Frankincense is often associated with churches, meditation and for many people, the birth of baby Jesus and the gifts from the Magi.
With several variations of the story of the Magi’s visit to baby Jesus, one thing that seems certain is, they travelled a long distance from the east to welcome their new king, and present him with the precious gifts of gold, frankincense and Myrrh. It is interesting to note that these same items were typically offered as gifts to honour a king or divine being, and baby Jesus was indeed honoured as royalty.
Gold was valuable, loved and imperishable, and by offering this precious metal to baby Jesus they were honouring him as their everlasting king. Frankincense was offered to acknowledge his priestly role, and myrrh, a proclamation of his death and embalming. Although frankincense was associated with royalty and spirituality, researchers suggest that because of its medicinal properties, it was also given to Jesus to offer protection against sickness and disease.
When incisions are made in the trunk of the frankincense tree, resin oozes out and solidifies into a gum. This is a natural process to seal and protect the tree. Since the beginning of history, this resin has been used as an important ingredient for incense – ceremonial and perfume. It was a moderate part of the religious and domestic culture of the ancient Egyptians, Hebrews, Greeks and Romans.
As well as being an important ingredient in their ritual incense, the Egyptians used it as a disinfectant. They also charred the frankincense gum resin to produce a kohl that the women used as eye makeup. It is still used as an ingredient for incense and perfume.
Today, many people buy the gum resin to burn on a charcoal puck to release a smoke that purifies the air. The medicinal properties of the frankincense smoke are absorbed by the body through the pores and via inhalation.
The resin contains essential oils which are extracted by steam distillation. Burning and diffusing the essential oil for inhalation is the most effective way of benefiting from its properties. In the world of aromatherapy, Frankincense is known as the King of essential oils .
There are many different species of frankincense and four main species of Boswellia that produce essential oils—carterii, sacra, frereana and serrata—and even though they all have similar therapeutic properties, the most sought-after species is possibly Boswellia carterii.
Boswellia carterii is used to strengthen the immune system, especially in cases where nervous depression threatens to weaken our defensive energies. A base note oil, it calms and centres the mind, which makes it a favourable choice for use in meditation. It allows the spirit to soar and revitalise. It is also useful for treating nervous exhaustion and mental distraction because of its ability to relax and energise at the same time.
The king of essential oils can reduce symptoms associated with menstruation and menopause, such as mood swings, anxiety, fatigue and headaches. Additionally, it helps with the regulation of estrogen production.
Many anti-aging creams contain frankincense because of its ability to strengthen the skin and improve elasticity. It is healing for dry cracked skin and can help heal wounds.
Boswellia carterii is anti-inflammatory making it beneficial in the treatment of conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis. The most effective method for treating conditions of the integumentary, muscular and skeletal systems, is by adding a couple of drops to a warm bath, applying a compress to the affected area or massaging with a blend of 4-5 drops per 10ml of carrier oil. 1-2 drops for the face. Remember to patch test, especially if it’s an oil you are not familiar with, if you haven’t used it in a while and if it’s a brand you haven’t used before.
As with all essential oils use your frankincense sparingly and store in a cool dark place to help protect it. It costs between €10 – €20 for 5mls of frankincense oil (depending on the brand), and slightly more if it’s organic, leaving it a little more expensive than most essential oils. However, it’s still one worth having in your kit, and if it’s good enough for royalty, it’s good enough for you!