Frankincense (known also as olibanum and boswellia) essential oil has been appreciated for its medicinal benefits for thousands of years. Frankincense resin was used during biblical times. Later, when distillation came along, it opened new doors for using this remarkable essential oil. Frankincense has a remarkable effect on the body, both spiritual and psychologically. (1)
However, frankincense should be used respectfully, and not only because the resin can difficult to collect. There is also a sustainability issue to consider any time a plant is being over-harvested. Consider using your precious frankincense oil only when necessary.
When we think of using frankincense, we should think in terms of utilizing not only the essential oil but the parent resin as well, or we miss out on the therapeutic properties that cannot pass through during the distillation process of the essential oils. This also assists with sustainability issues. It takes an enormous amount of resin to produce essential oil. Resin use would have a lesser impact on the frankincense usage. (2)
*For top quality frankincense resin, visit Dan Riegler at https://apothecarysgarden.com/*
There are several species of frankincense. This chart shows you the various types and the range of constituents and properties within them. Based on this, you can choose the frankincense that best suits your needs.
On this chart, with the exception of the Boswellia carterii, the percentages come from Robert Tisserand’s Second Edition Essential Oil Safety. The Boswellia carterii information came from my supplier. (3)
Using a GC/MS report, you can ensure getting the highest percentage of the component you are looking for in frankincense and all your essential oils. When purchasing your frankincense, review the GC/MS report because you could get either a monoterpene-rich or esters-rich frankincense that could change the way you use it.
Now we will look at the various ways you can use frankincense and which species best suites your needs.
1. Improve Digestion
Using Frankincense (Boswellia sacra) for the digestive system is the perfect choice. Based on the above chart, there are many properties that contribute to the healing of the digestive system. Based on the healing properties, the symptoms it can relieve include digestive upset, belching, and chronic diarrhea. For digestive issues, inhalation is very effective in easing the symptoms.
Blend the following to help ease an upset stomach:
Use: This blend can be added to an aromatherapy medical grade inhaler or add the total amount to 1-ounce carrier oil or unscented lotion. Apply to the belly every 3-4 hours until symptoms ease.
The oil acts like digestive enzymes, speeding up the digestive process.
*Using reputable, reliable companies ensures pure, unadulterated oil. Ensure you get quality by reviewing the GC/MS reports on the oils before you make your purchase*
2. Relieve Cold and Flu Symptoms
Frankincense (Boswellia carterii) is over 70% of the chemical component a-pinene, known for its ability to (amongst other health benefits) combat bronchial infections and viruses. (4)
Try the following recipe in an inhaler to combat congestion and mucus, or you can diffuse it.
Chest Congestion Inhaler or Chest Rub
Place the drops in your diffuser, according to diffuser directions since it depends on the size of your diffuser and the room size being diffused. You can also add drops to 1-ounce of unscented lotion or carrier oil and apply to the chest and neck area. This is for adult use only. For the little ones, leave out the Ravintsara (Cinnamomum camphora ct. 1,8 cineole). In its place, use 2 drops of Ravensara (Ravensara aromatic), a safer choice for children. When applying topically on small children, apply to the upper back rather than the chest to avoid little fingers getting into it.
3. Reduce Inflammation
Not only does the component a-pinene assist with colds and flu, it’s optimal for inflammation as well. (5) I would suggest looking at either Boswellia carterii or Boswellia sacra for inflammation. For isolated inflammation such as muscle and joint pain I generally go topically, applying at the site of discomfort. I would suggest the following using either carterii or sacra.
Muscle Pain Relief
Directions: Blend with 1-ounce unscented lotion or carrier oil and apply to isolated area every 3-4 hours or as needed.
*Reminder: We are not doctors. We can only suggest solutions that we have found to be effective, either through scientific research or personal experience*
4. Treat Gout
With the resin sourced from a small tree native to North Africa, frankincense oil acts as a skin cleanser, tightener, and tissue toner. Its properties are known to assist healing skin ailments like wrinkles, stretch marks, boils, and cysts. It can help you feel better right away, and frankincense also helps tone your skin so it returns to normal after your gout symptoms have faded away.
However, it is the Boswellia dalzielii, made from the leaves of the tree, which have the components with the therapeutic effects of anti-hyperuricemic, which are antigout agents. These agents work to either correct overproduction or underexcretion of uric acid. Gout, hyperuricemia caused by formation of uric acid from purines, can be effectively controlled long-term with these agents. (6)
To ease inflammation, pain, and discomfort from gout, try the following blend:
Gout and Joint Pain Blend
5. Treat Bursitis
Bursitis is inflammation of the bursa that occurs when the associated joint is overused, such as when throwing a baseball.
There are a few steps you can take to help improve quickly:
Use frankincense oil to treat bursitis. It reduces inflammation and pain while improving circulation, so the bursa can heal more quickly. Try the following blend:
Directions: Apply 3-4 times a day to inflamed area
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6. Relieve Aches and Pains
For isolated joint pain, topical application of frankincense is perfect. For all over flu-like body aches, inhalation and diffusion are best.
