Long considered a gift fit for a king, frankincense has an almost mythic reputation today. Don’t let that dissuade you from trying this essential oil yourself. Frankincense’s heady scent and impressive health benefits make it well worth keeping in rotation.
What is Frankincense?
This fragrant oil comes from the Boswellia tree, a shrubby plant that grows throughout the mountains of India, Africa, and the Middle East. The tree’s resin is harvested by scoring the trunk and collecting what drips out. This sticky substance is then steam distilled into a fragrant oil. Under proper care, a Boswellia tree can survive for centuries and produce several pounds of resin each year.
Frankincense has long carried a spiritual connotation. It has been used as incense in religious ceremonies for thousands of years, and is referenced in the Bible as a gift from the “wise men from the East” for the infant Jesus.
Today, frankincense oil is prized for its earthy scent that lends a sense of grounding and connectedness to your space when you diffuse it. This makes it a popular essential oil choice for preparing to pray or meditate. However, frankincense also holds attention for its health benefits.
Eight Health Benefits of Frankincense
Frankincense oil is a longtime staple of Ayurvedic medicine, where it was used for treating conditions ranging from asthma to cancer. Today, scientific research is starting to prove its effectiveness.
1. Anti-aging Skin Treatment
Cleopatra herself purportedly pampered her skin with frankincense oil, and you can do the same today. Thanks to a high antioxidant content, it’s considered a natural anti-wrinkle and anti-blemish treatment.
You can add a few drops to a moisturizing carrier oil and gently massage it into your trouble spots. It’s also possible to add some to your favorite skin products to enhance their benefits.
Just keep in mind that most of the evidence for these benefits is anecdotal and more studies are needed to verify these skin benefits.
2. Can Improve Digestion
Frankincense has natural anti-inflammatory properties, which makes it practical for soothing digestive problems.
One study on patients with Crohn’s disease found that taking frankincense extract was as effective for reducing their symptoms as pharmaceutical drugs. Another found that taking a supplement of Boswellia resin was an effective cure for chronic diarrhea.
3. May Reduce Arthritis Symptoms
Another benefit to frankincense’s anti-inflammatory properties is that it can soothe arthritis symptoms. The oil contains terpenes and boswellic acid, which work to prevent your system from releasing inflammatory compounds known as leukotrienes.
Small-scale studies reveal it might be as effective for reducing arthritis symptoms as NSAIDs and cause fewer side effects in the process. For some study participants, using frankincense meant they could regain mobility while using fewer over-the-counter medications.
4. Potential Cancer Fighter
Essential oils are gaining attention for potentially fighting cancer, and frankincense oil is no exception. Test tube studies show that it can stimulate the immune system to protect against cancer cell growth and prevent the cells from spreading. There’s also evidence that the oil may be able to distinguish between healthy and cancerous cells, killing only the afflicted ones.
Finally, at least one study has found frankincense oil suitable for soothing cancer symptoms, like sleeplessness. At least 64% of patients in a cancer study who received frankincense aromasticks experienced some improvement in their sleep quality after several weeks of use.
5. May Reduce Symptoms of Depression
Preliminary research with mice has found that frankincense oil may reduce some depression symptoms and behaviors. More experimentation is needed to see whether these effects hold true for humans, too.
6. Improves Asthma Symptoms
People have used frankincense for centuries to treat asthma and other breathing problems. Today, research suggests that the oil’s ability to prevent leukotriene production stops your bronchial muscles from contracting as they do during an asthma attack.
One study found that almost 75% of patients experienced less wheezing and shortness of breath after taking 900 mg of frankincense daily for six weeks. Another found that daily frankincense supplementation could improve the lung capacity of patients with chronic asthma.
7. Improves Oral Health
Frankincense oil could be the solution to your bad breath. Boswellic acids have anti-bacterial properties that are seemingly effective against oral infections, toothaches, and cavities. One study of high school students found that taking 100-200mg of frankincense powder daily for two weeks was more effective for reducing gingivitis than a placebo.
8. Potentially Boosts Memory
Rodent-based studies show promise that frankincense can boost memory and improve performance on cognitive tasks. There is potential that humans could respond in the same way, but more research is necessary.
Are There Any Frankincense Oil Side Effects?
Frankincense’s long history works in its favor, as this natural resin has been used medicinally for thousands of years with few (if any) severe side effects. However, extremely high doses (900mg per pound of body weight) are toxic to rats, and they might harm humans as well.
On a milder scale, some people experience nausea and acid reflux from ingesting frankincense, and some speculate that the oil could interact with anti-inflammatory drugs in unexpected ways.
Even so, frankincense oil appears safe for everyone when used appropriately. You may want to dab a small amount on your arm when using it for the first time to see how your skin responds. It’s best to dilute it in a carrier oil before use if you notice any irritation.
How to Pair and Use Frankincense Essential Oil
While there are no official guidelines for how to use frankincense essential oil, the compound is considered mild enough for almost any use. Apply it directly to your skin, blend some into your favorite skincare products, add a few drops to a diffuser, or even incorporate the oil into your bath water for extra relaxation.
Many essential oils pair well with frankincense oil, thanks to its earthy scent. We recommend blending some clary sage, lavender, ylang ylang, or sweet orange essential oils to balance out its fragrance notes. You can find frankincense oil within our White Aura, Orange Aura, and Green Aura pre-mixed blends.
Tap into centuries of medicinal wisdom by trying frankincense essential oil today. You might find it to be the perfect fragrance for grounding you in the present moment.