Frankincense Essential Oil
Frankincense is a tree resin that has been used and valued since ancient times for its medicinal, cosmetic, aromatic and spiritual applications. In Christianity, Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh were the gifts given to the baby Jesus by the three wise men.
There are several species of Frankincense, and very generalistically, they all share similar therapeutic and aromatic properties. I plan to add more details about each species to this profile when time permits.
Frankincense Essential Oil is used most often for spiritual, perfumery and incense /room fragrancing applications but is useful as an expectorant and sometimes is used in respiratory and cough formulations.
Frankincense Essential Oil is distilled from frankincense resin. It tends to smell sweeter, cleaner and fresher than the resin, and more people prefer the aroma of Frankincense Essential Oil to that of the resin when it's being burned as incense.
I adore the aroma of Frankincense Essential Oil and include it in room fragrancing, incense and spiritual blends all year round.
Emotionally, I find the aroma of Frankincense Essential Oil to be spiritually grounding, calming and relaxing without being sedating. The aroma is resinouse, earthy and also has a slightly fruity/sweet, warm, spicy attitude to it. The country of origin and quality of the frankincense tears play a big part in the overall aroma of the essential oil.
Frankincense is also known as Olibanum.
Sustainability Concerns for Frankincense Essential Oil
The Frankincense species of Boswellia carterri (Boswellia sacra) is near threatened as explained by Kelly M. Ablard, PhD, EOT, RA. Due to the growing demand for Frankincense Essential Oils (for all species), it's very important to use the oil very mindfully and seek out alternatives whenever possible.
Boswellia carterii / Boswellia sacra
Typical Method of Extraction
Hydro Distillation: Although many reputable authors, educators and vendors list Frankincense Essential Oil do list it as being steam distilled, Frankincense Essential Oil is typically hydro distilled. [Sources: Robin Schiller-Kessler CA, Admin for Frankincense Resin//And All Tree Resins, Trygve Harris, Owner and Founder of Enfleurage and Jamie Garvey, Co-Founder of Böswellness.]
Plant Part Typically Used
Strength of Initial Aroma
Mild - Medium
Fresh, woody, balsamic, slightly spicy and fruity.
Frankincense Essential Oil Uses
Anxiety, asthma, bronchitis, extreme coughing, scars, stress, stretch marks. [Julia Lawless, The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Essential Oils (Rockport, MA: Element Books, 1995), 59-67.]
There is a great deal of risky and inaccurate information being propagated about the applications of Frankincense Essential Oil in cancer treatment and prevention. For more information, read Frankincense Oil and Cancer in Perspective by essential oil expert Robert Tisserand.
Sustainability and Conservation Status
To learn more about the conservation status of essential oil bearing plants and how to use the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, please refer to AromaWeb's Guide to Essential Oils and Sustainability.
Major Constituents of Frankincense (Boswellia carterri) Essential Oil
See Essential Oil Safety for more complete list of constituents and for constituent lists for other Frankincense types.
[L. Hall, Chemotaxonomical Investigation of Frankincense Producing Boswellia spp. from Somalia and a Quest for Quality Standards. (Thesis. University of Strathclyde, 2000). Source cited in Robert Tisserand and Rodney Young, Essential Oil Safety (Second Edition. United Kingdom: Churchill Livingstone Elsevier, 2014), 287-288.]
Frankincense Essential Oil Safety Information
Tisserand and Young precaution to avoid use of the oil if it has oxidized. Skin sensitization is more likely when using oxidized Frankincense Oil. Reading Tisserand and Young's full profile is recommended. [Robert Tisserand and Rodney Young, Essential Oil Safety (Second Edition. United Kingdom: Churchill Livingstone Elsevier, 2014), 287-289.]
General Safety Information
Do not take any oils internally and do not apply undiluted essential oils, absolutes, CO2s or other concentrated essences onto the skin without advanced essential oil knowledge or consultation from a qualified aromatherapy practitioner. For general dilution information, read AromaWeb's Guide to Diluting Essential Oils. If you are pregnant, epileptic, have liver damage, have cancer, or have any other medical problem, use oils only under the proper guidance of a qualified aromatherapy practitioner. Use extreme caution when using oils with children and be sure to first read the recommended dilution ratios for children. It is safest to consult a qualified aromatherapy practitioner before using oils with children, the elderly, if you have medical issues or are taking medications. Before using this or any essential oil, carefully read AromaWeb's Essential Oil Safety Information page. For in-depth information on oil safety issues, read Essential Oil Safety by Robert Tisserand and Rodney Young.
Important Information About the Profiles
The essential oil information provided on AromaWeb is intended for educational purposes only. The references to safety information, constituents and percentages is generalized information. The data is not necessary complete and is not guaranteed to be accurate. The essential oil photos are intended to represent the typical and approximate color of each essential oil. However, essential oil color can vary based on harvesting, distillation, age of the essential oil and other factors. Profiles for several absolutes are included within the directory, and are denoted as such.
Essential Oil Book Suggestions
Click on a book's title to view details and read a full review for the book. Visit AromaWeb's Books area to find details about many other essential oil and aromatherapy books.
Own Safety Profiles for 400 Essential Oils and 206 Constituents:
Essential Oil Safety: A Guide for Health Care Professionals
Authors: Robert Tisserand and Rodney Young
The Complete Book Of Essential Oils & Aromatherapy
Author: Valerie Ann Worwood
The Complete Aromatherapy & Essential Oils Handbook for Everyday Wellness
Author: Nerys Purchon and Lora Cantele
The Heart of Aromatherapy
Author: Andrea Butje