For this kind of joint pain, try the following blend:
Blend drops together and use one of the following applications:
7. Improve your Immune System
When it comes to supporting the immune system, there is no better frankincense for the job than Boswellia sacra. Referring to the above chart, we can see that the components that have immune supporting properties exist in this species. There are many ways we can stimulate our immune system, and massage is one. Even if you can’t run out and get a massage, after your shower take time to apply a great lotion with frankincense. Start at the feet and slowly work up the legs, massaging at the lymph node sites (inside ankles, knees, groin area, abdominal area, under the arms, and the sides of the neck). This not only charges our immune system, it gets the whole body stimulated and ready to face the day.
Use the following blend:
Directions: Blend and add blend to two ounces of your favorite unscented lotion or carrier oil. Some carrier oils to consider are fractionated coconut oil, sweet almond, jojoba, olive, and avocado. For overall body application, 1% or less dilution rate is suggested to avoid irritation. Although most citrus oils are phototoxic, sweet orange is an exception. However, many citrus fruits are sprayed with pesticides, so know your supplier.
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8. Frankincense and Cancer
In the reference study, it revealed “frankincense, pine needle, and geranium essential oils suppressed cell viability, proliferation, migration, and invasion in human BC MCF-7 cells. Further data demonstrated that frankincense, pine needle, and geranium essential oils induced apoptosis, but did not affect cell cycle progression.” (7) This is a step in a positive direction. Another study shows promise using frankincense and myrrh (8).
The most studied component in frankincense resin is boswellic acid. However, the molecules of the boswellic acid are too large to pass through with the tiny molecules of essential oils during the distillation system. Referenced here, we find many resources on studies done on frankincense resin boswellic acid and potential cancer prevention. (9) (10)
Note: If you are presently under treatment for cancer, consult with your physician prior to using essential oils. Many great references and guidance on using the resin are currently available. One of the best resources on how to use frankincense resin is Dan Riegler at https://apothecarysgarden.com/author/apothecarysgarden/. Another great resource is Robin Schiller-Kessler, C.A., who can be found at https://www.rbkaromatherapy.com/.
*Consult Your Physician Before Using Essential Oils During Cancer Treatment*
9. Speed the Healing of Gingivitis and Mouth Sores
Frankincense heals ulcers and wounds. The mucous membrane inside of our mouth is tender, so dilution is especially necessary when using frankincense in mouth products. To one ounce of toothpaste, add one drop of frankincense (Boswellia frereana), rivae or sacra. For the antiulcerogenic properties, you’ll need to review the GC/MS report on your oil prior to purchase to ensure that the oil contains one or more components of +limonene and terpinene-4-ol. Of course, all components (constituents) play a vital role in the overall therapeutic properties of each oil.
It’s not advised to add essential oils to water so it’s best to stick with using frankincense in toothpaste.
Essential oils are predominantly lipophilic, so they don’t play nice with water. However, some have oxygen-containing functional groups and are soluble to a limited extent. Unless you have knowledge of the chemistry of constituents and know which are soluble, it is best to avoid using them with water. (11)
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Try oil pulling to help heal your mouth as well as your whole body. Blend 1 drop to one ounce of coconut oil and gently swish it around in your mouth for 20 minutes every morning until your mouth heals.
10. Kill Harmful Bacteria on Your Body
Frankincense can be added to your body products. This not only helps to eliminate bacteria but also soothes and heals the body while being emotionally supportive. All essential oils have anti-microbial activity, the strength dependent on the individual oil and based on the components of the oil. The following is not only pleasant and soothing, it’s emotionally uplifting and, of course, anti-bacterial.
Blend the following:
Directions: Apply as desired.
11. Kill Bacteria in Your Environment
Because of the over-harvesting concerns with frankincense, we don’t recommend using frankincense essential oils for cleaning purposes. Grab your lemon (Citrus limon) essential oil to clean and kill bacteria.
Clean and disinfect your kitchen and bathroom with lemon essential oil instead of harsh commercial cleansers. For non-porous surfaces: blend 5 drops of lemon essential oil to 3 to 4 tablespoons of baking soda together, add water, scrub, and wipe clean. We recommend wearing gloves to protect your hands. For any type of surface: add 4 drops of lemon essential oil into 1/2 cup of water in a spray bottle with a solubilizer. Solubilizers such as polysorbate 20 or solubol help disperse the oils in the water. (12)
Note: Undiluted essential oil will eat through the top surface of your finished wood furniture. Use cautiously.
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12. Improve Hormonal Balance
Ongoing research shows potential promise and effects of frankincense on the endocrine system, namely breast issues such as breast fibroadenomas and breast lumps in premenopausal women. (13)
Although we could not find other research pertaining to the hormonal aspect, we know that frankincense calms and centers; it is emotionally centering and stabling. This is a great oil to add to any emotional blend. Gabriel Mojay describes it as an “elevating, warming, soothing effect on the mind and emotions.” (14)
Directions: Blend all drops together.
