Frankincense essential oil has been dubbed “the king of essential oils”.
The versatile essential oil is used for hair care, skincare, and for health purposes, so it’s no wonder that frankincense is hailed as a king. Frankincense oil is also known as olibanum, Boswellia carterii, and Boswellia sacra.
This oil is more than just one of the gifts bestowed on the night of the birth of Jesus Christ. Frankincense has been used for hundreds of years in many religions, prayer, rituals, and ceremonies for power and anointment.
In this article, we will discuss the origins of olibanum, benefits and health tips, side effects, frankincense oil uses, and alternatives.
What Is Frankincense Essential Oil?
Frankincense essential oil is an oil made from resin that comes from the Boswellia tree. This is found in Africa and the Middle East.
Frankincense is often used in aromatherapy as it has a sweet, spicy, woody scent. It gets its name from the French phrase “franc encens”, which means “high-quality incense”.
How is it extracted?
The oil is extracted from the sap of the Boswelia tree when the bark is cut open. The resin is left to harden and then is scraped off the tree. Although it can be used dry, it’s steamed to make essential oil.
It can be used as an essential oil in a diffuser to induce relaxation due to it’s relaxing woody aroma. A few drops can be used to assist peace, harmony, and meditation.
This oil can also function as a massage oil. It can be used as a calm air spray in the bedroom to assist with sleep. Frankincense is safe for topical use, and even consumption in a capsule, medicine, and in water.
Health Benefits of Frankincense Essential Oil
May Reduce Arthritis
Frankincense is an anti-inflammatory substance, which may help to ease pain and symptoms of arthritis. Frankincense does not just ease pain but can target inflammation itself
Studies show that the acids from the Boswelia sap can prevent the release of leukotrienes which are inflammatories. Animal studies found that boswellic acids inhibited the synthesis of inflammatory enzymes.
Research has shown that frankincense has been more effective than placebos when it came to managing swelling, pain, and joint movement associated with arthritis. While other studies concluded that oil of frankincense can be beneficial for easing morning stiffness, and can even help reduce reliance on NSAIDs.
It can be used topically on inflamed muscles and joints, as well as orally.
May Improve Gut Function
Frankincense oil may help to improve gut health, digestion, and ease digestive disorders such as Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis.
One small study found that frankincense was just as effective as mesalazine, which is a drug medically prescribed to treat Crohn’s symptoms.
Another study in which participants with ulcerative colitis were given a daily dose of frankincense for six weeks found that it was as effective as pharmaceutical drugs when it came to managing the condition.
Frankincense can even help treat chronic diarrhea. After six weeks of a daily dose of Boswellia or a placebo, participants who took Boswellia had almost cured their diarrhea.
May Improve Asthma
Frankincense oil may also help to improve symptoms of and manage asthma and bronchitis.
In a 6 week study, 70% of participants with bronchi asthma who were given Boswellia over a placebo experienced fewer asthma attacks, as well as fewer instances of wheezing and shortness of breath.
A supplement made up of both frankincense and the bael fruit was found to be more effective than the placebo at easing symptoms of asthma. Those who took it had an easier time breathing.
Maintains Oral Health
Frankincense can even help maintain good oral health, due to its antibacterial nature.
The Boswellic acids can help to prevent cavity formation by killing bacteria. It can even help ward off gum disease and toothaches.
One test-tube study found that frankincense extract was effective against Aggregatibacter actinomycetemcomitans, which is a bacteria that causes gum disease.
Another study on participants with plaque-induced gingivitis revealed that it was more effective than the placebo at managing the condition. As it is naturally astringent, it can help to heal mouth sores associated with poor oral health.
May Fight Certain Cancers
Frankincense essential oil may even fight against certain types of cancer. According to test-tube studies, frankincense may help fight against and repress:
Can Frankincense Shrink Tumors?
Frankincense oil can distinguish cancer cells from normal cells and can suppress the viability of cancer cells. This is based on experiences from a study about bladder transitional carcinoma. The frankincense oil activates genes that play a role in cell growth suppression and cell cycle arrest without inducing DNA fragmentation. In another study on breast cancer, researchers discovered that frankincense suppressed tumor progression.
