincense

Much of the frankincense on the market today is not genuine. And, even if the oil is pure, it is often of poor quality. That means it will not be very effective and may even be dangerous. Every step in the process of producing a genuine and effective essential oil is critical, otherwise many vital constituents can be lost or weakened. If you see a cheap bottle of frankincense, that is your first clue.

So, how can you find genuine, high quality frankincense that is ethically sourced?

Here are four questions to ask:

  1. Have company owners and officials actually traveled to the Middle East to meet the people and find verifiable frankincense sources?

  2. Does the company own the sophisticated, technical equipment needed to test for purity? Does it employ scientists with the credentials and training to use this technology correctly?

  3. Does the company invest in a library of innovative, peer-reviewed research?

  4. Does the company meet and work with leading botanists and cutting-edge scientists in the field of frankincense research?

Sadly, we are hearing more and more reports of overharvesting of Frankincense trees. Over-tapping is destroying the trees as tappers try to extract as much resin as possible and make too many cuts per tree. They also tap the trees year-round rather than seasonally, preventing the trees from recovering. This is why it is crucial to get your frankincense from an ethical, sustainable source.

Frankincense is truly a precious gift from the earth. When you experience genuine frankincense, you will understand why it has been treasured for thousands of years.


The Aromatherapy Bible, Gill Farrer-Halls

Essential Oils Desk Reference, Seventh Edition, Life Science Publishing

The Chemistry of Essential Oils Made Simple, David Stewart, Ph.D


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