these are the things, for the King...
Frankincense – the revered KING of essential oils, not an easy reputation to uphold over thousands of years, but it has!
I can barely contain myself writing this, because I'm totally obsessed with Frankincense essential oil but before we get too far into it, it's probably wise to do a slight recap on what essential oils are, precisely. The use of essential oils dates back thousands of years and over this time more and more is being discovered about the potency and value of these oils. You've probably heard the term, aromatherapy, and may think that this is just something dirty hippies put in their oil burner or in the corner in a bowl of potpourri in the 90's. Although you're probably not wrong, there are many other uses for the oils.
The term aromatherapy was first coined by a French chemist named Gattefosse in 1928. After discovering by accident that lavender was able to heal a burn on his hand and prevent scarring, he was sold on the value of the oil. He found that numerous oils were more effective in their total part than in a synthetic variation or isolated form. Mother Nature knows best.
There are three different ways that essential oils relate to the human body:
Pharmacological – When essential oils enter the bloodstream chemical changes take place when the oil reacts with enzymes, hormones etc…
Physiological – This has to do with the way that the essential oil affects various systems in the body. For instance whether they are stimulated or sedated.
Psychological – This is the effect that takes place when an oil is inhaled and their is an individual response to the aroma.
It is very important to understand the complexity of essential oils and the degree to which they can impact healing within the body. Essential oils and the practice of aromatherapy are just one part of the bigger field of herbal medicine, and like always, I encourage you to do your own research.
I'll share with you my favourite essential oils and how I use them in the coming blog posts.
Back to the King - Frankincense in particular has a significant meaning, and it's believed that alongside gold and myrhh, was one of the gifts that the three wise men gave to the newborn baby Jesus. You may be familiar with the well known Christmas carol We three Kings, or Quest of the Magi, here are two verses from it for you;
We three King's of Orient are,
Bearing gifts we traverse afar.
Field and fountain, moor and mountain,
Following yonder star.
Frankincense to offer have I.
Incense owns a Deity nigh.
Prayer and praising all men raising,
Worship Him, God on high.
While some sources claim it was given as a perfume, what's more likely is that it was a precious (and costly in those times), essential oil that could double up as potential medicinal remedies.
Now whether you believe this happened or not is irrelevant. What I find fascinating is that Frankincense had such a reputation that not only was it deemed worthy of being one of three gifts from the Three Wise Men to the son of God, but that it had obviously been around for a long time showing signs of something spectacular, otherwise why would they have bothered, travelling so far to impart this gift. Many of us know that health is the real wealth, and I've read articles where it's been suggested that the gold that is referred to as one of the gifts could have, in fact been Turmeric. At that time Turmeric was worth more than gold, and has always been prized for it's health promoting benefits. It really does make sense, when you stop and think about it, to give the gift of health, and turmeric, known as the golden spice in those times, myrrh and frankincense all have that in spades.
Okay. So now that we've established that essential oils have been used for thousands of years, let's take a look at the therapeutic and healing properties. It's important to note here that like many other plant therapies, the full value of plants from a medicinal perspective has not yet been realised.
Frankincense, also known as olibanum, comes from the trees in the Boswellia genus – namely the Boswellia sacra and Boswellia carteri. They are small shrubs or trees that are native to the Red Sea and grow wild in African and Arabian regions, including Yemen, Oman, Somalia and Ethiopia. Oman is reportedly the best known and most ancient source of frankincense, where it's been traded and shipped to other places like the Mediterranean, India and China for millennia. The plants have a number of feather like leaves with white or pale pink flowers. Because the plants are wild, you'll find it difficult to come across a certified organic Frankincense oil.
The highest-quality frankincense is clear and silvery, but with a slight green tinge. Brown-yellow varieties are the cheapest and most readily available. In Oman, the best frankincense is usually reserved for the sultan and is rarely shipped out of the country
This Boswellia plant produces a natural oleo gum resin which is collected through an incredibly time consuming process which begins with making an incision in the bark. Once the incision is made, the tree 'bleeds' a milky white substance that heals the tree and prevents infection. After ten days the resin has hardened and is scraped from the tree. The highest quality frankincense comes from wounding the tree three times. Which is fascinating, as the number three is a strong force in many different ways in the universe – that's a whole 'nother post for another day.
