Also known as olibanum, frankincense is an aromatic resin commonly used in incense and perfumes, which is obtained from trees of the genus Boswellia, particularly Boswellia sacra (frankincense tree). There are 4 main species of Boswellia that produce true frankincense, with the resin from each available in various grades, depending on the time of harvesting. Boswellia sacra trees are considered unusual for their ability to grow in such unforgiving environments. The trees have been known to grow out of solid rock at times, for example, the trees on the Somali coast grow out of polished marble stones, attached by a thick, bulbous, oval mass of substances resembling a mixture of lime and mortar, which acts like an anchor preventing the tree from being ripped out in violent storms. The trees start producing resin when they are about 8 – 10 years old.

These trees grow in Oman, Yemen, and the Horn of Africa (including Somalia and Ethiopia). Frankincense is harvested through a procedure known as “tapping”. The tree is ‘stripped’ or opened using a traditional chisel-like tool to peel off a narrow strip of bark, from which a milky white sap leeches out of the hole, forming ‘tears’. This first sap is not collected, as it is thought to cleanse the wood of impurities. Once the sap dries, the hole is enlarged and deepened, from which sap leeches out, dries, and is collected approximately a few days to a few weeks later. This process is repeated several times at several points throughout the year.

The highest quality frankincense is silvery and clear, or with a possible green tinge, while the lower grade sap is a brown-yellow colour and is the cheapest.


Unfortunately, Boswellia trees are in decline, partially due to over-tapping, as well as climate change. Studies suggest that the number of these trees could decline by 90% in the next 50 years. Botanists have suggested, after performing extensive studies, that there should be a maximum of 9 tapping spots in each tree, with some trees in Ethiopia containing up to 27 tapping spots due to high demand. Heavily tapped trees produce seeds that germinate at only 16% while the seeds of trees which have not been tapped germinate at more than 80%. In addition, burning, grazing, and attacks from the longhorn beetle have reduced the tree population.

The word frankincense is derived from the Old French term franc encens, meaning high-quality incense. The word franc in Old French also meant noble or pure.

Frankincense was traditionally burned as an incense, and was also charred and ground into a powder to produce kohl, the heavy eyeliner commonly used by Egyptians. The essential oil of frankincense is obtained by steam distillation of the dry resin. The oil has a woody, spicy, earthy, and slightly fruity aroma which is calming and relaxing. It is said to be sweeter, fresher, and cleaner in aroma than frankincense resin.