Frankincense is a powerful anti-oxidant which is why it has anti-aging properties.
Anti-oxidants help to combat free-radicals, which are highly reactive molecules with unpaired electrons. As the free radicals move around the body, looking for an electron to pair with, it can damage DNA, which accelerates the aging process.
Also, anti-oxidants help to slow down and halt the damage caused by free radicals. This helps with the rejuvenation of the skin.
Balancing and Moisturizing
Frankincense oil has become a popular ingredient in skincare, in products such as lotion or moisturizer. Frankincense oil has moisturizing properties, which keeps the skin from drying out.
However, for DIY facial treatments, all essential oils need to be diluted with a carrier oil. Frankincense can also help to tackle discoloration and redness which helps the skin tone look balanced and even.
One of the reasons frankincense can help treat asthma and arthritis is due to its anti-inflammatory properties, which also benefit skincare. Frankincense essential oil can help to manage acne, as it soothes inflammation.
The Boswellic acids can kill acne-causing bacteria to prevent further breakouts. A combination of frankincense and myrrh essential oils have been promising skincare ingredients, and for general health, due to their antimicrobial and antibacterial properties.
Frankincense is also antiseptic. The oil has been used for centuries for cleaning, disinfectant, aromatherapy, and general health. This can help prevent infections from setting in.
Frankincense oil is a natural astringent. This means that it’s good for skin care as it can help heal skin imperfections and conditions like acne and wounds. Frankincense has been known for rejuvenating damaged skin as a healing oil. This is useful for reducing the appearance of stretch marks and scars.
In addition to being antibacterial, it helps prevent clogged pores, and spots, by reducing sebum production in individuals with oily skin.
Protects The Skin
Together with it’s antibacterial, antiseptic, and antioxidant qualities, frankincense protects the skin by helping it heal from damage, reducing inflammation, and negating the effects of free radicals.
Oils are popular in skincare as deep moisturizers which helps protect the skin from damage caused by dryness. It keeps skin cells strong, plump and maintains elasticity.
Is Frankincense Oil Good For The Face?Many benefits of frankincense essential oil are obtained from oral ingestion of the oil, but is it good for topical use on the face? The antioxidant properties are gained from oral use, however, as a for moisture, healing, and antibacterial purposes, frankincense can be used topically. It is easily absorbed through the skin, but pure frankincense should be watered down with a carrier oil such as citrus oils or olive oil before applying to the skin.
OsteoarthritisA prescription medicine, 5-Loxin, made up of the same plant used to make frankincense essential oil yielded promising results in trials for the treatment of osteoarthritis. When compared to the placebo, participants on the low and high doses of the mediation experienced less pain than the placebo group. However, there was minimal difference between those on a low dose of 5-Loxin and the placebo when it came to stiffness and function. Those on a higher dose had a greater function and less stiffness. Fluid concentration in the knee in those on the medication was reduced, and greatly so in those on the high dose. However, this study is from 2008 and a review of a Daily Mail article. More research and evidence on frankincense and osteoarthritis is needed.
Hair MaintenanceFrankincense oil is not just popular in skincare products but in hair care too. The oil can help keep hair shiny and moisturized but can even prevent dandruff. Frankincense wards off dandruff by preventing the scalp from getting dry and flakey. It can also soothe hair follicle which helps to facilitate hair growth at the root.
Frankincense Oil Myths and ContradictionsAlthough Frankincense is known as the “king of essential oils”, there are still some myths and contradictions surrounding it. Many misconceptions about purported benefits come from positive results in animal studies. Some of these have not been replicated in human studies or taken place at all. Frankincense improved memory in rats but there have been no studies on humans. It enhanced fertility in rats, but there have been no human trials. The compund eased depressive symptoms in mice, but there is no information on Frankincense and depression in people. There have been no articles confirming any benefits for menstruation, menopause, or if it can balance hormones for women.