Frankincense was traditionally used as incense and was also charred and ground into a powder and used as eyeliner, the famous heavy kohl by Egyptian women. Incredible! Today, the essential oil, acquired by steam distillation of the resin, is widely used and holds great therapeutic value, which is of course what you're keen to know.
The main health benefits of frankincense oil can be attributed to the following properties:
In addition, this oil also has cellular regeneration, gas removal, cellular protection, menstruation balancing, uterine and wound healing capabilities. I'll go through these in a bit more detail so you can understand how you can add it to your life regime.
Frankincense oil is used by either inhaling the oil or absorbing it through the skin, usually mixed with a carrier, like an unscented lotion or jojoba oil. It's believed that the oil transmits messages to the limbic system of the brain, which is known to influence the nervous system. A little bit of oil goes a long way; it should not be ingested in large quantities as it can be toxic.
1. Helps Reduce Stress Reactions and Negative Emotions
When inhaled, it's been shown to reduce heart rate and high blood pressure. It has anti-anxiety and depression reducing abilities, but unlike some prescription medications it does not have negative side effects and does not cause unwanted drowsiness.
2. Helps Boost Immune System Function and Prevents Illness
Studies have demonstrated that frankincense has immune enhancing abilities that may help destroy dangerous bacteria, viruses and even more serious states of dis-ease. Some reports claim that it can be used as an alternative cancer treatment, as part of a holistic health protocol. It can be used to prevent germs from forming on the skin, mouth or in your home. This is the reason many people choose to use frankincense to naturally relieve oral health problems; the antiseptic qualities of this oil can help prevent gingivitis, bad breath, cavities, toothaches, mouth sores and other infections from occurring.
3. Phlegm Fighter: Frankincense oil can break up phlegm in your respiratory tract and lungs, and help reduce congestion of the nasal tract, larynx, pharynx, bronchi, and lungs. In addition, it acts as an antidepressant and anti-inflammatory to help relax breathing passages
4. May Help Fight Cancer or Deal with Chemotherapy Side Effects
There are many resources available online that you could read about for this. The truth about cancer website has a plethora of information.
5. Astringent, Kills Harmful Germs and Bacteria
Frankincense is an antiseptic and disinfectant. It has the ability to eliminate cold and flu germs from the home and the body naturally and can be used in place of chemical household cleaners.
6. Heals Skin and Prevents Signs of Aging
Frankincense has the ability to strengthen skin and improve its tone, elasticity, defense mechanisms against bacteria or blemishes, and appearance as someone ages. It helps tone and lift skin, reduces appearance of scars and acne, and heals wounds. It can also be beneficial for fading of stretch marks, surgery scars or marks associated with pregnancy, and for healing dry or cracked skin.
7. Balances Hormone Levels
Frankincense oil reduces symptoms associated with menstruation and menopause by balancing hormone levels. It can help relieve pain, cramps, constipation, headaches, anxiety, nausea, fatigue and mood swings. Frankincense oil also helps with regulating estrogen production and may reduce the risk of tumour or cyst development in premenopausal women.
8. Eases Digestion
Frankincense helps the digestive system properly detoxand to produce bowel movements, reduces pain and cramping in the stomach, can relieve nausea, helps flush out excess water from the abdomen that can cause bloating and even relieves PMS-related stomach pains. It does this by speeding up the secretion of digestive enzymes, increasing urination production, relaxing the muscles of the digestive tract and also helps improve circulation, which is needed for proper digestive health. It's been shown to be beneficial in reducing symptoms of leaky gut syndrome, chronic colitis, ulcerative colitis, Crohn's disease and IBS.