  • Reduces stress: When inhaled, frankincense has been shown to reduce heart rate and high blood pressure. It acts as an effective sedative and studies in mice have found it to be an efficient and effective anti-depressant. Limonene is the main constituent of frankincense oil with antidepressant and anti-anxiety properties.
  • Boosts immune system and helps to prevent illness: This herb is a natural antiseptic and disinfectant, with the ability to eliminate cold and flu germs from the household and body. Even the fumes from the smoke produced from the incense has antiseptic and disinfectant properties that helps to kill the germs as the smoke filters them out. It can be applied on wounds to help prevent tetanus and becoming septic. It is also effective at treating internal wounds. Frankincense oil contains a compound called Boswellic acid which has been found to modify the immune system. Studies show that it helps to improve T-cell interactions, boost immunoglobins (antibodies), and slow hypersensitivity. Frankincense oil also aids with better absorption of nutrients.
  • Helps fight cancer: Frankincense oil has been shown to be effective at fighting specific types of cancer. A 2012 study found that a chemical compound found in frankincense called AKBA (Acetyl-11-keto-beta-boswellic acid) was successful in killing cancer cells that had become resistant to chemotherapy.
  • Improves skin and reduces the signs of aging: Due to its astringent and antiseptic properties, frankincense has the ability to strengthen skin, improve its tone and elasticity, and reduce acne and bacteria. It also helps to tone and lift skin, reduce the appearance of scars and acne, promote wound healing, and is beneficial for the fading of stretch marks. Frankincense also has the ability to replace old cells with healthy, new ones, as well as promoting the regeneration of healthy cells.
  • Balances hormones: Frankincense has been shown to reduce symptoms associated with menstruation and menopause by balancing hormone levels. It aids to relieve pain, cramps, constipation, headaches, fatigue, anxiety, nausea, and mood swings. This herb also helps by regulating estrogen production and may reduce the risk of tumour or cyst development in perimenopausal women. It has been known to minimalize delayed and obstructed menstruation and also delay the advent of menopause.
  • Lowers blood pressure: As frankincense acts as a diuretic, it is effective at reducing blood pressure due to the diuretic action of the removal of excess water and toxins, including sodium.
  • Eases digestion: This herb helps the digestive system to properly detox, induces bowel movements, reduces pain and cramping, relieves nausea, flushes out excess water from the abdomen that can cause bloating. It does this by speeding up the digestive enzymes, increasing urination, relaxing the muscles of the digestive tract, while also helping improve circulation. It has been proven to be beneficial in treating leaky gut syndrome, chronic colitis, ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease, and IBS.
  • Promotes sleep and helps to treat sleeping disorders: Frankincense does this by reducing anxiety and stress levels and acting as a sedative.
  • Treats inflammation and pain: Frankincense inhibits the production of inflammatory molecules often associated with conditions such as arthritis, asthma, and IBS. It is effective at preventing the breakdown of cartilage tissue and reduce levels of inflammation. This is due to a component of frankincense called Boswellic acid which is a terpenoid compound that mimics the action of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAID’s).
  • Improves oral health: Due to its antiseptic and antibacterial properties, frankincense can be used as a preventative measure against oral health issues such as bad breath, toothaches, mouth sores and ulcers, cavities, and other infections.
  • Has astringent properties: This means: to cause the contraction of skin cells and other body tissues. This means that frankincense has many beneficial uses as it can: strengthen gums, hair roots, and skin, and contracts muscles, intestines, and blood vessels. As a result, frankincense can help to protect against premature loss of teeth and hair, as well as reducing the appearance of wrinkles, combatting the loss of firmness in the intestines, abdominal muscles, and limbs, and helps to treat and relieve diarrhoea.
  • Wound healing and infection prevention: Frankincense has powerful antiseptic properties which helps to speed up the healing process. It also acts as a powerful coagulant, therefore improving circulation and helping with healing.
  • Prevents gas build up: This oil acts to eliminate gas and prevent it from building up in the body, helping to prevent problems such as stomach aches, pain in the abdominal and chest areas, excessive sweating, and indigestion.
  • Can delay the signs of aging: As frankincense is a cytophylactic, it promotes the regeneration of healthy cells while also keeping existing tissues and cells healthy. It essentially aids with the replacement of old, dying cells with new and healthy ones.
  • Stimulates urination: Frankincense is a natural and safe alternative to pharmaceutical options when it comes to aiding with the removal of excess water from the body through urination. It helps to relieve bloating and excess weight caused by water retention, and removes fats, sodium, uric acid, and various other toxins from the body, as well as reducing blood pressure.
  • Aids with respiratory issues: Due to it’s powerful anti-inflammatory properties, this oil is useful in the treatment of respiratory conditions such as: coughs, excess phlegm, bronchitis, congestion of the nasal tract, larynx, bronchi, and lungs, and asthma. It’s antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties help to relax the breathing passages.
  • Treats gout: The anti-inflammatory and diuretic properties of frankincense results in fast relief of gout symptoms by helping to clear out the uric acid and reduce inflammation.



The benefits of frankincense oil can be obtained by topical application, inhalation via a diffuser or vaporizer, or by ingesting it in small amounts. For pain relief, massage the oil into the affected area. Using a diffuser, vaporizer, or inhaler works for the treatment of colds, coughs, and other respiratory conditions and blockages. Frankincense can be applied directly to the skin in most cases, or can be blended with carrier oils such as jojoba, coconut, or almond oils. Most packaging and labelling will describe whether or not that particular blend of oil will require dilution.

When taking frankincense oil internally, it is best to dilute it in an edible carrier oil (such as coconut), or in a teaspoon of honey, in a glass of water, or in any non-acidic, non-dairy beverage. You can also put a drop or two beneath your tongue.

It is thought that rubbing a few drops of the oil into the soles of the feet each day will help to strengthen and boost the immune system.



While this oil is considered generally safe, it should not be used during pregnancy as it acts as an emmenagogue and an astringent.

Internal ingestion of this oil is not recommended for children under the age of 6 years old. Older children and teenagers may require higher dilution of this oil compared to adult dosage.


Symptoms of allergic reaction include: skin rashes, gastrointestinal distress, nausea, stomach pain, and hyperacidity.


It also acts as a blood thinner and may increase the risk of abnormal bleeding in people with bleeding disorders or people taking anticoagulant medications.


Always consult with a doctor before taking any form of supplement or essential oil, particularly internally. Always read packaging and labelling to determine the proper way to use the particular blend of the oil.