In the world of essential oils and Ayurvedic medicine, frankincense oil is one of the favourites, renowned for its number of health benefits. With roots in traditional cultures & religious rituals, it’s more than just another aromatherapy oil. It’s a potent solution to your physical & mental health concerns, as well as a powerful skin healing and anti-ageing tool.
In this comprehensive guide, we’ll delve into the long list of health & skin benefits of frankincense oil, how it’s made (and what it’s made of), and how you can use it to heal your mind, body, and spirit.
The Basics of Frankincense Essential Oil
How It’s Made
Frankincense essential oil is produced from the resin of the Boswellia tree (Boswellia serrata), which is found in certain parts of Africa, Asia, and the Middle East. The tree is “tapped” to release the sap, which then hardens into resin. The resin pieces, often referred to as “tears,” are then steam-distilled. At a high level, this process involves passing hot steam through the tears, which causes the essential oil to vaporise, where it’s then collected in a cooling chamber before being bottled for sale or distribution. Though there are other ways to produce it, steam distillation is the most common method used to makeand the method we use to produce our organic frankincense essential oil at Herb Cottage.
But essential oil isn’t the only byproduct of Boswellia, the raw tears can also be used for incense, perfumes, and other aromatic products.
What It’s Made Of
Frankincense essential oil is rich in bioactive compounds which contribute to its popularity among aromatherapists and holistic & Ayurvedic practitioners. The primary active ingredients in frankincense oil are:
Boswellic acids – primary active compound which has been known to “induce anti-inflammatory, expectorant, antiseptic, anxiolytic, anti-neurotic, analgesic, tranquillising, and antibacterial effects,” according to a 2016 evaluation
Monoterpenes – specifically alpha-pinene and limonene, which are regarded for their anti-inflammatory & antioxidant effects
Sesquiterpenes – helps calm the mind & improve mood
- Myrcene & linalool – terpenes that have been known to help manage conditions like anxiety, depression, and insomnia
Proportions of these compounds will vary between essential oil suppliers, and the effects of the oil can also vary based on the Boswellia species itself, like where it’s grown and how it’s distilled.
General Health Benefits of Frankincense Essential Oil
Anxiety and Stress Relief
One of the chief benefits of frankincense essential oil is its anxiety & stress-relieving properties. One of the primary compounds, incensole acetate (a derivative of incense) stimulates psychoactivity in the brain that causes “anxiolytic-like and antidepressive-like behavioural effects.” In simple terms, it promotes feelings of relaxation and reduces nervous tension. And when combined with yoga, mindfulness exercises, or traditional aromatherapy, you can achieve a state of peace, even if just for a few minutes.
Anti-Inflammatory and Immune-Boosting Properties
Frankincense essential oil has a long history in Egyptian, Greek, Roman, and Ayurvedic medicine, widely used to treat pain and associated inflammation. As modern medicine has evolved, there’s growing evidence that suggests that both Boswellia and frankincense oil are effective at reducing inflammation in people with inflammatory bowel disease, asthma, osteoarthritis, and rheumatoid arthritis. Furthermore, it acts as an immunostimulant, boosting your immune system’s ability to kill bacteria & viruses around you & your home.
Potential Anti-Cancer Properties
Frankincense’s immunostimulant benefits aren’t limited to chronic diseases, though. Preliminary studies suggest that certain compounds in the oil may inhibit the growth, kill, and even prevent the growth of future breast cancer cells. It’s important to mention that while these early studies are promising, frankincense essential oil should not be used as a replacement for your cancer treatment; always consult with your doctor before using.
As bacteria evolve and become more resistant to traditional antibiotics and other respiratory treatments, scientists have explored the possibility of using EOs to treat respiratory infections. In the case of frankincense oil, scientists are optimistic about its ability to “offer an effective treatment in respiratory tract infections” (RTIs). When inhaled, the healing compounds can exhibit their antimicrobial & anti-inflammatory effects on both the upper & lower parts of the respiratory system.
It can also help relieve congestion by relaxing your lungs & airways, making it easier to breathe. Depending on the case, you can also use frankincense to reduce the frequency & severity of coughing spells and also reduce phlegm production.
Frankincense Essential Oil Benefits for Skin
Frankincense essential oil has a laundry list of skin benefits, such as its ability to soothe rough/dry skin and alleviate symptoms of skin conditions like eczema, acne, and psoriasis. And if your skin seems to constantly struggle with wounds & scars, frankincense EO can help; it reduces the levels of Type III collagen and inflammation, accelerating the healing process and preventing scar formation. Some studies also suggest that it shows “promising potential” to help regulate inflammation and tissue remodelling in human skin, which have long-term impacts on the tissues, organs, and overall health.
As we age, our skin thins, loses fat, and wrinkles. But fortunately, frankincense oil can delay and even reverse that natural process with a few natural processes of its own. The antioxidant properties help defend skin from free radicals, one of the greatest contributors to premature ageing. It also promotes cell turnover, helping to reduce the appearance of wrinkles, fine lines, and age spots.
And though not a cosmetic benefit, a 2013 study concluded that frankincense essential oil may improve learning and enhance memory in both animals & human beings, two qualities that typically decline as we age.
How to Use Frankincense Essential Oil
There are several ways to use frankincense oil, which we’ll cover below. You should speak with your healthcare professional before beginning any EO regiment, especially if you have pre-existing conditions or certain sensitivities.
If you hope to reap the anxiety and stress-relieving benefits of frankincense oil, aromatherapy is the optimal method. Add a few drops to your diffuser before bed or during mindfulness exercises to relax and alleviate feelings of stress, anxiety, and depression. Though the soothing scent is quite powerful on its own, many people also combine it with other essential oils like lavender or bergamot to create a custom therapeutic blend.
If you don’t have a diffuser, or are looking for more instant relief, you can also inhale a few deep breaths directly from the bottle for a similar effect. Both of these inhalation techniques can also provide anti-inflammatory, immune-boosting, and respiratory benefits.
Topical application is the preferred method if you want to heal your skin or slow down the ageing process. It also works for localised pain relief and inflammation management. Mix the frankincense oil with a carrier oil (like jojoba oil), using a ratio of 1-2 drops per teaspoon.
Before applying over a large area, make sure to patch test the mixture on a small, less sensitive part of your skin. This will minimise the potential damage of a reaction, compared to immediately rubbing it all over your body. You should never apply undiluted frankincense or any essential oils directly to your skin.
Precautions and Potential Side Effects of Frankincense Oil
While frankincense oil is generally safe for use, certain precautions should be taken to ensure that you safely maximise its benefits. Here are a few rules of thumb:
- Never ingest any concentration of frankincense oil (or any other EO) to avoid potential toxicity
- Always dilute with a carrier oil to prevent skin irritation or other adverse reactions
- Consult with your healthcare provider before using, especially if you are pregnant, have been diagnosed with a pre-existing condition, or use certain medications. It’s worth noting that frankincense is one of the few EOs that are considered safe for pregnant women, but you should confirm with your doctor before using.
When used properly, side effects are rare, though some people have experienced minor effects like rashes, stomach discomfort, and nausea.
The benefits of frankincense oil make it a must-add oil to your health & wellness routine. From its ability to fight diseases to improving skin complexion, it’s one of the most effective & versatile EOs that exist. And when used properly, you can reap the benefits of this ancient elixir for decades to come.