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Aromatherapy
Frankincense

Boswellia carteri

Boswellia is also known as Indian frankincense and the trees of this genus are well-known for their aromatic resin that possesses several therapeutic properties. Trees belonging to Boswellia genus are hardy and indigenous to the north-western region of India, eastern Africa and southern Arabia. Actually, only four species of trees belonging to this genus are used to prepare frankincense aromatherapy oil. These four species of genus Boswellia include Boswellia serrata from India; Boswellia scara from Saudi Arabia; Boswellia carteri from eastern regions in Africa and Boswellia frereana from Somalia. The term frankincense has been derived from the French word ‘franc' denoting pure, noble or genuine and the word ‘encense' denoting incense.

The essential oil obtained from frankincense or Boswellia carteri possesses a sugary and warm scent which is believed to invigorate the mind. Frankincense essential oil helps in visualization, enhancing an individual's divine association as well as entering and is said to have soothing properties that facilitate in concentrating the mind and prevailing over pressure and hopelessness. In fact, in the Middle East people consider frankincense as sacred massage oil and have been used in religious rituals for several thousand years in the region.

While the oldest identified medical records - Ebers Papyrus, which dates back to the 16th century B.C., mentions about frankincense, records regarding the use of this essential oil for several hundred prescription and recipes have been listed by the ancient Egyptians. During the ancient times, people held frankincense in greater value compared to gold and people who were very wealthy and had enough of it could have this substance. Even today frankincense is a very costly essential oil and, hence, most of the substance available in the market is likely to be adulterated. Hence, while purchasing frankincense essential oil, ensure that you purchase only the genuine quality oil that is suitable for medical use.

Lately, frankincense essential oil has been used for several remedial purposes in hospitals in Europe and America. In effect, this essential oil has become the subject of several researches in these places. This essential oil forms an important active ingredient in numerous skin care products meant for healing dry skin as well as retarding the anti-aging process. In ancient Egypt, people used frankincense essential oil as a valuable element in face masks to rejuvenate the skin and make it appear more youthful.

In Ayurveda, the stream of herbal medication practiced in ancient India, frankincense is known as ‘salaiguggul' and has been used over centuries for treating numerous medical conditions, especially arthritis.

Frankincense essential oil is derived from the gum resin of the trunk of this tree. The scent of this essential oil is warm, loaded and somewhat lemon-like. It is interesting to note that majority of the people identify the aroma of this essential oil by smelling incense and keeping in mind the biblical story of the three kings or wise men offering frankincense to Jesus when he was an infant. Precisely speaking, frankincense essential oil has been in use for more than 4000 years now. This oil possesses soothing as well as inspiring properties and it offers comfort and helps in meditation. In addition, frankincense also has the aptitude to clear congested lungs and nasal passages and is potently effective in alleviating shortness of breath. Moreover, this oil is also helpful for treating sore throats and fortifying the immune system. When used to treat skin disorders, frankincense essential oil possesses an anti-inflammatory impact that makes it the appropriate choice for treating mature and dry skin.

Frankincense essential oil used for aromatherapy is commonly known as olibanum, which is produced by a process known as steam distillation of the resin from the tough Boswellia trees. To obtain the resin, one needs to cut the trunk of the tree and allow the pouring resin to solidify. This solid resin is collected and steam distilled to obtain the valuable essential oil. Frankincense essential oil that is used for aromatherapy is very unstable and its hue varies from faded yellow to greenish yellow. The aroma of this essential oil is usually said to be fresh, balmy, timbered, somewhat zesty and fruit-line and pungent in nature.

Apart from aromatherapy, frankincense essential oil is also used in the production of perfumes and has been regarded highly for the sugary smelling fumes produced by it when burnt. Owing to this aspect, the oil has made its use extensive in meditation and religious ceremonies. The use of the oil not only facilitates one to focus inwardly, but also inhibits the nervous system. Precisely speaking, the aroma of frankincense essential oil helps to endorse tranquility and inner peace.

As aforesaid, frankincense possesses anti-inflammatory properties and is regularly used to treat conditions like stiff, swollen and throbbing muscles and joints. This herb is known to have the aptitude to revitalize aging skin and is very effective as a skin tonic. The essential oil extracted from the resin gum collected from the bark of frankincense trees is an effective remedy for dry as well as oily skin. In addition, this oil is also recommended to treat wrinkles, acne, stretch marks and several other skin inflammations.

