With a name derived from the Old French word for ‘franc encens’, meaning ‘high-quality incense’; frankincense has long been treasured for its beautiful spicy, slightly lemony scent and its therapeutic benefits.

frankincense benefits and uses

Along with gold and myrrh; frankincense is perhaps best known as one of the three gifts given to baby Jesus, according to the gospel of Matthew 2:11. Frankincense-infused oils have long played a huge role in many of the world’s major religions. With Abrahamic faiths using them to anoint new-born infants. Additionally, frankincense is one of the most common scents used in many Christian churches, thanks to its delightful scent and unique heritage.

Alongside the beautiful scent and historical heritage; frankincense is also savoured all around the world for the health benefits it provides. So, we’re delving a little deeper into the many benefits of this versatile substance and uncovering its health benefits, origin and history.

health benefits of frankincense

Health Benefits of Frankincense

Widely used in aromatherapy and skincare, frankincense is valued for its relaxing and restorative qualities. A key component in the traditional medicines of Africa and Asia, frankincense has long been used to aid digestion and boost healthy skin. The resin of frankincense is edible, and is often chewed by patients looking to improve their digestion.

In Ayurveda medicine (a system of medicine with Indian roots). Frankincense is known as ‘dhoop’. It has been used to treat arthritis, heal wounds and strengthen the female hormone system. Offering benefits to the wider community, Indian communities would often burn frankincense to purify the air.

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More recently, a 2008 study found that frankincense smoke helped to relieve depression and anxiety in mice. Ongoing tests are being carried out to scientifically prove it has the same effect on humans.
And, if you are ever unlucky enough to receive a scorpion sting, frankincense oil is also a widely-valued relief provider.

frankincense candle at christmas

Other Uses of Frankincense

Moving beyond the health benefits of the resin, there are a number of other uses for frankincense which are valued around the world. Just a few drops of frankincense oil in a bath can help the bather fight anxiety and relieve stress by inducing feelings of peace, relaxation and satisfaction.
Furthermore, the oil is an antiseptic and can help to eliminate bacteria and viruses. Leading to many people using a few drops to clean their home. Acting as a natural deodoriser, frankincense oil can add a wonderful clean smell to the home. Whether it’s used to clean or burned as a candle.

There are a number of modern toothpastes and oral care products which contain frankincense oil. Because the substance is known to help combat tooth decay, bad breath, cavities and oral cavities. The pleasant aroma of frankincense makes a delightful alternative to the standard mint of toothpaste.

Another lesser-known use of frankincense is to help fight colds and flu. Frankincense is highly effective in combatting a respiratory infection caused by a cold or flu. By eliminating phlegm in the lungs and acting as an anti-inflammatory in the nasal passages. If you’re struggling with a cold or the flu, positioning a frankincense oil diffuser in your bedroom whilst you sleep can help combat the effects of the infection.

frankincense resin on tree

Where Does Frankincense Come From?

Like myrrh, frankincense is the hardened resin of several different varieties of trees. These frankincense trees each produce a slightly different type of frankincense resin. One of the most revered species of frankincense-producing trees is the boswellia sacra. Which is notable for its ability to grow and prosper in even the harshest environments. Sometimes even growing out of solid rock.

Frankincense trees start to produce the resin at about 10 years old, and are tapped about three times a year. To tap the trees, farmers will slash the bark and allow the resin to bleed out and harden. This is then collected up and hand sorted for quality. The final tapping process of the year usually yields the best results, and the highest quality frankincense.

Historical Uses of Frankincense

Alongside the medical benefits of frankincense, the resin has a number of other uses which have been shared for thousands of years. It is believed that frankincense has been traded for more than 5,000 years across the Arabian Peninsula and North Africa. There is evidence of these trades in the ancient Egyptian kingdom, the Land of Punt. Where a mural on the walls of the temple of Queen Hatshepsut, dating back to 1458BC, shows sacks of the resin being traded.

The lost city of Ubar (lost until it was rediscovered in the early 1990s). Was believed to be the centre of frankincense trade – and on the fabled Incense Road. This famous old road, used for transporting and trading scents. Was located in what is now Oman, in the Middle East.

There is evidence of frankincense use in historical Europe, with the Greek historian Herodotus chronicling the dangers of harvesting the resin. Due to the presence of venomous snakes near the trees.

Throughout the centuries and across the continents, the use of frankincense has remained largely the same. With many civilisations (including ours) valuing the relaxing scent of the resin, and using it for aromatherapy purposes.

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