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Frankincense has been documented in medical texts as far back as 3000 B.C. The ancient Egyptians considered it good for almost anything - from cuts and bruises to colds and respiratory complaints, even anxiety and depression.

The name "frankincense" is derived from the Medieval French word for "true incense". In some Bible translations, the word "incense" is used to mean frankincense. It was a component of the holy anointing oil of the Old Testament, and one of the gifts of the wise men to the infant Jesus. Many liturgical churches still use it as incense; frankincense stimulates spiritual awareness.

frankincenseFrankincense comes from the resin or gum of the frankincense tree. The resin nuggets can be burned as incense by placing them on burning charcoal or in a heated pan. The essential oil is made by steam distillation of the resin.

There are several species of frankincense. Two, Boswellia carteri from Africa and Boswellia sacra from Oman, contain the powerful boswellic acids that have been intensively studied. Another commonly available species, Boswellia frereana from Somalia, does not contain the forms of boswellic acid that have been shown to be so beneficial.

Another valuable constituent in these two species of frankincense is called incensole acetate. Studies indicate that this component helps reduce anxiety and improve mood, and is responsible for the notable spiritual heightening which is experienced when frankincense is used. For a quick mood-lifter, place a drop of frankincense oil on your palm and rub your hands together. Cup them around your face and inhale, being careful to keep the oil away from your eyes. There are also indications that incensole acetate helps provide protection for the nervous system.

Frankincense essential oil is lovely when diffused, but can be taken internally or used topically. It is on the list of essential oils that are Generally Regarded As Safe (GRAS) for internal use. It's always best to consult a trained aromatherapist and/or your healthcare professional before taking any oil internally.

To use topically, massage a drop or two onto the soles of your feet, or apply to problem areas such as wrinkles, age spots, warts, or varicose veins. Apply on temples to help with focus and concentration. Some persons have a skin sensitivity to frankincense, so test it on your skin and, if necessary, dilute it with a pure vegetable oil before using.

Frankincense is known to stimulate apoptosis, the process of your body that replaces old cells. Frankincense essential oil reduces wrinkles when used topically on the skin. Add frankincense oil to your skin care products to give your skin a rejuvenating boost every time you cleanse or moisturize. Always be careful to avoid the eyes when using essential oils on your face. It has also been traditionally used against warts, age spots, and varicose veins and spider veins.

We've just scratched the surface of what this ancient wonder can do. Be sure to add frankincense essential oil to your healthy living toolkit.

Resources used for this article:
Essential Oils Desk Reference. 5th ed. Life Science Publishing, 2011

Stewart, David. (2010) Healing Oils of the Bible. CARE Publications, Marble Hill, MO.

EJ Blain, et al., "Boswellia frereana (Frankincense) Suppresses Cytokine-Induced Matrix Metalloproteinase Expression and Production of Pro-Inflammatory Molecules in Articular Cartilage," Phytotherapy Research, 24:905-912 (2010).

A. Frank, M. Unger, "Analysis of frankincense from various Boswellia species with inhibitory activity on human drug metabolizing cytochrome P450 enzymes using liquid chromatography mass spectrometry after automated on-line extraction," Journal of Chromatography A. 1112 (2006) 255-262.

Note: Many studies are available online at http://www.pubmed.org. Use the search feature on the website to search for "frankincense".