These notes were originally prepared for two
short CPD (Continuing Professional Development)
"essential oils refresher" sessions which I led for
Professional Aromatherapy Network in South Yorkshire. I would
be glad to lead such sessions for other groups, e.g.
local/regional IFPA or IFA branches.
For list of other essential oil profiles see USES page. There is also a
separate page on the use of frankincense for arthritic
conditions in FRANKINCENSE
& MYRRH CREAM. To buy frankincense oil visit the ONLINE SHOP.
Also known as Olibanum. There is much confusion
over the botanical naming of different species. B. Carteri (not
carterii as often stated) is now classified as synonymous with
B. sacra. (1). B. serrata is Indian frankincense. It is
difficult to be sure which species oil has been distilled from,
and it is possible that resins from different species may get
mixed together (2).
Origin N.E. Tropical Africa (including Somalia) and the
Arabian Peninsula. Grows on limestone rocks. (3).
Extraction The bark of the tree is cut to release a
white gum resin which congeals into “tear” shapes, coloured
amber to orange-brown to reddish to white. Steam distillation
usually takes place in Europe. (4)
History The name is derived from Old French and means
“true incense” (3). Widely burnt e.g. in India, China and the
Catholic church. Used in large amounts in ancient Egypt in
ritual, in embalming, and in cosmetics and perfumes (4). Gift to
baby Jesus in the Christian Bible -signifying holiness (3). Wide
traditional medical use.
Contra-indications Tisserand & Balacs (5) give no
Chemistry Shirley & Len Price (6) list major
constituents as monoterpenes (alpha-pinene, alpha-thujene,
limonene, cymene, sabinene) with some sesquiterpenes, alcohols,
a ketone (verbenone) and an ester (octyl acetate). But many
identifications and chemical analyses in the literature are
“invalid, as the resin was bought from a market and not
necessarily collected in the country of purchase” (2).
Blending Suggestions Usually listed as a base note, but
not so persistent as sandalwood or vetiver. Base to middle? Goes
particularly well with the orange oils – orange, petitgrain,
neroli. Benzoin, black pepper, camomile Roman, caraway,
cardomom, cedarwood Atlas, Cedarwood Virginian, cypress, elemi,
ginger, grapefruit, ho wood, jasmine, lavender, lemongrass,
mandarin, melissa, myrrh, myrtle, rockrose (aka cistus), rose,
rosewood, sandalwood, tea-tree, ylang ylang.
Anticatarrhal, antidepressive, antiseptic (esp. pulmonary),
astringent, cicatrisant, expectorant, immunostimulant, sedative,
Stress-related conditions, anxiety, depression, nervous tension.
Asthma, bronchitis, catarrh, colds, coughs, ?flu.
Dry skin, inflamed skin, mature skin, scars, ulcers, wounds.
Cystitis, dysmenorrhea, genito-urinary infections, heavy
Patricia Davis (7) says it can “slow down and deepen the
breath”, leading to “feelings of calm, which are very conducive
to prayer and meditation”. “It is also thought to help break
links with the past.” It would be interesting to know where that
last idea originated.
Details of some research into the
properties of frankincense are at Boswellin.com
(fairly technical), and links to many more pages, with brief
summaries, are at HerbMed.
and the Lost City of Ubar History.
Each of these sites has a picture
of a frankincense tree/trees, though little additional
Botanical Gardens NB this is a jpg file, not on an HTML
page as far as I can see - but opened OK in my browser.
Botanic Gardens, Kew; Plant Facts; Christmas
Reference - Frankincense
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Essentially Oils Newsletter, October 1999.
Essentially Oils Newsletter, May 2000.
3) Leonard Price, Oil of the Month: Frankincense, Aromatherapy
World, Winter 1991/92.
4) Julia Lawless, The Encyclopedia of Essential Oils, Element,
Shaftesbury, 1992, p.77.
5) Robert Tisserand, & Tony Balacs, Essential Oil Safety,
Churchill Livingstone, Edinburgh, 1995.
6) Shirley & Len Price, Aromatherapy for Health
Professionals, Churchill Livingstone, Edinburgh, 1995.
7) Patricia Davis, Aromatherapy - An A-Z, C. W. Daniel, Saffron
Walden, 2000 (revised ed.)
Other sources for information, present and past; books, articles
or other material by Martin Watt (safety); Jan Kusmirek, Jean
Valnet, Patricia Davis/London School of Aromatherapy, Robert
Tisserand, Valerie Ann Worwood.
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Paul Boizot. Information revised 15.3.04. Page
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My address from 30.04.12 is 14 Holly Bank Grove,
York YO24 4EA, U.K.
contact me on: 01904
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