Known as Boswellia in the scientific literature, frankincense boasts a unique, rich history throughout the Middle East. Its legacy even spans into modern times, and into every corner of the globe. Beyond its elegant, low-flowing branches and bright, perky flowers, the frankincense tree produces a powerful resinous sap. Today as it has in the past,
this precious substance sets frankincense apart from most other plants
. Frankincense resin is valued for its uses in everything from religious incense and perfume, to decorative jewelry, toothpaste, deodorant, and even folk medicine.
Where Does Frankincense Come From?
So why is frankincense so special, and where does it come from? Incisions ("wounds") are cut into the Boswellia tree and the tear-shaped droplets of sap that escape are carefully scraped off and dried. These "tears" solidify into an alluring mass of silver, golden, and amber colors that, in and of itself, are a sight to behold.
The hardened frankincense gum is either burned or processed into essential oil or oil extract, depending on the intended use
. These conversion methods release the various aromatic terpenes locked inside frankincense, which unleashes that intoxicating, fragrant bouquet that typifies this unique and incredible plant.
As part of their burial rituals, many ancient civilizations, including the Greeks, Romans, Egyptians, and Israelites, would use these various frankincense extracts to embalm their dead as part of a holy laying-to-rest ceremony. The earthy, sweet-smelling aroma of frankincense is nothing short of pungent, after all, helping to deodorize and freshen nearly anything to which it's applied. Frankincense can even function as a type of insect-repellant, according to both historical and modern accounts, helping to ward off mosquitos and other flying insects.
What About Frankincense and Health?
Even more well-documented in the scientific literature are the non-metaphysical effects of frankincense. Asian, African, and Ayurvedic systems of medicine have long held frankincense in high regard for its health-promoting benefits, with plenty of empirical evidence to back its recognized uses in supporting a healthy immune system and cellular function. Here's just a taste of what's been reported in peer-reviewed scientific studies about the potential health benefits of frankincense:
- Researchers from Cardiff University in the U.K. decided to investigate the reported pain-relieving properties of frankincense. As reported in Science Daily, lead researcher Dr. Ahmed Ali stated that "The search for new drugs to alleviate the symptoms of conditions like inflammatory arthritis and osteoarthritis is a priority area for scientists. What our research has managed to achieve is to use innovative chemical extraction techniques to determine the active ingredient in frankincense. Having done this we are now able to further characterise the chemical entity and compare its success against other anti-inflammatory drugs used for treating the condition."
- In a paper published in the journal BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine, researchers concluded that an essential oil blend containing frankincense may help inhibit the spread and proliferation of viral cells associated with influenza. The study's authors wrote that the oil "decreased direct infection of the cells," adding that frankincense oil specifically "possess[es] anti-inflammatory activity through inhibition of immune cytokines production and leukocyte infiltration."
- For patients with digestive troubles, the use of Boswellia has shown positive results in a number of studies, including in a human trial involving 20 patients who "suffered from chronic colitis characterized by vague lower abdominal pain, bleeding per rectum with diarrhoea and palpable tender descending and sigmoid colon." The patients in the study "were given a preparation of the gum resin of Boswellia serrata (900 mg daily divided in three doses for 6 weeks) and ten patients were given sulfasalazine (3 gm daily divided in three doses for 6 weeks) and served as controls."
According to the paper published in the journal
Planta Medica in 2001, "Out of 20 patients treated with Boswellia gum resin 18 patients showed an improvement in one or more of the parameters ... In conclusion, this study shows that a gum resin preparation from Boswellia serrata could be effective in the treatment of chronic colitis with minimal side effects."
Numerous studies have likewise investigated the use of frankincense for improving a range of health outcomes in patients with the "Big C:" cancer. Just one example is a peer-reviewed paper published in the journal BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine in 2009 which concluded that frankincense oil "appears to distinguish cancerous from normal bladder cells and suppress cancer cell viability. Microarray and bioinformatics analysis proposed multiple pathways that can be activated by frankincense oil to induce bladder cancer cell death. Frankincense oil might represent an alternative intravesical agent for bladder cancer treatment."
(Note: "Intravesical" is a type of therapy where a liquid drug is injected directly into the bladder via a cathether)
While none of these benefits or outcomes are guaranteed from the use of frankincense oil, their cited presence in the scientific literature are worthy of consideration
. There's a reason why frankincense has been so pronounced throughout history as a natural substance worth its weight in gold - and then some.
Whether in times past, present, or future, one thing is for sure: the frankincense tree and its fragrant resin really is one of nature's treasure with sacred significance, and shouldn't be ignored.
We are now carrying Frankincense at Complete Care Family Medicine. Our brand from Young Livings is organic, pure, and can be used orally, topically, and by diffusion. Please feel free to contact our office to place your order, or coming very soon, you can order many of our supplements via our Complete Care Family Medicine online store.
Dr. Marcela Dominguez, M.D.
Dr. Cheryl Thomas, M.D.
Angela Fernandez, N.P.
Alison Gracom, P.A.
and the CCFM Team
Visit us on the web
We invite you to visit our new website.
to experience all CCFM's website has to offer.
Missed an Email?
You can access our past email newsletters here!