What springs to mind when you think about frankincense? Is it the gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh that were given by The Three Wise Men to Jesus Christ? Or maybe it’s a smell that you associate with Christmas?
Many people may be able to recall learning about this biblical event, which is recorded in the Gospel of Matthew (Matthew 2:11).1
Biblical references aside, frankincense essential oil is known worldwide as the King of Oils2 and reportedly has lots of health-related benefits (more on these below). It’s for this very reason that it’s been used in Ayurvedic medicine for centuries.3
Frankincense oil is sourced from the sticky sap of the Bowellia Carterii or Bowellia Sacra tree that can be found in Somalia, Ethiopia, Oman, Yemen, India and China.4 Frankincense goes by several names other than frankincense. They are – Bowellia Carterii, Bowellia Sacra and Olibanum.5
How is it made?
As with most essential oils, frankincense oil is extracted from the tree sap in a number of ways, which usually involves steam distillation. It’s also possible to dry it out and use it in its dried form too.
How long have people been using frankincense for?
Frankincense goes back a long way! It’s said to have been traded in the Middle East and North Africa for more than 5,000 years.
Its roots go so far back that sacks of frankincense appear in the murals that decorate the walls of the temple of Queen Hatshepsut, who once ruled Egypt and died around 480BC. Meanwhile, in the Holy Bible, frankincense and myrrh were components of the holy incense that were ritually burned in Jerusalem’s sacred temples.6
How can it be used?
There’s so much you can do with frankincense oil. You can:7
Dilute it with a carrier oil and then apply a few drops to the bottom of your feet or rub it into your pulse points.
Either breathe it in directly from the bottle or sprinkle some droplets on a towel or cloth and pop it under your pillow. You can also breathe it in by lighting some incense sticks.
Put some in a diffuser and take in the grounding and calming aroma.
Moisture with it
Mix some into your favourite moisturiser to help reduce blemishes and rejuvenate skin.
Frankincense oil benefits
Frankincense oil has anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties, as well as many more qualities. As a result, there are lots of benefits to using it, including these:8
- Soothing properties – studies have found that massaging frankincense can prevent the release of leukotrienes; the compounds that are responsible for causing soreness.9
- Improves oral health – it contains something called boswellic acid, which is antibacterial and effective at fighting bad breath, toothache, cavities and mouth sores.
- Reduces feelings of anxiety – thanks to its comforting properties it can help calm a busy mind, reducing the feelings of anxiety.
- Improve concentration and mood – frankincense can diminish the feelings of stress helping to improve your mood and your concentration.
How to use it safely
Always do a patch test to it make sure it doesn’t irritate your skin and don’t ingest it unless advised by a medical professional. Always follow the manufacturer’s guidelines on how to use it.10
Some interesting facts about frankincense oil
- When burned, it gives off a sweet, citrusy scent and when combined with myrrh, produces a piney, bitter odour11
- Cleopatra is said to have used frankincense oil, in conjunction with geranium oil, as a skin treatment.12
- When buying pure frankincense essential oil, check the label for its Latin name, Boswellia Carterii or Boswellia sacra. No other oils ingredients should be listed.13
- Studies show that large doses of frankincense may help boost memory in rats. However, this research doesn’t apply to humans.14
We hope you’ve found this guide to frankincense oil useful and hopefully come away wanting to give it a try. Intrigued about the popularity of essential oils? Check out this article, ‘The 7 most popular essential oils.’
Last updated: 11 September 2020