Inhaling frankincense essential oil is healthy for the respiratory system since it helps to intensify breathing and, at the same time, controls the secretion of mucus. Moreover, this essential oil is beneficial for patients suffering from asthma, nervousness, bronchitis and severe coughing.

When stored in proper conditions, frankincense essential oil has a shelf life of three to five years. It is essential to store this oil in airtight bottles at temperatures varying between 5°C and 25°C, in an arid and properly ventilated place away from direct heat as well as sunlight.

To obtain the frankincense essential oil used for aromatherapy first peel off the bark of Boswellia tree and make a slash on the trunk. The milk-like sap or liquid flows from the slashed area on the trunk for a number of weeks and solidifies into drops of resins that are known as ‘tears'. The resin is collected and made to undergo a process known as steam distillation to obtain the essential oil. Depending on factors, such as climatic conditions and the soil in which the Boswellia trees are grown, different qualities of frankincense essential oil are obtained. The quality of this essential oil is also dependent on the season during which the resin is collected as well as the closeness or distance of the formation of resin tears from the incision made on the Boswellia tree trunk. Other aspects that influence the quality of frankincense essential oil may include the aroma, hue, wholesomeness as well as the age of the trees.

When frankincense essential oil is used for aromatherapy, it is generally blended with some other oil that does not have any fragrance and massaged on the skin by an expert massage therapist. In addition, this aromatic essential oil may also be heated in a fragrance diffuser over a small flame to release its fragrance into the atmosphere. Besides these two methods, frankincense essential oil is also used in aromatherapy by including this substance in soaps, incense, perfumes as well as bath oils.

Usually those who are expert in providing aromatherapy chose the essential oils on the basis of the requirements, conditions and symptoms of their clients. The frankincense essential oil or the oil extracted from the Boswellia trees is used to unwind the clients' mind when they suffer from nervous tension and angst. When frankincense essential oil is applied topically as a massage, it helps to alleviate muscle aches and pain related to rheumatism and arthritis. In addition, you may also dilute frankincense essential oil by adding other neutral oils and apply the blend topically to cure several skin disorders. This blended oil may also be used in vaporizers to heal problems of the respiratory tract. This essential oil is usually considered to be non-noxious and safe for use. Nevertheless, it is advisable that people should consult their doctors before they inhale, ingest or apply the essential oil topically.

Frankincense essential oil is used to treat several conditions. In addition, this oil may be used in different ways - as an inhalant, massage oil, taken internally as well as added to soaps, perfumes, bath oils and incense. Here we are mentioning the use of frankincense essential oil for a number of specific conditions.

  • If you have been bitten by any bug, apply one or two drops of frankincense essential oil on the affected area. It will not only help to reduce the swelling, but also provide relief from itching.
  • You may inhale this essential oil, apply it topically on the body or even diffuse to intensify breathing and bring about tranquility and peace.
  • When you apply a few drops of this essential oil on trivial cuts, bruises and/ or scratches, it helps in lessening the redness of the skin and provides relief from uneasiness.
  • You may also put a few drops of the oil on the skin to diminish or alleviate scarring and stretch marks.
  • Diffuse frankincense essential oil when you are praying or meditating as this would enable you to concentrate and focus inwardly.
  • You may apply a few drops of frankincense essential oil to your face and the area around the neck with a view to repair the skin damage caused by exposure to sunlight. In addition, this will help to rejuvenate your skin and make it appear younger.
  • In order to remove gum, glue or any tough adhesive from the skin or the surface of any household item, rub a few drops of this essential oil to it and see how it clears the unwanted substances.
  • You may also swallow a capsule containing frankincense essential oil to improve your immune system. However, before you take this oil internally, make sure that you are using the pure essential oil meant for therapy. You need to consult your physician before using the oil internally.
  • Rubbing a few drops of this essential oil on the temples or the area behind the neck will help you to get relief from strain and stress.
  • You may also massage this essential oil mildly on the feet and the area behind the neck to provide comfort to overactive children.

General properties

  • sedative
  • antiseptic
  • warming
  • hemostatic
  • relaxing

Blends well with

General uses

Precaution

While it is true that frankincense essential oil possesses several therapeutic properties and is used to treat a number of medical conditions, one should always use it cautiously and with prudence. This oil is likely to result in skin sensitivity and, hence, it is advisable that one should water down this oil before any internal or external use. Especially, this oil needs to be diluted prior to applying it topically in sensitive areas like the face, neck and genital parts. Pregnant women should always use this essential oil after consulting their doctor. This oil should not be used on infants and small children. It is important to keep this essential oil out of the reach of children to avoid any untoward incident.

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