Essential Oil: Frankincense
Present at the birth of Christmas, frankincense's spiritual credentials reach much farther back in history
FRANKINCENSE is undoubtedly the quintessential Christmas scent.
Along with myrrh, it is considered a most holy scent - being one of the three gifts presented to baby Jesus - and is still used in incense in Orthodox and Roman Catholic churches.
Today we value the essential oil’s anti-microbial and psycho-therapeutic properties; but it has long been treasured by civilisations that existed centuries before the birth of one enlightened being.
The name ‘frankincense’ is derived from the Medieval French word for ‘real incense’ and it was prized and sought after currency for its panacea benefits.
Frankincense is considered the holy anointing oil in the Middle East and was used in religious ceremonies for thousands of years.
Babylonians and Assyrians valued this resin for its spiritual aroma when burned, wafting to heaven as incense in their sacred sites and raising spiritual consciousness. It was even used to fumigate the sick in order to banish possessing evil spirits.
And we know the Hebrews highly valued frankincense - its use was not limited to that Silent Night; there are more than 52 references to frankincense in the bible.
Frankincense oil has been used since the times of the ancient Egyptians as a key ingredient in medicines, cosmetics and embalming mixtures.
This oil was capable of preserving dead bodies for tens of thousands of years, which demonstrates its remarkable anti-microbial activity and why it is still relevant and valuable for therapeutic and anti-ageing skincare to this day. The oil is sometimes referred to as “olibanum” or “oil from Lebanon”.
Goes straight to the boss gland . . .
Frankincense is one of the oils that can really calm and soothe the whole body and mind, easing aches and pains, clearing the lungs, healing the skin and not least supporting healthy cellular function.
This certainly is due to the sesquiterpenes present in the oil, which stimulate the limbic brain as well as the hypothalamus, pineal and pituitary glands.
This means its actions are far-reaching because the hypothalamus is the master gland of the whole endocrine system, as it controls the release of many hormones including thyroid and growth hormone.
Removing the heat
Frankincense contains monoterpenes, which help prevent and discharge toxins from the liver and kidneys, with potent antibacterial and stimulating properties.
Frankincense has a positive effect on the urinary tract due to its anti-inflammatory boswellic acids and a few drops may be taken orally (well diluted in vegetable oil) for cystitis, Crohn’s disease and irritable bowl syndrome. A frankincense warm compress could also offer help for these conditions.
This essential oil is an extraordinary antioxidant skin healer that resolves blemishes and works wonders on mature, ageing, weather-beaten skin.
It has the ability to penetrate cells and promote healthy cell regeneration while it calms inflammation and diminishes scar tissue admirably. It is most suitable to treat skin irritations of myriad kind, including sores carbuncles and infected wounds.
Clearing the way for breath
Frankincense offers protection and fortification to the respiratory system, effectively clearing the lungs of congestion and excess mucous due to its alpha-pinene content.
It also helps with asthma, bronchitis, laryngitis, coughs and colds and may help with allergies, respiratory infections and shortness of breath. Use frankincense in a diffuser to help during colds and flu season.
Drug mimicker or the other way round?
Frankincense is excellent for headaches and tension in the neck muscles and for that matter, any muscle pain or trauma.
It effectively increases blood flow and circulation and works well in deeply relaxing massage blends to take the heat out of sore spots and rub into rheumatic joints or to ease arthritic pain.
Frankincense has boswellic acid, which is a terpenoid compound that mimics the action of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs such as aspirin and ibuprofen). It poses much lower risk of unpleasant or dangerous side effects compared to NSAIDs.
Frankincense has astringent and antiseptic properties on the body’s mucous membranes, especially on the gums in the mouth and consequently may be included in mouthwashes and home-made toothpastes recipes to create a naturally bacteria-free mouth and breath.
Diffusers: for bronchitis, colds, coughs and voice loss, as well as to calm the mind, reduce anxiety, cultivate internal peace and place past obsessive states into perspective.
Massage and bath blends: for colds, coughs, bronchitis, rheumatism, chilliness, poor circulation, exhaustion, nightmares, heavy periods, respiratory problems and mucus congestion. It also has a good astringent effect on the skin and perks up older, more mature skin and helps wounds, sores and ulcers heal.
Skin wash or Compress: To promote healing and prevent scarring on wounds, add a few drops to the water when washing the wound. For cracked skin and bed sores, apply gently (suitably diluted) directly on to affected areas or use as a compress.
Frankincense exerts a balancing action on the hormones, containing compounds to encourage oestrogen production.
It may be topically applied to help regulate menstrual cycles and reduce excessive menstrual flow.
Frankincense is helpful to assuage uncomfortable symptoms during menopause.
There has been some research to verify how frankincense is capable of reducing cyst and tumour formation in the uterus after menopause; we can hope these proceed to verify more.
