With the holidays around the corner, I have been diving into all kinds of all-natural concoctions and handmade gifts for friends and family. I’ve also been creating and making lots of beautiful gift baskets for customers.
Frankincense is one sweet and citrusy essential oil that I have been playing with, I have also been researching in-depth, primarily because of the holiday lure towards it. This beneficial oil and herbal remedy has been around for over 5,000 years and has so much interesting, beautiful history attached to it. I want to share some of this amazing history and beneficial information I have found in my personal research!
Frankincense is also known as olibanum (Herbrew); it’s an aromatic resin typically derived from the flowers and branches of the Boswellia sacra tree. There are several varieties of the Boswellia tree that resin can be harvested, but the Boswellia sacra tree is considered to be special because it can grow in very harsh conditions, even sometimes out of solid rock!
When the tree is about 8-10 years old it can finally produce enough resin to be harvested. To harvest, the tree bark is slashed (often called stripping), and the sap, or resin, is allowed to flow out. When the resin harden it is then harvested; this hardened resin is often called tears. Tapping can be done up to three times a year. However, there has been a decline in frankincense tree populations primarily due to over-exploitation. Trees that are heavily taped only produce and germinate about 16% of seeds compared to an 80% of germination in trees that are not tapped.
We almost all know, or have heard, the story of the three kings (Magi from the East, or Three Wise Men) who presented gifts of Gold, Frankincense, and Myrrh to Jesus on the eve of his birth (Matthew 2:11). Growing up I heard and read this story often around Christmas and always thought, “why frankincense and myrrh? Why not jewels or something else of bigger value comparative to gold?”
Well, it turns out frankincense and myrrh are now considered by many historians to have been of equal worth to the precious metal of gold. Frankincense as an oil or incense is mentioned specifically, by name, 16 times in the English Bible. However, the Hebrew word “lebonah”, which is Hebrew for frankincense, occurs in 6 other places, although it has since been translated to ‘incense’ within the English Bible. So, there are actually 22 references to frankincense by name in the bible, when you really think about it, and there is also 54 indirect references to frankincense as a required ingredient for holy incense. Frankincense was one of the oils used to make the holy incense of Exodus, made by Moses (Exodus 30:34-36). Considering all of this, I think it’s safe to say that frankincense was a pretty big deal back then!
The Hebrews and Gentiles were not the only people to utilize this amazing resin. The Egyptians wrote about frankincense in their hieroglyphics as far back as 5,000 years ago. The Egyptians traditionally used frankincense as a universal cure-all, using it for just about any ailment, including insect repellent, perfume, and salves for wounds and sores. They also used it in the process of embalming and mummification during the 3rd Dynasty (2650-2575 BC) in Egypt.
If 100% pure, therapeutic frankincense can be inhaled, applied topically, and taken internally; The Israelites in biblical times used it all three ways, including as clothing scent, deodorant, toothpaste, drinking flavor, medicine, and as a food or food flavoring.
The Greek historian Herodotus, Hippocrates (The Father of Medicine, author of the first Materia Medica), Galen (the Greek physician, surgeon, and philosopher), and Theophrastus (considered the Father of Botany, author of Enquiryinto Plants (Historia Plantarum), and successor to Aristotle), all mention frankincense as medicinal, therapeutic, and symbolic in their written works. In Egypt, Greece, and Rome is was burned in offering to various deities.
Frankincense didn’t actually lose popularity until after the rise of the Christian church; the church wanted to move away from frankincense, although associated with so many religious context in Christian writings, it was also associated with many pagan rituals. It wasn’t until the Catholic and Orthodox churches rose that frankincense was institutionalized once again in services and rituals.
Medicinal Uses of Frankincense
- Bitter – Supports digestive health
- Anti-inflammatory – Reduces inflammation or swelling
- AntiSeptic – Prevents disease-causing microorganisms, is disinfectant, antibiotic, antibacterial
- Carminative – Relieving flatulence, or gas formation
- Cicatrisant – Wound healing
- Cytophylactic – Stimulates the generation of new cells
- Digestive – Aids in digestion
- Diuretic – Increases production of urine
- Emmenagogue – Stimulates or increased menstrual flow
- Expectorant – Promotes the secretion of sputum by the air passages, used especially to treat coughs
- Sedative – Promotes calm or sleep inducing
- Tonic – Promotes feeling of vigor or well-being
- Uterine – Promotes uterus health
- Vulenary – Heals wounds
- Astringent – protects skin cells and reduces acne blemishes, appearance of large pores, prevents wrinkles, and lifts/tightens skin.
Boosts Immune System
Since frankincense is antiseptic, fumes or even smoke from burning has antiseptic and disinfectant properties, cleaning the air as it’s used. It applied topically, it will eliminate germs, so feel free to use a little on wounds to clean them.
Improves Oral Health
The whole point of common mouth washes you find in the store is to clean your mouth. Again, frankincense is antiseptic and will kill just as many germs with a few drops of oil added to water. If you’re feeling really creative, make your own at-home toothpaste by adding a few drops to baking soda and a little water. Since frankincense is astringent, it will strengthen gums and given permanent protection against teeth loss.
Skin and Hair Benefits of Frankincense
Frankincense astringent properties will also strengthen hair root follicles and blood vessels that are needed to prevent hair loss. Frankincense delays aging by promoting regeneration of healthy cells. It can eliminate sun spots, remove micro-wrinkles around eyes and cheeks, and it tones and tightens skin. It can also reduce the signs of scars, stretch marks, and fat cracks associated with pregnancy and delivery.
Promotes Digestive Health
Frankincense can facilitate in digestion without side affects. It can help relieve gas, chronic indigestion and acidity, and it can stimulate movement through the intestines. Add a little oil to your daily diet routine.
Acts as a Tonic
Frankincense can be considered an overall essential oil for boosting health and toning, so it’s considered a tonic.
Women who are pregnant should avoid frankincense due to it being an Emmenagogue and can cause Uterine contractions.
References / Further Reading
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