9. Acts as a Sleep Aid
Frankincense essential oil is useful in lowering levels of anxiety or chronic stress that can keep you up at night. It has a calming, grounding scent that can naturally help you to fall asleep. It helps open breathing passages, allows your body to reach an ideal sleeping temperature and can eliminate pain that keeps you up.
10. Helps Decrease Inflammation and Pain
Frankincense can inhibit the production of key inflammatory molecules associated with conditions like arthritis, asthma, painful bowel disorders like IBS and many more conditions. It can be useful in helping prevent the breakdown of the cartilage tissue and has been shown to significantly reduce levels of dangerous and painfulinflammation making it a natural treatment option for pain-related conditions that affect the muscles, joints and tendons.
In a nutshell, frankincense can significantly boost the immune system. Two fundamental ways this is accomplished is by proliferating lymphocytes (white blood cells, which are the body's primary defense team) and by keeping inflammation at bay (which is arguably the primary risk factor for most chronic diseases).
This may also explain why some people have found frankincense effective in helping treat autoimmune conditions like bronchial asthma, Crohn's disease, rheumatoid arthritis and ulcerative colitis.
Implement frankincense into your natural health regimen today and see how frankincense benefits your immune function. This essential oil can be used in diffusers with ease to treat respiratory conditions, or you can use it as an essential oil or salve directly on your skin.
Finally, you can also take frankincense (Boswellia) as a supplement with a few essential oil drops placed under your tongue, on the roof of your mouth or in powdered capsule form to help with many health conditions. Personally, I don't have any health conditions as such but I take two drops under the tongue everyday as part of my overall vitality plan. When it comes to health I'm firmly of the opinion that prevention is the best strategy, and this is a key part of that.
Anyway – I'm basically done, but I just have a few words on choosing the best frankincense for you. If you plan to ingest it then don't skimp on the quality – not all essential oils are created equal. There are different grades, some of which are perfect for household cleaners and diffusers, and some that you'd ingest or use in culinary creations.
If you are looking for the best oil possible, and you should, here are some good shopping tips. Buying the best oil increases its therapeutic value and will ultimately work the best for any condition. Poor quality oils that have been distilled from bad crops, handled improperly or are old or have had other chemicals added. Essential oils that have been adulterated in any form can cause serious side effects.
- Wording on Bottles: Some manufacturers use words such as fragrance and perfume. These words don't denote quality at all.
- Bottles: High-quality oil is generally sold in small dark coloured bottles. It is always best to stay away from plastic bottles. Don't purchase oils sold in aluminium bottles unless they have a liner.
- Grade: Both "therapeutic" and "aromatherapy" grade don't mean anything with regards to quality. There are no regulations around this, anyone can say these things, and some brands go so far as to trademark their own terms e.g. certified therapeutic grade, same same but different.
- Quality Questions: Whether you purchase your oils online or locally, be sure to ask plenty of questions regarding where the oil was obtained, how long it has been stored. The longer the oils are stored, the more they oxidize and lose their therapeutic value.
- Cost: There is a great variation in the cost of oils. Be leery of a distributor who sells all oils for the same price.
- Botanical Name: Don't buy oils from retailers that don't provide the botanical name or country or origin.
- If you are new to essential oils, take the time to get to know each of them. The more you learn about oils, the more you will value their therapeutic powers and the role they can play in keeping you as healthy as possible.
Is Frankincense Oil Safe?
Yes, frankincense is generally safe. However, I'd advise doing a spot test first, to check if you have any sensitivity to this oil. When taking frankincense oil internally, it's best to dilute a drop in an edible carrier oil (like coconut oil), a teaspoon of honey or a glass of purified water or any non acidic or non-dairy beverage. This will make it more pleasant, but as you get used to it you can also put a drop of two under your tongue..
However, ingesting this oil is not recommended for children ages 6 and below. Older children and teens may also require higher dilutions.
NB: You must also remember that not all frankincense oil brands are made for internal use, so make sure you check the label before taking it. This is definitely a case of buyer beware so do your own research and make sure you're happy with it. You are in charge of your own health.
To your vitality!