Frankincense oil is from the genus Boswellia and is sourced from the resin of the Boswellia carterii, Boswellia frereana or Boswellia serrata trees that are commonly grown in Somalia, the Middle East and regions of Pakistan and India. These trees are different from many others in that they can grow with very little soil in dry and desolate conditions.
The word frankincense comes from the term “franc encens,” which means quality incense in old French. Frankincense has been associated with many different religions over the years and it is referenced in in the Bible when the three magi brought the infant Jesus gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Frankincense has been referenced to being as valuable as gold throughout history because of its medicinal benefits, including anxiety, trouble sleeping, inflammation and digestive problems
Boswellia serrata, a tree native to India, produces special compounds that have been found to have strong anti-inflammatory effects. Among the valuable Boswellia tree extracts that researchers have identified, several stand out as most beneficial, including terpenes and boswellic acids, which are strongly anti-inflammatory and protect healthy cells(1). Several research groups have found that frankincense has promising anti-inflammatory and anti-tumour effects when tested in lab studies and on animals. Researchers in China investigated the anticancer effects of frankincense and myrrh oils on five tumour cells lines in a lab study (2). The results showed that human breast and skin cancer cell lines showed increased sensitivity to the combination of myrrh and frankincense essential oils. A 2012 study even found that a chemical compound found in frankincense called AKBA is successful at killing cancer cells that have become resistant to chemotherapy, which may make it a potential natural cancer treatment(3). Frankincense acts as an anti-inflammatory in the nasal passages, making breathing easier, even for those with allergies or asthma. To treat excessive phlegm and cold symptoms, add a few drops to a cloth and inhale for the respiratory benefits, or use an oil diffuser.
Frankincense has been shown in studies to inhibit the production of key inflammatory molecules associated with conditions like arthritis, asthma, painful bowel disorders like IBS and many more conditions(4). It can be useful in helping prevent the breakdown of the cartilage tissue and has been shown to significantly reduce levels of dangerous and painful inflammation, making it a natural treatment option for pain-related conditions that affect the muscles, joints and tendons. To improve circulation and lower symptoms of joint pain or muscle pain related to conditions like arthritis, digestive disorders and asthma, try massaging frankincense oil to the painful area or diffusing it in your home.
When inhaled, frankincense oil been shown to reduce heart rate and high blood pressure. It has anti-anxiety and depression-reducing abilities, but unlike prescription medications, it does not have negative side effects or cause unwanted drowsiness. A 2019 study found that compounds in frankincense have the ability to activate ion channels in the brain to alleviate anxiety or depression(5). Frankincense oil induces feelings of peace, relaxation and satisfaction by simply adding a few drops of frankincense oil to a hot bath or to an oil diffuser. Some people believe that the fragrance of frankincense can increase your intuition and spiritual connection. Frankincense has a calming, grounding scent that can naturally help you to fall asleep. This natural sleep aid helps open breathing passages, allows your body to reach an ideal sleeping temperature and can eliminate pain that keeps you up, which has been verified in studies analysing frankincense compounds(6).
Studies have demonstrated that frankincense benefits extend to immune-enhancing abilities that may help destroy dangerous bacteria, viruses and even cancers(7). Researchers at Mansoura University in Egypt conducted a lab study and found that frankincense oil exhibits strong immunostimulant activity(8). It can be used to prevent germs from forming on the skin, mouth or in your home. This is the reason many people choose to use frankincense to naturally relieve oral health problems. The antiseptic qualities of this oil may help prevent gingivitis, bad breath, cavities, toothaches, mouth sores and other infections from occurring, which has been shown in studies involving patients with plaque-induced gingivitis(9).
