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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 also states that the emotional benefits of frankincense are to "induce feelings of emotional stability, enlightenment, protection, introspection, courage, resolution, fortitude, acceptance and inspiration."
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:
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.
The scent of frankincense 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.
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.
Boswellia carterii /
Source: Essential Oil Safety, 2nd Edition
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 supports 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.
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 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. "Frankincense contains the power to focus our spiritual consciousness and imbue a potential for transcendent awareness."
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.
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:
If you want to lighten the scent, add a few drops of cedarwood and/or orange essential oil.
Diffuser Blend For Massage and Yoga
Make the blend in a 5-ml stock bottle. Use 5 to 10 drops in your aroma diffuser. Source: Aromahead
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
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
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
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
Photo Credit: Ben Norvell (Frankincense tree) [CC BY 2.0 ], via Wikimedia Commons