Frankincense: the healing powers of Boswellia Resin
Powerfully healing, but endangered
The resin of Boswellia trees has been used to treat wounds, skin infections, inflammatory diseases, dementia and various other ailments, for millennia. Its widespread use across cultures makes it one of the oldest commodities traded on a global scale. But now more than ever, we must use it responsibly.
Frankincense is derived from four species, including Boswellia sacra, and is harvested by incising the tree trunks and collecting the residue, much like harvesting maple syrup. The resin hardens and forms so-called “tears”, which are the essence of frankincense and have been used by different cultures for thousands of years. The ancient Egyptians may have believed that frankincense tears were the sweat of gods condensing on earth. Another reference is that when the mythical Phoenix bird rose from the ashes, he built a nest from Boswellia twigs and fed on frankincense tears.
Frankincense resin is known to have wealth of health supporting properties. The resins of Boswellia carteri and Boswellia serrata have been used for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis and other inflammatory diseases, such as Crohn’s disease, in traditional medicine of many countries. It’s known to offer anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties, and may even have anti-cancer properties.
Medical aromatherapy practitioners use Frankincense to:
- Treat arthritis
- Mitigate asthma
- Treat colitis (inflammation of colon)
- Reduce inflammation (swelling and redness)
- Help reduce skin damage due to radiotherapy, in breast cancer patients
For more on the science of Frankincense, check out this Tisserand article.
Sustainability Issues: Populations of Boswellia Trees are Decreasing
Unfortunately, populations of the Boswellia tree are decreasing due to a combination of fire, grazing animals, changing use of land, attacks by insects, and unsustainable harvesting. In Ethiopia, the largest exporter of frankincense in the world, it is predicted that the Boswellia tree may be extinct within the next three decades.
For now, we will continue to carry Frankincense oil while keeping an eye on sustainability issues. We encourage you to find alternatives with similar healing benefits, and use Frankincense sparingly when you do use it. We offer it in quantities as small as 2.3ml, and just a few drops can add a lot of healing to your blends.
You can also support the work of this organization: www.savefrankincense.org.
For a history of Frankincense, check out this beautiful article.