Frankincense oil has a long history in both medicinal and spiritual usage. This oil has been widely used across the world for many centuries. Traces of frankincense oil have been found in Ancient Egyptian tombs dating back as far as 1323 BC.
Considered to be a holy oil by Christian religions, frankincense oil was one of the gifts said to have been presented at the birth of Christ. This is also known as Oil of Lebanon or Olibanum Oil (Lis-Balchin, M. 2006. Page 194 ‘Aromatherapy Science: A Guide for Healthcare Professionals’).
What is Frankincense Oil?
Frankincense is a type of resin harvested from trees of the Boswellia genus. The Boswellia sacra is particularly known for the healing qualities of its frankincense oil, and also the fact that it can grow in extremely rocky and challenging environments. These hardy trees can grow out of almost bare rock, and this only enhances their mysterious and spiritual nature.
The Boswellia resin is harvested by tapping through the bark on the trunk (a process known as striping) up to three times a year. The sticky resin is left then to ooze out and dry. Once it has dried and hardened the resin is carefully harvested. These hardened resin pieces are known as ‘tears’. It is generally thought that opaque resins offer the very best quality frankincense oil, which is prized by the Catholic Church for ceremonial uses.
Once harvested the hard frankincense resin is then distilled to extract the highly fragrant oil. The green and pale resin tears can also be eaten raw. This is a very strong substance and so it must be ingested carefully. The recommended diluted is 10:1 in water, and in general frankincense oil is used as a flavouring to dishes like ice-cream or sweet pastries, rather than as a main ingredient.
Does Frankincense Work?
There has been a lot of research on traditional medicines in recent years. Scientists are looking into exactly what traditional medicines such as frankincense oil are made of, and how these compounds could provide benefits for the body. Research into frankincense oil has revealed that it contains the organic compounds ‘sesquiterpenes’. These have the important ability to break through the blood-brain barrier and so affect the brain tissue. In particular the sesquiterpenes found in frankincense oil have been shown to stimulate the area of the brain that controls feelings and emotions. This is a key discovery, as for centuries therapists and healers have used frankincense to balance and improve mood and positive thoughts. Sesquiterpenes have also been shown to affect the main glands of the body including the hypothalamus and pituitary. This could help to balance hormone production and promote a healthier immune system.
Frankincense oil has been shown to have an ORAC value of up to 630 µTE/100g. This is the standard measure used to describe the antioxidant capabilities of a substance. Antioxidants have been shown to reduce the risks of early aging and age-related diseases, and are highly recommended as part of a healthy lifestyle.
In recent years frankincense oil has been in the news as a possible weapon in the fight against cancer. Scientists have found that compounds such as sesquiterpenes and monoterpenes in the oil can delete corrupt DNA codes from cells, and potentially restore the correct information to recreate healthy cells and stop the spread of cancer. This research is still in the early stages, but does provide some exciting possibilities for the future treatment of many forms of cancer (Howell J, ‘Frankincense: Could it be a cure for cancer’. BBC World News. 2010).
Medicinal Uses Frankincense oil
Frankincense oil is widely available and can be used in many effective home remedies. This sweet smelling oil has a strong, warm and balsamic-like aroma. It has been used for centuries by healers and therapists, and has been attributed with the following healing properties:
- Immune system stimulating
- Muscle relaxant
Frankincense has been used to treat a wide range of conditions over the years including depression, asthma, infection, common colds, low immune system, muscle strain, joint pain, nervous conditions, stress, stomach ulcers and more. This oil is also used as a treatment to uplift and balance the senses and promote spiritual healing.
Frankincense Natural Remedies
Avoid using neat frankincense oil topically or orally as it is a strong essential oil. Always read manufacturer’s instructions and dilute before use. Here are just a few natural ways to use frankincense to heal and support the body:
- Skin Care –frankincense oil is widely used for skin care. It has been shown to soothe burns, inflammation, rashes, cuts and sores. To make your own soothing frankincense cream just add a few drops of good quality oil to an unscented base body lotion, facial cream, shower gel or liquid soap. You could also just add it to boiled water that has been completely cool, and use it as a toner and refresher.
- Relaxant – frankincense oil has a warm and uplifting aroma perfect for aiding relaxation. You can add a few drops to a base massage oil (such as sweet almond oil), or simply add a few drops to your bath water. Whilst mediating many people like to warm frankincense oil on a special essential oil burner and inhale the fragrant scent to aid relaxation.
- Sore Muscles and Joint Pain – frankincense scented massage oil provides a warming rub for tired and sore muscles, and joint pain. You can also fill a bowl with warm water, add a few drops of massage oil and then soak a clean cloth. Squeeze this out and then place over sore muscles to create a soothing compress. Alternate with a cloth soaked in cool water for a hot/cold treatment.
- Stomach Problems – frankincense oil has been closely linked with treatments of stomach problems for centuries. Green frankincense resin is particularly prized for treating stomach disorders. This is made by soaking green frankincense resin pieces in fresh water overnight, and drinking a small amount each morning. Drink sparingly as frankincense is a very strong ingredient. Green frankincense is quite rare and must be kept completely out of the sunlight to preserve its special qualities. Alternatively you can buy a hydrosol version of frankincense, also distilled from the resin. This can be diluted 10:1 in water and drunk sparingly as a tea to relieve ulcers, reflux and nausea.
- Emotional Imbalance – frankincense is one of the key essential oils used to treat emotional imbalance. The warm, relaxing and uplifting scent has been used to support the body and mind through spiritual and emotional difficulties for centuries. This can be applied as massage oil or through inhalation using essential oil burners. Many people with nervous conditions find it helpful to add a drop of frankincense to a base lotion. This can then be applied to the hands, wrists or temples to help calm nerves in difficult situations.
Frankincense oil is a valuable addition to any home medicine cabinet. It has been shown to provide a wealth of healing and supporting effects on the mind and body. The warm, uplifting scent can help to balance mood and create a positive atmosphere to rest and recharge in. Frankincense is widely available as an oil, resin or hydrosol.
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