The Mystery of Frankincense
Used for many thousands of years,
the Frankincense tree has perhaps the greatest association with spiritual
practice of any plant on earth. In most of the great ancient cultures, including
the Egyptian, Babylonian, Persian, Hebrew, Greek and Roman civilizations, it has
played a role in religious and domestic life. Frankincense has been sought after
by kings and valued as highly as gold. More recently, the essential oil is
gaining popularity with spiritual seekers and natural healers alike. What is so
special about this tree that its ‘pearls’ were given as a gift to Christ at His birth, it was considered to be more valuable than gold.
The Hardy Tree and its
The Frankincense tree, (Boswellia,) at first glance, may seem rather unremarkable. It appears as a giant shrub, with many
knurled branches topped with abundant slender leaves and occasionally, small
white flowers. A native to northern Africa, it looks like it belongs in
the desert, growing in some of the world’s harshest conditions. But it is not
the tree itself, but rather its sap that has such profound lore surrounding it.
When the tree’s bark is pierced with a knife (known traditionally as a
‘Mingaf’), a milky-white resin is exuded – thought the tree is not harmed.
The resin forms droplets known as ‘tears’ or ‘pearls’, which harden into the
orange-brown gum known itself as Frankincense.
Most Popular Incense
For more than 5000 years, the hardened
resin has been burned in temples throughout Egypt, China and India; the Catholic
church continues to use it today during Mass. It is one of the four main
ingredients in Jewish ceremonial incense, forming an important part of the
Sabbath day offerings. The smoke of Frankincense (as with other ritual incense)
is thought to carry prayers to heaven upon it’s smoke. It is also said to deepen
the breath and still the mind, making it useful for meditation and yogic
According to ancient documents, the great Baal temple of Babylon
consumed 2 and a half tons of Frankincense a year. The Frankincense trade was of
immense importance in ancient times, peaking about 2000 years ago. Caravans grew
to as many as 2 to 3 thousand camels in size. Cities grew up along the trade
routes, and heavy taxes and fees for protection, lodging and camel fodder raised
the cost of the resin considerably, so much so that it was valued as much as
gold. The wealth involved inspired Alexander the Great to plot to control the
region, though his death happened before the invasion.
One of the oldest medical documents known to man, dating back to 1500 B.C., recorded the use of frankincense oil, by physicians and priests alike, for the treatment of disease and illness. Frankincense resin is thought to have a bounty of
health properties – it was an ingredient in a rejuvenate face mask in ancient
Egypt (it was also charred and used as the classic heavy eyeliner seen in much
ancient Egyptian art), and at one time was “used to treat every conceivable ill
to man”. In ayurvedic medicine it is known as salai guggul, used for
centuries to treat many conditions, including arthritis. Modern science has
isolated the active compounds called
boswellic acids, these components inhibit the inflammatory process,
improve blood supply and prevent further cartilage
Frankincense Essential Oil
Modern natural medicine has taken to the use of the essential oil of Frankincense. The
oil, having a warm, woody, sweet aroma with a hint of citrus . Today, modern science is giving validity to these early ancient practices and, once again, the essential oil of frankincense is bringing new hope for achieving and maintaining optimal health.
The most important effect of the
essential oil may be on the nervous system. Regarded as an antidepressant, the
aroma can both relax and revitalize, and can help in cases of nervous tension
and exhaustion. Frankincense oil contains sesquiterpenes, which stimulate the
limbic system, the hypothalamus, the pineal and the pituitary glands. The oil is
now being researched for it’s ability to increase human growth hormone
production. Further, it is considered to strengthen the immune system, which may
in-fact occur as a result of it’s uplifting properties.
Much of the world’s frankincense is extracted from trees growing in the deserts of Northern Africa. Frankincense comes from the gum resin tears extracted from trees in Oman, India, Somalia, Yemen and other areas of North Africa, which is then steam distilled into oil. However, the best oil comes from Oman,northeast Africa – thankfully, the resource is abundant, as the trees
easily survive harvesting of the pearls.
A diffuser can be used to disperse the aroma throughout a
space. Frankincense oil can be applied
directly to your skin (it is non-irritating or sensitizing). The back of your neck and forehead are ideal places to apply this oil, where you can
both capture the aroma and absorb the oil directly. Again, take a moment to sit
quietly to perceive any effects.
The wonderful gift of the Frankincense
tree is available in many ways, and has come highly recommended for many
thousands of years. Try adding a little Frankincense to your life, and see what
the mystery is all about!
These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.