Frankincense oil has legends that extend far and wide, from ancient Egyptians and biblical texts to modern day miracles. Are these legends or facts?
Let’s take a look at the rich history of frankincense essential oil uses and the research we have to support its use today. You will soon find out the uses for frankincense are vast.
This blog also has a deep look at the best frankincense oil to buy and why sourcing and quality matters.
What is Frankincense?
Frankincense has many names. It is also known as:
These names are interchangeable and all come from the Boswellia tree. Over 25 species of Boswellia tree exist, but they all have similar and overlapping benefits. Frankincense resin is the medicinal part and it comes from the sap of the trees.
Frankincense essential oil and Boswellia supplements are made from the same orange-brown resin that comes from the Boswellia tree trunks.
The Boswellia tree is also referred to as the guggal tree. Guggul trees belong to the family Burseraceae. Boswellia trees are mainly found in the dry regions of India, Pakistan and Bangladesh.
History of Frankincense
Frankincense was depicted in the tomb of Queen Hatshepsut in Egypt about 500 BC and was used as medicine by the ancient Greeks and Romans.
The use of frankincense fell out of use when trade routes were disrupted, but is gaining renewed interest due to its many potent health benefits.
Like many plants, frankincense oil holds deep traditions for its use both as medicine and incense. Frankincense is known as the King of Oils.
Frankincense literally means “Pure Incense.”
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Frankincense Essential Oil Production
Frankincense essential oil is usually extracted from Boswellia carteri and Boswellia extract for supplements is most often from Boswellia serrata.
High-quality essential oils are steam-distilled and sustainably harvested.
Frankincense contains many beneficial compounds including:
Scientifically-Proven Frankincense Essential Oil Uses
Over 600 studies report benefits of frankincense in the National Library of Medicine.
The first medical paper came out in the 1960s, which described the pain-relieving properties of frankincense. Doctors were also talking about its anti-arthritic and anti-inflammatory activity then.
Of these 600 studies, researchers have determined that frankincense has undeniable health benefits for conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease, arthritis, cancer, pancreatitis, inflammatory bowel disease, dermatitis, diabetes, infectious diseases, ear infections, respiratory diseases, asthma, psoriasis, gingivitis.
Frankincense also helps protect liver, nerve, heart, and thyroid tissue.
Frankincense benefits health because it works on many pathways in the body.
Do We Have Enough Research To Support Use of Frankincense?
Researchers spend billions of dollars to figure out the most minute and sometimes inconsequential facts; frankincense is no exception.
We search for answers when the answers for health are often right in front of us. These answers come from clinical research, human experience, which is diverse, complex, and innately individual.
I surmise that 600 studies showing benefits for frankincense oil uses is enough.
As many of you know, I’ve been defending the use of plants in a way that they were meant to be used; through traditions, practical research, through complex combinations, and careful observations.
Is Frankincense Effective?
A substance from frankincense called guggelsterone is the only known substance on the planet to be an antagonist of farnesoid X receptor (FXR). This effect of frankincense has the ability to help reduce inflammation in the body.
Frankincense also reduces a strong inflammation compound that starts in the nucleus called NFkB.
It also reduces many other inflammation-provoking chemicals in the body.
In a review from the British Medical Journal, frankincense reduced symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis, asthma, Crohn’s disease, osteoarthritis, and collagenous colitis.
The authors in this prestigious journal concluded that ALL clinical research so far have found frankincense beneficial for human health [R]. Let that thought resonate for a minute. All. No wonder it is getting some positive attention these days.
Frankincense helps the body by:
Improves immune response
Supports digestive health
May reduce cancer
Reduces autoimmune response
Helps balance hormones
13 Frankincense Essential Oil Uses
1. Frankincense Arthritis Benefits
Frankincense reduces symptoms of arthritis because it brings down inflammation.
Supplemental frankincense (Boswellia) reduced symptoms of osteoarthritiscompared to placebo in a randomized, clinical trial. It also increased range of motion and walking distance in these patients with arthritis.
Another more recent clinical trial found that frankincense effectively reduced arthritis symptoms and improved functional ability. The researchers also found that frankincense improves arthritis symptoms in as little as 5 days [R].
2. Frankincense Asthma Relief Research
A variety of Boswellia called Boswellia serrata is one of the very few substances on the planet that can reduce 5-LOX inflammation. 5-LOX (5-lipoxygenase) enzyme activity leads to tumor formation, inflammatory, digestive, respiratory, and cardiovascular conditions.
These theories were proven out in clinical research of asthma, where 70 percent of patients had improvement in asthma disease functional markers compared to 27 percent of placebo.
3. Frankincense Skin Benefits
Frankincense use may help protect our most important barrier from the outside world; our skin.
Frankincense use may also reduce skin aging from sun, skin roughness, and fine lines, as well as increase elasticity as shown in clinical study.
Frankincense essential oil improved markers of skin health in cell study. This cell study suggests that frankincense likely may reduce scar formation and reduce wound persistence.
Many people (including myself) use frankincense oil on their skin because they notice that it helps reduce signs of aging as well.
4. Frankincense Essential Oil Uses for Immunity
Autoimmune conditions are also known by the body’s loss of immune tolerance. Frankincense is used to help numerous autoimmune conditions as shown in research.
Frankincense compound enhances the innate immune response and natural killer cell activity in the body.
