Most of us are familiar with the word frankincense as it appears in the Christmas story, but what is it? It is actually an aromatic resin derived from Boswellia trees. The bark of the tree is cut open, and resin seeps out of it, much like sap. The resin is allowed to dry and is then collected to be used as incense, in perfumes, or as an essential oil. Frankincense has a very long history of use in many cultures. Not only is it mentioned in the bible, but we see references to frankincense trade in the hieroglyphs of ancient Egypt. Evidence suggests that it has been traded throughout the Arabian peninsula and Northern Africa for more than 5 millennia. There is a good reason that frankincense has enjoyed such a long history of use. Even ancient civilizations recognized its many therapeutic and healing qualities.
Before we get started, it is important to know who should use frankincense and how. Frankincense is safe for use for everyone including pregnant women and children, and can be inhaled or applied topically. Pregnant women and children should avoid ingesting frankincense, but ingestion is safe for all other adults. For the most part, frankincense is a very well tolerated oil. Very few people have noticed any adverse side-effects.
Frankincense like may other essential oils is a great wound healer. It has antiseptic and disinfectant properties which basically means that it can kill infections. Putting frankincense on a wound will help to keep it clean and prevent infection. It is also a coagulant which means that it can aid in stopping bleeding. Combine with lavender to really boost the effects. Both oils are safe to apply directly to a wound. For easier application, try putting them in a spray bottle with some filtered water. This will dilute them a bit and the spray is often less messy. It can also help to reduce swelling and itchiness from bug bites and rashes. Taking frankincense internally can help to heal wounds inside your body as well. If you tend to suffer from ulcers or other internal wounds, try putting a few drops of frankincense oil in a gel capsule.
Stretch Marks, Scars, Acne, Blemishes, and Wrinkles
Not only can frankincense kill infection, it is also an astringent. It can improve the tone of your skin and help to prevent or lessen the appearance of wrinkles. It is also wonderful for preventing and lessening the appearance of stretch marks. Pregnant or postpartum mamas can safely rub frankincense directly on the belly, or add to your favorite stretch mark lotion, cream, or oil to boost its effects. Frankincense can also be used to treat acne, and lessen the appearance of acne scars and other blemishes. Frankincense is safe to apply directly to your skin, or add to your favorite skin care products.
Moles, Skin Tags, and Warts
Applying a drop or two directly to moles, skin tags, and warts 3-4 times a day can actually get rid of them in many cases. I think it is important to note that if you have a mole that is an odd color, changes shape or size, or has uneven edges, seek the care of a doctor.
Frankincense has anti-inflammatory properties which can help to reduce swelling and pain. Not only can it help to disinfect wounds and help with blood clotting, but it also helps take away the pain, so it is a great addition to a natural first aid kit.
Because it helps to reduce swelling and pain caused by inflammation, it is a good oil to use if you have arthritis. Rub a couple of drops directly onto the affected area.
Endometriosis, Ovarian Cysts, Hormone Imbalance, and Menstrual Cramps
Its ability to reduce pain and swelling comes in handy for women who are dealing with pain in their uterus and ovaries. It can help to decrease the pain of endometriosis, ovarian cysts, and menstrual cramps. It is especially beneficial when combined with clary sage. Rub a couple of drops directly onto the lower abdomen/pelvic region where you are feeling pain. It also helps to regulate the production of estrogen, so women who have trouble with hormone imbalance or are trying to conceive can help to regulate their hormones by applying it topically over the uterus.
Because it can kill infection, it provides a great boost for your immune system because it gives it less to do. Diffusing the oil during cold and flu season can help to kill any airborne viruses. If you are already sick, try diffusing the oil or taking it in a gel capsule to help kill the virus or infection faster. It is a particularly beneficial oil to have around for those who are immunosuppressed, or who have compromised immune systems. People who suffer from HIV/AIDS, Emphysema, or other conditions that make infection or illness dangerous can greatly benefit from this oil.
Air Purification and Respiration
Diffusing the oil or burning the incense can help to purify the air. This is especially beneficial for those who have recently been sick or if you are cleaning and stirring up a lot of dust in the air. It can also help to neutralize unpleasant or musty odors. It's ability to clean and purify the air can also help with respiratory issues. Many breathing problems are cause by allergenic triggers, many of which can be gotten rid of by diffusing or burning frankincense. This makes frankincense a good oil for those who have asthma or suffer from repeated respiratory infections.
While frankincense is not a cure for cancer, it has been shown to aid in treatment and prevention. Frankincense has been shown to reduce the size of tumors in mice, and many cancer patients have reported positive effects of using the oil. A study done in 2012 found that frankincense can help to kill cancer cells that have become resistant to chemotherapy. Because it aids in boosting the immune system, it is a great oil to use while going through taxing treatments like chemotherapy or radiation because those treatments can negatively effect your immune system. Again, frankincense should not be used in lieu of medical treatment for cancer, but can be an effective aid. For those who have chosen not to go through cancer treatments, frankincense can be beneficial. It is also believed to help in prevention. If you have a family history or predisposition to developing cancer, try using it to help decrease your chances of getting cancer. It has especially been found to aid in breast cancer. Try using the oil topically or in a spray under your arms alongside your deodorant.
Stress, Anxiety, Insomnia, and Depression
Frankincense is often used as a sedative and to help boost mood and reduce stress. If you tend to have a lot of stress, trouble sleeping, anxiety, or a history of depression, it is a good oil to have on hand. Try diffusing the oil if you are dealing with or think you may have extra stress or anxiety. It can also help to reduce blood pressure, especially when applied to the bottoms of your feet or inhaled.
Frankincense is often used as a digestive aid. In ancient times, some cultures would traditionally burn frankincense during meals to help aid digestion. Frankincense can aid in the production of digestive juices and enzymes, and help the food to move along your digestive tract. It can help to treat ulcers, prevent nausea and bloating, ease constipation and gas, and reduce stomach pain and cramping. Frankincense has been used to help ease symptoms of Crohn's Disease, IBS, Ulcerative Colitis, and more. Try rubbing a few drops on your belly, or diffusing the oil in the room after or while you eat.
Like with cancer, frankincense is not a cure for Autism, but it has been shown to help. Because of it's ability to calm the mind and sooth anxiety, frankincense is often used to help those who are on the autism spectrum feel less frustrated and more calm.
Frankincense can help to ease pain in your teeth and gums. Try rubbing a drop or two over the affected area to reduce pain, prevent cavities and tooth decay, and kill infections in your mouth. It can be added to mouthwash, or you can put a drop on your toothbrush before using it. Some natural toothpastes add frankincense to help you reap these benefits. You can try making your own toothpaste by adding frankincense oil to a combination of coconut oil and baking soda.
Do you know of other uses or benefits of frankincense? Feel free to leave you suggestions in the comments!
Meet the Author
Amanda Tarver, (LMT, CEIM, PES, RMT) is a massage therapist and birth worker in the Chicago area. She is dedicated to using a combination of bodywork and education to help people live a better quality of life.