Since ancient times, frankincense has been valued for its medicinal and aromatic properties. The three wise men that came to pay homage to the infant Jesus included frankincense among their gifts. Through alternative medicine, people are once again discovering the health benefits of frankincense.
Frankincense is a resin that comes from the Boswellia tree. The tree looks more like a giant shrub with knurled branches that occasionally produce small white flowers. When the tree bark is cut with a knife, a milky white sap flows from it. This resin hardens into an orange-brown gum known as frankincense.
Frankincense is used in several forms such as incense and essential oils. It is also sold as an extract and can be taken directly for its medicinal properties. When burned as incense, frankincense produces a highly antiseptic smoke. As an essential oil, it can be used in a diffuser to treat respiratory conditions or applied topically to treat wounds and rejuvenate the skin.
Frankincense is beneficial in treating infections because it contains antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties. It has also been used as a diuretic by those who suffer from water retention. Frankincense can be beneficial in relieving pain and cramping related to the female reproductive system. Arthritis sufferers can also benefit from the anti-inflammatory properties of frankincense. According to ArthritisMD.com, boswellic acid prevents the formation of leukotrienes, which are involved in the migration of inflammation-producing cells. The website also states that a study conducted by Kimmatkar et al. provided positive results regarding boswellia in treating osteoarthritis of the knee. Although it is believed that frankincense may have anti-cancer properties, it remains unproven.
Throughout history, frankincense has been used to treat emotional disorders such as nervousness and hysteria. It relaxes both the mind and the body. Frankincense has been used as an ingredient in home remedies to treat stress, insomnia and promote relaxation. Applied directly to the temples and the third-eye area of the forehead, frankincense quiets the mind and promotes meditative stillness.
Boswellia extract is safe to use and is not known to have any serious side effects. Some people may experience a rash, nausea and/or diarrhea, although this is rare. Effects of long-term use are still inconclusive. There are no known drug interactions, although research in this area has not been extensive. Do not take boswellia extract (frankincense) if you are pregnant or breastfeeding since its safety during pregnancy has not yet been established. Frankincense essential oil is highly toxic and should never be ingested. Some individuals may experience skin sensitivity to frankincense if they use it topically.