The Powers of Frankincense

Frankincense is one of the more popular oils for both spiritual and medicinal reasons.  When you start to dig into why frankincense is so amazing you can’t help but think — WOW! — this is something I need in my everyday life, so let’s dig deeper into this powerful essential oil.


First, a little biology and history. Frankincense is a gum resin found under the bark of the Boswellia tree.  There are about 25 known species of Boswellia, but we’re going to focus on the serrata species.


Boswellia serrata, also known as Indian frankincense, is native to much of India.  Since ancient times, the resin has played an important role in cosmetics, fragrances, flavors, religious and spiritual ceremonies, embalming, and medical therapies such as Ayurveda.


What makes frankincense so powerful is its make-up. (I’m going to get a little “phytochemistry crazy” here, so hang on!).  Loaded with monoterpenes, diterpenes, triterpenes, tetracyclic triterpenic acids and four major pentacyclic triterpenic acids (β-boswellic acid, acetyl-β-boswellic acid, 11-keto-β-boswellic acid and acetyl-11-keto-β-boswellic acid), this is where the magic lies.


Ok, so let’s step away from chemistry for the rest of the blog.  What do all those “hard to pronounce” words mean?  The biggest take home is that these have impressive anti-inflammatory properties, which are strongest in the terpenes and boswellic acids. 


Inflammation is a pathologic condition associated with a wide range of diseases, and let’s face it, it’s a probably a component of ALL diseases.  If frankincense can play a role in alleviating inflammation, then I would say it’s a must have in any healing regiment.


A study by University of Leicester titled “Frankincense Superior to Chemotherapy in Killing Late-Stage Ovarian Cancer Cells” can get any one’s attention.  The study used one of the boswellic acids found in frankincense, acetyl-11-keto-beta-boswellic acid (AKBA), and found it has cancer-killing properties and has the potential to destroy ovarian cancer cells. The study quotes  "What has been most surprising is that the cells we have tested which are resistant to chemotherapy have shown to be more sensitive to this compound, suggesting frankincense may indeed be able to help overcome drug resistance, and lead to an improved survival rate for patients with late-stage ovarian cancer,"


AKBA also exhibits potent antibacterial activity.  A study published in 2011concluded AKBA can be a useful compound for treating oral pathogens and has great potential for use in mouthwash for preventing and treating oral infections.


Frankincense also has the potential to improve cognitive function and memory, not to mention the benefits it has for arthritis, pain, colitis, bronchial asthma, coronary plaque, rheumatoid arthritis, and Crohn’s disease. This is a pretty amazing oil that everyone should have and enjoy!


You can use frankincense topically, with or without a carrier oil.  Alternatively, it can also be ingested (with the guidance of a health professional), as well as diffused.  You can also purchase the resin and burn it for spiritual or religious occasions.


I have frankincense in my household and use it all the time.  I love the uplifting woodsy-citrus smell.  Maybe it’s time you try it too.  You will love it.


Rebecca Haryett

Certified Health Coach







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