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Guide To Frankincense Essential Oil and Its Benefits and Uses

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 describes the emotional benefits of frankincense as inducing feelings of emotional stability, enlightenment, protection, introspection, courage, resolution, fortitude, acceptance and inspiration.

Aromatherapy supplies with the works Guide To Frankincense Essential Oil Benefits and photo of a frankincense tree.

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 essential oil 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 debate about whether sacra is really different from carterii. Suffice it to say, 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, commonly used in Ayurveda)

Basic Frankincense Facts

Plant family: Burseraceae

Production: Steam distilled from gum 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 /


Boswellia frereana


Boswellia serrata


Source: Essential Oil Safety, 2nd Edition

Frankincense Aromatherapy Benefits

Essential Oils & Aromatherapy for Dummies: Frankincense essential oil benefits the skin, especially aging and mature skin. The oil may help fade old scars and reduce acne, skin inflammation, and skin damage. This essential oil also helps reduce pain, boost the immune system, and relax the brain, helping you sleep.

Aromatherapy: A Complete Guide to the Healing Art: 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 essential oil skin benefits include helping heal skin damage and irritations. This oil is one of the best for daily skin care. 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.

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

The Encyclopedia of Essential Oils (updated edition): Use frankincense essential oil 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.

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.

Subtle Aromatherapy: Frankincense is associated with the highest spiritual aspirations. The oil helps break ties with the past, especially those that block personal growth.

The Essential Guide to Aromatherapy and Vibrational Healing: Spiritually, frankincense is the ultimate oil for meditation. This essential oil aligns you with inner peace, compassion, tolerance, and love. Mentally, the oil clears your mind of incessant chatter.

Aromatherapy and Subtle Energy Techniques: Frankincense grounds, calms and comforts, stabilizes emotions, and expands the subtle bodies. Especially useful for the seventh chakra.

Sacred Oils: Frankincense aligns spirit and soul with the divine. The oil calms inner chaos, offers spiritual comfort, eases compulsive or excessive behavior, consecrates sacred space, and is aligned with the brow (6th) and crown (7th) chakras.

Mixing Essential Oils for Magic: Frankincense supports dream, astral, and psychic work; divination; clairvoyance; and reaching higher levels of awareness. The oil also banishes negativity and promotes healing that supports vitality and longevity.

Frankincense Essential Oil Uses and Blends

Uses for frankincense essential oil include diffusing it 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

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Photo Credit: Ben Norvell (Frankincense tree) [CC BY 2.0 ], via Wikimedia Commons