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A Guide To Frankincense Essential Oil and Its Benefits and Uses

A Guide To Frankincense Essential Oil and Its Benefits and Uses In Aromatherapy

Frankincense essential oil (Boswellia carterii) is "adaptogenic—it will adapt to a person's spiritual state of being…capable of offering support in a wide range of circumstances," according to aromatherapist Valerie Ann Worwood in Aromatherapy For the Soul.

She goes on to write that the emotional benefits of frankincense are to "induce feelings of emotional stability, enlightenment, protection, introspection, courage, resolution, fortitude, acceptance and inspiration."

What Is Frankincense?

The frankincense tree is a small, often shrub-like, perennial that grows in dry, arid conditions. When the tree's bark is cut, a yellow milk-like sap flows out and forms droplets known as tears or pearls. They harden into the orange-brown gum known as frankincense resin. The resin is scraped off the tree for uses that include incense and essential oil.

Frankincense comes in many varieties. One of the more common, and the focus of this profile, is Boswellia carterii. Other varieties include:

  • Boswellia sacra (There's a lot of debate about whether sacra is different from carterii. They are both good choices when they are authentic.)
  • Boswellia frereana (native to northern Somalia; also called Dhidin or Maydi)
  • Boswellia neglecta (black frankincense)
  • Boswellia rivae
  • Boswellia papyrifera
  • Boswellia serrata (Indian frankincense)

The history of this essential oil dates back thousands of years, with both spiritual and medicinal uses. Frankincense is the "holy anointing oil" in the Middle East. The ancient Chinese used the oil as a treatment for a range of ailments. The Ebers Papyrus, one of the oldest known medical records from the 16th century B.C., mentions frankincense oil. The ancient Egyptians listed the oil on hundreds of prescriptions and recipes.

Frankincense contains sesquiterpenes, which stimulate the brain's limbic system (the center of memory and emotions) and the hypothalamus, pineal, and pituitary glands. The scent can calm and soothe the whole body and mind, while also being stimulating and elevating. Useful for visualizing and improving your spiritual connection, frankincense has comforting properties that help center the mind and overcome stress and despair.

Basic Frankincense Facts

Plant family: Burseraceae

Production: Steam distilled from resin of the frankincense tree.

Aroma: Sweet, warm, balsamic

Perfume/Aromatic note: Base

Is frankincense safe to use during pregnancy? Yes, according to the International Federation of Professional Aromatherapists (IFPA) Pregnancy Guidelines.

Is frankincense essential oil safe for children? Yes.

Cautions: If the oil becomes oxidized, it may cause skin sensitization.

Because frankincense is expensive, some suppliers dilute it by adding inferior substances to produce more oil at lower prices. If you want the full benefits, make sure you buy only a pure, authentic frankincense oil from a trusted supplier.

Sustainability is also an issue with frankincense, so you may want to know if you're buying an essential oil that comes from a sustainable source.

Main components:

Boswellia carterii /
sacra

alpha-pinene 
     10.3-51.3%
alpha-phellandrene
      0-41.8%
(+)-limonene
      6.0-21.9%
beta-myrcene
      0-20.7%

Boswellia frereana

alpha-pinene
     41.7-80.0%
sabinene 
     0.5-21.0%
alpha-thujene
     0-19.3%
(+)-limonene  
     0-17.0%

Boswellia serrata

alpha-thujene
     26.2-47.4%
alpha-pinene 
     0-11.2%
tetrahydro-linalool 
      7.0-10.6%

Source: Essential Oil Safety, 2nd Edition

Benefits Of Frankincense Essential Oil

Aromatherapy for Dummies: Frankincense essential oil benefits the skin, especially aging and mature skin, and the oil may help get rid of acne and skin inflammation. This essential oil helps reduce pain and boost the immune system, while also relaxing the brain.

In addition to the previous benefits, Aromatherapy: A Complete Guide to the Healing Art states that frankincense is "one of the best oils to heal deep-seated wounds of the soul that may manifest in physical illness."

