Frankincense is a milky white resin derived from the tree sap of trees found along the Arabian peninsula, East Africa, and India. It’s best known for its appearance in the biblical "Gospel of Matthew" when baby Jesus was presented with gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. In an ancient biblical setting it was prized for its scent, but it turns out that frankincense essential oil benefits go far beyond smell, and include a number of medicinal uses.
Frankincense Oil Benefits
Sourced from the Boswellia carterii or Boswellia sacara tree, this desert flora has so many health benefits. Frankincense oil benefits include:
1. Reduces gingivitis
A study published in the October 2013 issue of the Journal of Traditional and Complementary Medicine found that frankincense was effective at reducing the periodontal inflammation that causes gingivitis.
2. Treats atherosclerosis
A study published in the February 2008 issue of Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis, and Vascular Biology found that frankincense may be used as an alternative treatment for chronic inflammatory diseases like atherosclerosis, which causes heart disease.
3. Reduces asthma symptoms
Frankincense oil has been traditionally used to treat respiratory conditions using steam inhalations, baths, and massage. This makes sense because a study published in the November 1998 issue of the European Journal of Medical Research found that in a six week clinical study, gum resin from the Boswellia serrata tree reduced symptoms of bronchial asthma.
4. Soothes skin irritation
It’s also been shown to reduce skin irritation such as bruises and sores, and it’s even been used as an agent to soften and relax facial lines, according to research published in the 2010 issue of the Journal of Medicinal Plants.
5. Treats inflammatory bowel syndrome (IBS)
A study published in the September 2010 issue of the World Journal of Gastroenterology, found that traditional remedies like frankincense may help with the treatment of IBS, though more research needs to be done on the subject.
6. May stop the growth of cancer cells
Frankincense has been shown in studies to have anti-cancer benefits. A study published in the March 2010 issue of Molecular Pharmacology found that it may inhibit the growth of prostate cancer cells.
Frankincense Oil Uses
Frankincense oil benefits have been shown in a number of studies. But how can you put it to use in your life?
1. Soak it up
One of the easiest ways to enjoy the benefits of frankincense is to soak it up in the bath. Add a few drops to a hot bath or use in an essential oil diffuser, like Vitruvi's Stone Diffuser.
2. Make your own household cleaner
Since ancient times, frankincense has been prized for its scent, but did you know that it’s also a great indoor cleaning agent? Make sure it is 100 percent pure oil, do not use fragrance or perfume oils for this.
Frankincense Household Cleaner Recipe
A clean 32-oz spray bottle
3 cups warm water
1/2 cup vinegar
10 drops frankincense essential oil
Combine ingredients in your spray bottle and shake well before using.
From the Organic Authority Files
3. Make your own anti-aging cream
As the study above cited, frankincense has been shown to relax fine lines and wrinkles. So why not put it to work in your face cream?
Homemade Anti-Wrinkle Cream
1/2 cup cocoa butter
1/4 cup coconut oil
1/4 cup sweet almond oil
50 drops of Frankincense essential oil
1. Melt down the cocoa butter, coconut oil, and almond oil until they become a liquid and then combine well.
2. Put the mixture in the freezer to harden for about 20 minutes. When the mixture is hardened, but not too hard, add your frankincense oil and whip using a whisk until it's rich and fluffy. Spoon into a glass jar.
3. It should keep for a few months.
Recipe: Green Thickies
When you’re purchasing frankincense essential oil, or any oil for that matter, make sure it’s pure. Additionally, make sure the plants that produce the essential oil are grown organically. Choose products that are processed without using heat so that they don’t lose their medicinal qualities.
Weigh the cost of the product with the benefits of small batch essential oil companies that really take pride in the products they produce. Plant Therapy provides a high quality organic frankincense oil for around $16 for 10 ml. Ancient Apothecary produces another high quality product for around $23 for 5 ml, and you can buy Vitruvi's for around $18 for 10ml.
Where does frankincense come from?
As noted above, frankincense comes from the Boswellia tree. Specifically, from a resin-bearing duct that distributes a fragrant oleo gum resin that’s intended as defense against insects. It also helps the tree to repair damaged tissue. It’s the Boswellic acids found in frankincense that have both therapeutic and medicinal properties.
Is frankincense safe for children?
You should talk to your child's pediatrician before using any essential oils on your children. But generally speaking, frankincense can be used, properly diluted (20 drops of essential oil per ounce of a carrier oil) in children older than 2 years old. It should not be used in babies or infants. Exercise extreme caution because some children may react poorly to certain essential oils.
Is frankincense oil safe during pregnancy?
Again, you should talk with your doctor or healthcare provider before using any essential oils. Many oils are considered safe during pregnancy, but some can impact pregnancy hormones and are not safe to use.
What are the safest ways to use frankincense and essential oils?
Frankincense is best used aromatically, either in a diffuser or added to a steamy bath. It's also great when it's used topically. You can dilute it and add it to lotion, lotion bars, and other homemade toiletries. It’s not usually a good idea to ingest it or ever use it undiluted on the skin. Even if it’s diluted, it’s best to do a skin test to see if it causes skin irritation.
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Image of essential oils via Shutterstock
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