Boswellia serrata, Boswellia carterii, Boswellia frereana
Tree Resin or Sap
Frankincense is perhaps best known for its use in religious ceremonies, especially in Catholic churches where a formula including Frankincense is still used to this day to purify and sanctify.
Known as “liquid gold”, the medicinal properties of Frankincense were well known to the ancient physicians, with Pliny the Elder recommending it as a remedy for hemlock poisoning. They knew it had antiseptic, anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties, and as such prescribed it for various ailments including; indigestion, wound dressing and healing, coughs and other respiratory disorders.
Containing powerful anti-inflammatory compounds such as terpenes and boswellic acids, Frankincense has been researched for its effects on rheumatoid and osteoarthritis. It was found to reduce joint inflammation by preventing the release of leukotrienes (compounds that can cause inflammation), with test tube studies confirming it may be as effective as NSAIDS (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs), with no negative side effects.
A study of note found that 1 gram of Frankincense per day for eight weeks significantly reduced joint pain and swelling compared with participants who were given a placebo. They also had better joint mobility and were able to walk further that the placebo group.
Frankincense essential oil can be massaged into painful joints and muscles, and has been found useful in preventing the breakdown of cartilage tissue, thus reducing inflammation.
There have been many clinical studies revealing the efficacy of Frankincense in fighting dangerous bacteria and viruses. Controlled studies have shown that the essential oil provides immunostimulant activity throughout the body. One study found that Frankincense increases white blood cell production whilst keeping inflammation at a minimum. When applied topically, the oil will work to create a layer of protection against bacterial and viral infections. When inhaled, the same benefits manifest internally, working to heal the body from the inside out.
With a strong reputation for treating many respiratory conditions, Frankincense has been found to be especially helpful to asthma sufferers. The aforementioned inflammatory compounds, leukotrienes, play a major role in causing the bronchial muscles to contract which can cause asthma attacks. The ability of Frankincense to block the production of leukotrienes may be responsible for its success at treating asthma.
A couple of studies bear this out - of one small study in people with asthma, 70 percent of participants reported improvements in symptoms, such as shortness of breath and wheezing, after receiving 300mg of Frankincense three times daily for six weeks. Another study found that a daily dose of 1.4mg of Frankincense per pound of body weight improved lung capacity and helped reduce asthma attacks in people with chronic asthma.
It can also help suppress coughing fits and eliminate excess phlegm from the lungs if inhaled or diffused in essential oil form.
Frankincense essential oil is powerfully astringent, meaning it can naturally slow down the signs of aging by lifting and toning the skin thus reducing the appearance of wrinkles. It also helps to protect and regenerate skin cells which can even out the complexion, fade stretch marks and heal cracked skin.
Its antibacterial action makes Frankincense effective for acne and other blemishes. It can also fade scars at a much faster rate.
Frankincense can be added to natural toothpaste and mouthwash to keep the gums and teeth in tip top condition, with natural antiseptic qualities in can help to neutralise the oral bacteria that can cause tooth decay and gum disease.
The boswellic acids contained in Frankincense have strong antibacterial properties which can help to prevent and treat oral infections. In one test tube study, Frankincense extract was effective against Aggregatibacter actinomycetemcomitans, a bacteria which causes aggressive gum disease. In a human study of high school students, participants with gum disease were given a chewing gum containing either 100mg or 200mg of Frankincense extract. Both of the gums were significantly more effective at reducing gingivitis than the placebo group.
Frankincense Essential Oil
Frankincense essential oil can be used in the bath, or vaporized in an oil burner. It can be added to a massage oil or cream. Use 6-8 drops per bath and 10 -18 drops per 30ml of carrier oil.
Frankincense Incense Resin
The resin is burnt on small charcoal disks, the disks need to be set in a heat resistant container for safety purposes. Light the disk and wait until the whole disk glows red. Sprinkle a small amount of resin onto the disk and let it fill the room with its rich, sweet scent.
Frankincense is most famously known as one of the gifts brought by the Magi to the baby Jesus. Alongside the gold and myrrh, these valuable items were standard gifts to honor a king or deity in the ancient world: gold as a precious metal, frankincense as perfume or incense, and myrrh as anointing oil.
However, the history of Frankincense goes back much further than the dawn of modern day Christianity. The ancient Babylonians and Assyrians are believed to have burned Frankincense during their religious ceremonies. The Egyptian Pharaoh Hatshepsut who came to the throne in 1478 BCE has famous reliefs depicting the "Expedition to Punt" that show not only Frankincense, but also the trees themselves being brought back to Egypt. Ancient civilizations understood how to use Frankincense in rituals and for healing.
The major constituents of Frankincense include; acid resins, gum, 3-acetyl-beta-boswellic acid, alpha-boswellic acid, 4-O-methyl-glucuronic acid, incensole acetate, terpines, α-pinene, phellandrene and pentacyclic triterpenoids.