Frankincense is an antiseptic and disinfectant agent that has antimicrobial effects. It has the ability to eliminate cold and flu germs from the home and the body naturally. Next time you have a respiratory infection from a cold or flu, use frankincense essential oil to help provide relief from coughing. It can help eliminate phlegm in the lungs, so start using it the day you notice symptoms. Frankincense can be used in place of chemical household cleaners. A lab study published in Letters in Applied Microbiology suggests that the combination of frankincense oil and myrrh oil is particularly effective when used against pathogens(10). These two oils, which have been used in combination since 1500 BC, have synergistic and additive properties when exposed to microorganisms like Cryptococcus neoformans and Pseudomonas aeruginosa. Use it in an essential oil diffuser to help reduce indoor pollution and deodorise and disinfect any room or surface in your home.
Frankincense benefits include the ability to strengthen skin and improve its tone, elasticity and defence mechanisms against bacteria. It may also be beneficial for fading stretch marks, surgery scars or marks associated with pregnancy, and healing dry or cracked skin. Frankincense can be used to help reduce acne blemishes, mask the appearance of large pores, prevent wrinkles, and it even helps lift and tighten skin to naturally slow signs of ageing. A review published in the Journal of Traditional and Complementary Medicine indicates that frankincense oil reduces redness and skin irritation, while also producing a more even skin tone(11). Studies suggest that it’s the pentacyclic triterpene (steroid-like) structure of frankincense oil that contributes to its soothing effect on irritated skin. The oil can be used anywhere where the skin becomes saggy, such as the abdomen, jowls or under the eyes. Mix two to three drops of oil with an unscented base oil or lotion, and apply directly to skin. Be careful not to apply it to broken skin, but it’s fine for skin that’s in the process of healing. Be sure to always do a small patch area test first to test for possible allergic reactions.
Frankincense helps the digestive system properly detox and produce bowel movements. Research indicates that it may also help to reduce pain and cramping in the stomach, relieve nausea, flush out excess water from the abdomen that can cause bloating, and even relieve PMS-related stomach pains. It does this by speeding up the secretion of digestive enzymes, increasing urination production, relaxing the muscles of the digestive tract and helping improve circulation, which is needed for proper digestive health. It’s been shown to be beneficial in reducing symptoms of leaky gut syndrome, chronic colitis, ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease and IBS(12). If you have any digestive distress, such as gas, constipation, stomach aches, irritable bowel syndrome, PMS or cramps, frankincense oil can help relieve gastrointestinal discomfort. It helps speed up the digestion of food, similar to digestive enzymes. Add one to two drops of oil to a cup of water. If you’re going to ingest it orally, make sure it’s 100 percent pure oil — do not ingest fragrance or perfume oils.
Frankincense oil is used by either inhaling the oil or absorbing it through the skin, usually mixed with a carrier oil, such as coconut oil or jojoba oil. It’s believed that the oil transmits messages to the limbic system of the brain, which is known to influence the nervous system. A little bit of oil goes a long way, and it should not be ingested in large quantities as it can be toxic. Frankincense oil blends well with carrier oils like jojoba oil, coconut oil or shea butter. It can be combined with other essential oils for additional support depending on the benefits you’re seeking. For example, it blends well with citrus oils (such as lemon oil) as a pick-me-up. Meanwhile, lavender and frankincense oils blend well and work as a relaxant. For oil safety concerns, you should know that frankincense essential oil is extremely well-tolerated, especially compared to prescription medications. To date, there are no reported serious side effects of using frankincense oil. However, it’s always a good idea to follow essential oil safety and ingest just a few drops of any essential oil at a time in water or another beverage, especially if you’re new to using this oil. Rarely frankincense oil can cause certain reactions for some people, including minor skin rashes and digestive problems like nausea or stomach pains. Frankincense is also known to have blood-thinning effects, so anyone who has problems related to blood clotting should not use frankincense oil or should speak with a doctor first. Otherwise, the oil may have potential to negatively react with certain anticoagulant medications.
There are many different types of frankincense. Look for oils that say “pure essential oil” or “100% essential oil” for the highest-quality essential oil and which feature a combination of multiple varieties of oils from Boswellia trees. You want to look for a brand that's therapeutic grade, that means it's safe to take internally in proper dosages. Typically, you can do two drops on your thumb, rub it on the roof of your mouth. It's a great way to actually get it into your body internally.