Plant medicine doesn’t need validation, but it helps
It is heartening that recent scientific studies are also revealing that frankincense has been shown to suppress the proliferation of cancer cells.
It may take time to validate this claim scientifically; we can however, be reassured of the overall anti-inflammatory and revitalising effect that this wonderful plant tonic has on the human body, mind and spirit.
Frankincense has been treasured for thousands of years for good reason; it can do much to catalyse profound inner and outer healing in subtle or significant ways.
Potent gifts go beyond the blood-brain barrier
The tonic effect of frankincense on the nervous and endocrine systems is one of this oil’s most potent gifts; as it deeply relaxes, yet simultaneously revitalises the whole organism in a very integrated way.
The sesquiterpenes enable frankincense to go beyond the blood-brain barrier, where it is remarkably elevating to the mind and helps to overcome anxiety, stress and despair.
This kind of holistic uplifting is of sincere value when combatting depressive states of mind and stagnant Qi energy.
It releases us from the oppression of our obsessive patterns that tie us to the miasma of the mundane and material world, so then we can soar above such prosaic concerns into transcendent awareness.
A transcendent state
Frankincense increases spiritual awareness and subdues mental chatter and is thus excellent to use for spiritual practice, contemplation and prayer.
Frankincense is of genuine help for meditation and yoga in that it slows us down, deepens the breath and facilitates the desired state of single-pointed concentration. This eventually leads to a true, absorbed meditative state that reconnects us with our true Self.
Of course frankincense was an inspired choice to be offered to the Christ child in recognition of his divinity; we can use it in the same spirit to reunite us with that intrinsic spark within that is eternal and divine.
Indeed frankincense is a fragrant reminder of our Divine origins.
Arouses spiritual intelligence
Frankincense supports our practice for spiritual intelligence, providing aromatic inspiration that keeps the divine flame alive inside, kindling our determination to continue with the spiritual journey uninterrupted, every time there is a sense of failure.
The smoky mystical scent of frankincense carries us to the very still core of who we are; swaying neither here nor there with desires and aversions but urging us to abide in our true nature of pure Being, unattached to worldly concerns.
TRAIN YOUR BODY TO RELAX
If your breathing shortens when you are stressed or agitated, using frankincense during meditation can accustom your body to relax whenever you smell the oil. Apply 2 drops of frankincense directly to your collarbone as you sit and let your breath become slow and even.
Diffuse in the delivery room with clary sage during childbirth to quell agitation and nervousness.
REGENERATE DRY SKIN AND WRINKLES
Add three drops of frankincense, and one drop of rose oil to one teaspoon of a good skin-nourishing carrier oil. Massage gently into the face to reduce skin discoloration and imperfections.
BREAK THE LINKS TO THE PAST
Burn frankincense incense or add to a room diffuser with lavender and sandalwood for a calming scent to break overly dependant links to the past and beget presence of mind.
Add one drop of pure frankincense essential oil to a cup of your turmeric latte (use non congesting nut milks instead of dairy) with honey and drink.
Botanical Name: Boswellia carterii
The Plant: A scraggly but hardy tree or shrub that grows well in dry, rocky areas and starts producing resin when it is about 8-10 years old. It has abundant pinnate leaves and white or pale pink flowers. The tree naturally exudes the resin when the trunk is cut; its natural response to heal the wound. The bark is slashed strategically in light horizontal lines, called striping, allowing the exuded resin known as tears, to bleed out and harden. This can only be done two or three times a year without damaging the tree. After a few years the tree must be given a period of rest to regenerate. Differences of soil and climate create diversity in the resin, even in the same species.
There are different varieties of Boswellia trees, but most resins (and the oils that come from them) belong to the Boswellia carterii species (also called the Boswellia sacra) found in Oman, Yemen, and surrounding areas. Other varieties include Boswellia frereana (from Somalia) and Boswellia serrata (from India).
The oil: The milky sap that exudes from the tree hardens upon contact with air which results in a an oleo resin, from which the oil is extracted by steam distillation. It has a pale yellow-green colour. Approximately 3-10 per cent oil is collected from 60-70 per cent resin.
Scent: A fresh yet warm, balsamic scent that is somewhat citrusy scent with “terpeney” (or camphoraceous) top notes and underlying woody, spicy tones that are soft and comforting.
Blends well with: Sandalwood, lavender, pine, vetivert, geranium, bergamot, basil, black pepper, cinnamon and other spice oils. It modifies the sweetness of citrus oils in an interesting way.
Indications: Antiseptic, astringent, antidepressant, carminative, cicatrising, cytophylactic, digestive, diuretic, emmenagogue, expectorant, sedative, tonic, vulnerary, immune-stimulant
Precautions: Non toxic, non irritant and non sensitising.