Does Frankincense help with pain?Frankincense is beneficial for painful conditions such as arthritis. It may act as an analgesic too. One study found that Frankincense increased pain threshold and pain tolerance in participants. More studies are needed to confirm the efficiency of this as pain treatment, and if it is a potential alternative to NSAIDs.
Uses of Frankincense OilYou can use Frankincense for:
- massage oil
- facial oil
- topical treatment for arthritis
- health supplements
Where to apply frankincense essential oil?The oil can be applied directly onto the face as part of your skincare regime. For arthritis is can be applied topically to a joint or inflamed area.
Can Frankincense Be Toxic?Boswellia resin has low toxicity. It is safe for most people and has been for thousands of years now. However, animal studies showed that a dose of 900mg per pound of body weight was toxic for rats and mice. There have not been any such studies in science on humans. Some people may experience nausea, discomfort, cramps, and diarrhea after using frankincense. Consult your physician if you’re considering using this any essential oil during pregnancy. A dosage of up to 1,200 mg three times a day is safe for Chron’s disease. Frankincense for asthma, rheumatoid arthritis, and ulcerative colitis can hit up to 400mg three times per day. Osteoarthritis and gingivitis have lower suggested doses of up to 200mg per day.
Does Frankincense Interact With Any Medications?Frankincense can interact with some prescription medications. The oil can interfere with drugs used to lower cholesterol, blood thinners, and anti-inflammatories. If you are on any mediation, it’s best to consult your doctor prior to using frankincense essential oil.
What To Look For When Buying
- Read the label: if you’re looking for pure frankincense essential oil, read the product description and the ingredients list thoroughly. A bottle that says “frankincense” could be a dilution or a mixture of frankincense and another oil such as myrrh. It’s always best to double-check.
- Dark glass bottles: many essential oils are sensitive to sunlight and plastic, which means they break down quicker in a clear plastic container. For long-lasting use, buy essential oil in a dark blue or amber glass container. Store at room temperature, away from a warm area.
- Buy from reputable brands: research which brands have the best reputation and customer reviews, and buy from them. A cheaper oil might not be as effective or high quality. Only buy a bottle with clear directions, to ensure safe use.
- Be specific: Frankincense oils are made from the resin of the Boswellia sacra tree but sometimes the Boswellia frereana. The label should include both the common name and the Latin name, so a bottle will read as: “Frankincense Essential Oil (Boswellia sacra)” or “Frankincense Essential Oil (Boswellia frereana)”. Both these variations of frankincense are similar, but there are dozens of variations of the tree, which means that an oil that is made from the same species of tree might not necessarily be frankincense.
Are There Any Substitutes for Frankincense Oil?Substitutes for it will depend on frankincense oil uses; whether you use frankincense for beauty purposes, aromatherapy, or health tips. Here are some recommendations for alternative compounds and products:
- CBD oil: CBD oil has similar health benefits and uses such as inflammation, pain relief, cancer, and other health issues. It is also a powerful antioxidant and moisturizer. These properties make it popular skincare additives, such as iLavaHemp which combines CBD with mango ginger and blue tansy. CBD is best known for its ability to ease anxiety, reduce stress, promote relaxation, and boost mood.
- Hemp oil: Hemp oil is not the same as CBD, although they come from the same plant. The difference is that hemp is made from the seeds of the plant, while CBD comes from the leaves flowers, and stalk. Hemp is a good source of vitamins and fatty acids which makes it useful for reducing the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.
- Lavender oil: Lavender oil also has similar benefits and uses. The herb is a popular skincare and wellness ingredient as it can help manage skin disorders such as acne. It can help with mood swings, reduce stress ease respiratory disorders, and aid digestion. Lavender is also popular due to its floral smell.
- Coconut oil: Coconut oil is a very popular superfood with benefits associated with hair, skin, and teeth. It is also antibacterial and antimicrobial.
- Jojoba oil: Jojoba oil also shares similar traits of frankincense oil such as being an antioxidant, moisturizing, antibacterial, and astringent.