The Heart of Aromatherapy: Frankincense is one of the best essential oils for the skin, both for daily skin care and helping heal skin damage and irritations. The oil can also help clear mucous and congestion, support healthy breathing, relieve headaches, and promote relaxing and uplifting feelings. It's great for contemplation and meditation.

Aromatherapy For Healing the Spirit: Traditional Chinese Medicine believes frankincense smooths the flow of stagnant Qi-energy when accumulated stress has led to irritability, restlessness, and insomnia. The essential oil can help relieve mental agitation, worry, and distraction. "Frankincense contains the power to focus our spiritual consciousness and imbue a potential for transcendant awareness."

The Complete Book of Essential Oils and Aromatherapy: Uses of frankincense oil include coughs, colds, skin care, scars, mental fatigue, depression, nervousness, tension, stress, and inability to communicate

Illustrated Encyclopedia of Essential Oils: Use frankincense for skin care, to reduce coughs and catarrh, to relieve menstrual pain, for colds and flu, and to lessen anxiety, nervous tension, and stress-related conditions.

Frankincense Aromatherapy Uses

Diffuse the essential oil while praying, meditating, or reading to increase spiritual awareness. Diffusion may also help relieve congestion and deepen breathing, reduce mental strain, and promote internal peace.

You can also diffuse a frankincense and myrrh blend:

  • 5 drops frankincense essential oil
  • 5 drops myrrh essential oil

If you want to lighten the scent, add a few drops of cedarwood and/or orange essential oil.

Diffuser Blend For Massage and Yoga

  • 15 drops frankincense
  • 10 drops juniper essential oil
  • 20 drops elemi essential oil
  • 15 drops bergamot essential oil

Make the blend in a 5-ml stock bottle. Use 5 to 10 drops in your aroma diffuser.
Source: Aromahead

Skin Care

Frankincense oil is especially good for dry and mature skin and may reduce the appearance of age spots on the skin. The essential oil is commonly used in high-end skin-care products.

Soap-Free Face Wash For Irritated Skin

  • 2 tablespoons argan oil
  • 2 tablespoons aloe vera gel
  • 1 drop neroli essential oil
  • 1 drop frankincense

Pour the argan oil and aloe vera gel into a 2-ounce glass bottle. Add the essential oils. Shake gently before each use.

Source: The Heart of Aromatherapy

Pain Relief

To relieve stress, dilute several drops of frankincense in a few drops of carrier oil and massage it on your temples or back of the neck.

Frankincense Headache Oil

  • 2 tablespoons jojoba oil or other carrier oil
  • 9 drops frankincense
  • 5 drops rosemary essential oil
  • 3 drops Roman chamomile essential oil

Blend oils in a small dark bottle. When you have a headache, massage a little of the blend on your neck and shoulders.
Source: Aromahead

Frankincense and Myrrh Lotion

Here's a lotion for overall body skin care:

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil
  • 1/4 cup beeswax
  • 1/4 cup shea butter
  • 2 tablespoons vitamin E
  • 20 drops frankincense essential oil
  • 20 drops myrrh essential oil
  • BPA-free plastic lotion dispenser bottles
  1. Put olive oil, coconut oil, beeswax, and shea butter in glass bowl.
  2. Place that bowl in saucepan with about one-inch of water.
  3. Heat stove to medium and stir ingredients until melted.
  4. Remove from heat. Put bowl in refrigerator for about an hour until mixture is solid.
  5. Remove mixture from refrigerator.
  6. Use either an electric mixer or hand mixer to beat the mixture until it's whipped and fluffy.
  7. Mix in vitamin E and essential oils.
  8. Fill bottles and store in cool place.

Source: Dr. Axe

Buy Frankincense Essential Oil

I recommend frankincense essential oil from Young Living. Both Boswellia carterii and Boswellia sacra are available.

Sacred Frankincense Essential Oil from Young Living