Frankincense provides one of the most evocative scents in the long history of aromatics. Its fresh, fruity, pine-lemon bouquet it’s delicately sweet, resinous and woody undertones, slows and deepens breathing and has been used since ancient times to awaken higher consciousness, and enhance spirituality, meditation and prayer.
The essencial oil is rejuvenating to the skin, treating acne, bacterial and fungal infections, and to treat wounds and scars. Thus, it is used in cosmetics, soaps, and perfumes.
The name “Frankincense” is widely known as an historic biblical ingredient, and to many as one of three gifts from the visiting Magi to the newborn Jesus and as an ingredient in the Old Testament’s Exodus incense mixture. Few have experienced its aroma or know of its rich history and how the world has treasured and used it since long before recorded time.
Frankincense has been one of the world’s most treasured commodities since the beginning of written history. At its peak its value rivaled that of gold, the rarest silks, and the most precious of gems. Ironically, it is but a milky-white resin produced by a scrubby, unlikely looking tree, genus Boswellia. There are twenty-five known species of Boswellia, each creating a water-soluble gum-resin with its own distinctive fragrance and medicinal properties.
Frankincense trees require an arid climate where moisture is provided by morning mist. The few ideal environments in the world for this small prized tree are found in Southern Arabia (Oman and Yemen), India, and Northern Africa (Somalia, Ethiopia, Eritrea and Kenya).
Frankincense resin begins as a milky-white sticky liquid that flows from the trunk of the tree when it’s injured. The Arabic name is luban, which means white or cream. It’s also known as olibanum, and its essential oil is often called “Oil of Lebanon.” It’s commonly recognized western name, frankincense, is said to have originated from the Frankish (French) Knights of the Crusades who treasured it in large quantities.
Recent studies by an international team of scientists, including researchers from Johns Hopkins University and the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, have indicated that burning frankincense resin (Boswellia) helps to to alleviate anxiety and depression. The University of Munich found the anti-inflammatory properties of frankincense very effective as a treatment for joint pain and arthritis. The famous eleventh-century Arabian physician, Avicenna, recommended its cooling effects as a remedy for infections and illnesses that increase the body’s temperature. Greek and Roman physicians used Frankincense in the treatment of a great variety of diseases. Frankincense remedies appear in the Syriac Book of Medicine, ancient Muslim texts, and in Ayurvedic and Chinese medical writings.
Frankincense is also a natural insecticide and was used in ancient Egypt to fumigate wheat silos and repel wheat moths. In Arabia, the smoke of burning frankincense resin is used to repel mosquitoes and sand flies. Researchers have found that burning frankincense indoors improves the acoustic properties of the room. Dioscorides described how the bark of the tree was put into water to attract fish into nets and traps. In ancient Egypt the resin was a key ingredient for embalming their dead.
The pleasure of its pure resin for incense or its precious essential oil for aromatherapy, cosmetics or perfume, Frankincense in summary, is one of nature’s most cherished gifts.
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