5. Frankincense Oil Cancer Benefits
Many early research trials show that use of frankincense oil may reduce the burdens of cancer.
Frankincense even reduces the genes that contribute to the spread, or metastasis, of cancer.
Although research is still early, frankincense reduced tumor growth and spread by killing cancer cells in a rat study of glioma, a type of brain cancer.
Frankincense also killed breast cancer cells in cell culture.
In lab study, frankincense also reduced inflammatory markers in:
head and neck-type cancer cells [R].
More Frankincense Cancer Benefits
Frankincense reduced growth and spread of prostate cancer in mice [R].
Frankincense reduced tumor growth and spread of head and neck cancer in a mouse model. Additionally, it increased the effectiveness of chemotherapy.
While treating cancer with frankincense essential oils is still preliminary, many testimonials suggest benefit.
6. Frankincense For Thyroid Function
Many essential oils are used to help improve thyroid function, including frankincense oil.
Early research shows that frankincense essential oil use may help the thyroid. Frankincense had a positive effect on thyroid function in cell culture study.
7. Frankincense Essential Oil for Seizures
Frankincense oil use improved learning and helped retain brain function in rats with epilepsy.
In rats, frankincense oil also reduced the duration and amount of seizures.
8. Frankincense Essential Oil for Alzheimer’s and Memory
Frankincense reduced memory deficits in an animal model of Alzheimer’s dementia.
9. Frankincense May Improve Heart Health
Frankincense had remarkable cardiovascular benefits in a recent animal study.
It protected the heart by decreasing dangerous fats, improved heart enzymes, improved antioxidant enzymes, and reversed heart damage.
10. Frankincense Use Reduces Colitis
Frankincense resin reduced ulcerative colitis symptoms better than treatment with sulfasalazine drug in terms of remission. 85 percent of the frankincense group achieved remission while 75 percent of drug treatment achieved remission.
Boswellia supplements helped patients achieve remission for their colitis in another small clinical trial. Frankincense worked better than standard treatment.
11. Frankincense Essential Oils for Depression
Frankincense essential oil use may also help ease depression as well.
A study of patients receiving hospice care used a blend of frankincense, bergamot, and lavender applied topically as a hand massage for 5 minutes.
Those receiving the oils had reduced pain and depression compared to hand massage alone.
12. Frankincense for Pain
Frankincense has numerous pain-relieving properties, so it can be used for many kinds of pain. The pain-relieving properties of frankincense are very strong.
In a clinical study, frankincense improved both pain threshold and pain tolerance.
I use a combination of frankincense, copaiba, and marjoram to knock down my neck pain. It works almost instantly when I use a roller bottle of this essential oil combination along with coconut oil applied to my neck.
Frankincense essential oil testimonials for pain and healing:
Reduces otherwise daunting pains when using internally and topically
Helps heal wounds
Relieves muscle tension
Speeds healing time
Reduces discomfort of colds and allergies when combined with peppermint and rosemary
Bottom line: frankincense may help pain significantly. It is a much safer option than prescription pain drugs.
13. Frankincense: Healing Oil for Gingivitis
A rigorous clinical study of 75 teens showed that oral use of frankincense reduced inflammation of gingivitis more than drug treatment over a 14 day period.
Is Frankincense Essential Oil Use Sustainable?
Some harvesting of frankincense resin is sustainable and some is not.
Doterra frankincense uses Co-Impact sourcing, which helps the people who grow the frankincense, the environment, social and economy of the region where it is derived. It supports the health and vitality of these precious Boswellia trees.
Watch this inspiring video about how Doterra is providing income, education, and sustainability for both the trees and the farmers in Somaliland.
Use ONLY Certified Pure Therapeutic Grade Frankincense oil. Find it here.
High quality frankincense oil is really important. Why? Many “organic” and health food store varieties contain dangerous solvents, perfumes and only trace amounts of active frankincense!
Take 1-2 drops in a glass of water daily to support healthy cellular function.
How to Use Frankincense Oil on Face or Skin
Dilute with doTERRA Fractionated Coconut Oil to minimize any skin sensitivity.
Frankincense roller bottles: Add 20 drops frankincense per 5-10 ml of coconut oil in a roller bottle.
Add 1-2 drops to your usual moisturizer morning and evening.
Topical Use for Pain and Mood
Enhance the effectiveness of other respiratory oils: combine with Breathe oil for respiratory health.
Pain relief oils: Add frankincense to peppermint oil for great headache relief.
Blend with copaiba and marjoram essential oil for a warming joint pain oil or for muscle and nerve pain.
Blend frankincense and myrrh together for inflammation.
Mixes well with lavender essential oil for calming and relaxation.
Apply topically 1 drop several times a day to desired area.
Diffusing Frankincense Oil
Diffuse 3-4 drops in water in your diffuser.
Frankincense blends well with wild orange, myrrh, lavender, and blue tansy.
Frankincense Oil Precautions
Dilute frankincense oil to reduce chances of skin sensitivity.
There are no significant side effects of frankincense essential oil use.
As with any plant, a small percentage of people are allergic. If you have a sensitivity to frankincense, avoid its use.
If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, always consult a doctor before using essential oils.
Over 600 medical journal studies support frankincense essential oil use for health.
As with anything, frankincense should be used along with a healthy diet and lifestyle.
Consult with your healthcare provider before adding frankincense.