Essential Oil: Frankincense


                Description: Frankincense is an aromatic resin extracted from the Boswellia tree. The essential oil of frankincense is produced by steam distillation of the tree resin. There are a few different species of these trees including Boswellia sacra, frereana, and serrata among others. There is still to this day dispute over whether B. sacra is the same plant as B. carterii. For the purposes of essential oil therapy, we feel they are the same. Therefore, if you see us using B. carterii in our ingredients it is the same plant as B. sacra.  The quality of the resin depends on the time of harvesting and which trees are being harvested. The trees begin to produce resin when they are about ten years old. Most of the frankincense used in religious ceremonies and natural medicines comes from the horn of Africa.

                More specifically, B. frereana originates almost exclusively from Somalia; B. papyrifera is found in Ethiopia and Sudan; B. sacra(carterii) is found in Saudi Arabia, Oman, Yemen, and parts of Somalia; B serrata grows in India.

                Essential Oil Information: The oil’s chemical components are 75% monoterpenes, sesquiterpenes, and monoterpenols. Generally, the top three chemical components of B. carterii consist of a-pinene, b-myrcene, and d-limonene. The presence of components such as α- and β-pinene, d-limonene, β-myrcene, and paracymene suggests that the oil has excellent pain-relieving properties. Studies indicated that essential oil of various species like B. carterii, B. Serrata, B. papyrifera and B. rivae showed high effect on various fungal strains such as Malassezia spp., Candida albicans and Trichophyton spp.[1]

                Health Benefits: The essential oil obtained from the oleogum resin of Boswellia serrata showed antimicrobial activities in recent studies. Oils such as frankincense that have anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and antimicrobial properties may offer strong immune support. Researchers believe that frankincense can prevent the release of leukotrienes, which are compounds that can cause inflammation.[2] Yang et al. (2010) reported that Frankincense oil has considerable free radical scavenging action.[3] The essential oil contains several components that demonstrate actions important to the skin’s healing process. Many are antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and antibacterial. Anecdotal evidence certainly suggests that Frankincense plays a role in skin care.

              Reproductive Toxicity: The low reproductive toxicity of the major chemical components of frankincense oil suggests that these oils are not hazardous in pregnancy.[4]

                Summary: Frankincense is considered safe for most people. It has been used as a remedy for thousands of years without severe side effects, and the resin has a low toxicity. However, the different species of Boswellia trees showcase different chemical components and percentages in their respective essential oils. Therefore, it is important to know exactly which frankincense essential oil you are using.

Products with frankincense essential oils include:

Sleeping Bear Dunes Soap, Citrus Forest Body Lotion, Diffuser Oils: Grounding Meditation, Ritual

[1] Camarda L, Dayton T, Di Stefano V, Pitonzo R, Schillaci D. Chemical composition and antimicrobial activity of some oleogum resin essential oils from Boswellia spp. (Burseraceae). Ann Chim. 2007;97:837-844


[3] Yang, S.-A., Jeon, S.-K., Lee, E.-J., Shim, E.-H. and Lee, I.-S. (2010) Comparative study of the chemical composition and antioxidant activity of six essential oils and their components. Natural Products Research 24, 140-151.

[4] Robert Tisserand and Rodney Young, (2014) Essential Oil Safety 2nd Edition, Page 289

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