Using your blend, try the following applications:
13. Enhance Gynecological Health
This is an area of ongoing study. We do know that boswellic acid, a chemical component (constituent) present in frankincense resin (not the essential oil), has shown some promise in inducing apoptosis in breast and cervical cancers cells.
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14. Reduce Scars from Acne and Blemishes
I had a 23-year old client who was in a bike wreck. Prior to the accident, he had scarring from teen acute acne. He flipped over his bike, fracturing the left orbital and his left jaw. You can imagine the bruises. He had surgery on the jaw and orbital leaving further scarring on his face. Once the wounds sealed, he started using the following blend. Not only did the scars from the wreck heal nicely but his acne scars were gone as well.
The remarkable recovery time and disappearance of all scars left us amazed. To see this for myself made an even stronger believer out of me of the power of essential oils.
Use the following blend:
Directions: cleanse thoroughly. Apply to scars every 3-4 hours, especially after cleansing the area. Skin is more receptive when it is clean, dry, and warm. Continue use for up to 6 weeks, depending on the depth of your scarring.
15. Improve Skin Health
Frankincense is beautiful oil for the skin. It works well with dry, mature skin. Its components make it a cicatrisant and it also heals acne, scars, and pimples.
Baobab oil pairs nicely with skin healing oils such as frankincense because of its own skin healing abilities. Baobab penetrates nicely and is nourishing to the skin. It restores and re-moisturizes the epidermis. Baobab absorbs easily and quickly, improving the skin’s elasticity and tone. Baobab is also a cell regenerator. In addition, it’s known to relieve eczema and psoriasis, alleviate pain from burns, and regenerate epithelial tissue quickly. It is extremely stable and provides a fairly good measure of unsaturated and saturated fats.
Taking care of our skin starts within. With the right diet, plenty of water, and our blends, your skin will be beautiful and ready for any occasion.
Frankincense Skin Healer
16. Reduce Wrinkles, Stretch Marks, and Scars
Using any of the previous skin blends will help to reduce wrinkles, stretch marks, and scarring. Other than the previously mentioned oils, other oils that are considered skin care or cicatrisant oils that blend nicely with frankincense.
17. Speed up Wound Healing
The previously mentioned skin blends will speed up your wound healing. That is the job of cicatrisant oils.
A beautiful blend to kick-start that healing can be:
Tamanu oil is another beautiful carrier that pairs nicely with Frankincense and other skin healing oils. Tamanu oil can help treat scars, stretch marks (fades stretch marks with great results), minor wounds, skin irritations, rashes, bedsores, and many other skin concerns. I like it for this blend because it promotes new tissue formation and accelerates the healing process and healthy skin growth. Like frankincense, it’s also an anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, and antifungal oil.
*Never Use Essential Oils On Open Wounds*
18. Eliminate Water Weight or Edema
Several species of frankincense (including frereana, neglecta, rivae and sacra) have diuretic properties by promoting urination. The percentage is under 10%, so blending with other oils that have these properties can help reduce swelling. Avoiding certain foods, heat, and salt may also help reduce swelling.
Other oils that you can pair frankincense with that have diuretic properties include cypress, grapefruit, juniper berry, laurel leaf and sweet orange. The following is a helpful massage blend. Full body application should be no more than 1%, or according to the safe maximum recommended per oil, according to Robert Tisserand’s book Essential Oil Safety, Second Edition.
Try the following blend:
Blend and massage the swollen area. If the swelling is in your legs, start at the feet and slowly work up, concentrating on the lymphatic sites; inside ankles, inside knees, and the groin area. This will help to move the fluid along.
19. Improve your Mood
Gabriel Mojay believes that frankincense’s most powerful sphere of action is on the nervous system. Frankincense relaxes and yet revitalizes, which makes it perfect for nervous tension and exhaustion. It relieves stress that can lead to irritability, restlessness, and insomnia. It can help uplift and is a plus as an anti-depressant. (14)
Frankincense also has anti-inflammatory properties, which eases discomforts and improves moods.
For an enhanced mood, try the following blend:
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20. Relieve Stress
Because of frankincense’s calming properties, it’s perfect for reducing the stress of daily life. Less stress can have positive effects such as lowering blood pressure and heart rate. Using it in any of the previous ways is going to relieve stress.
You can also try the following blend:
Blend and add to your diffuser, add to an inhaler (my favorite way) or add total to 1-ounce unscented lotion or carrier oil and apply topically. Avoid direct sunlight or tanning bed due to tangerine being phototoxic.
21. Calm Anxiety
Frankincense alone or in a blend offers beautiful calming properties. Its ability to relax the body yet leave you feeling revitalized is remarkable. It smoothens the flow of stagnant energy, which brings about a sense of peace and harmony.
Try the following blend:
Add in your diffuser. Run it for 30- to 60-minute intervals to calm anxiety. You can take some deep breaths of the vapors when you first turn it on for a quick reduction in anxiety, then run the diffuser as needed.
Frankincense resin and essential oils are known to be so soothing that it is often diffused or burned to encourage a quiet state of mind for prayer and meditation.
22. Improve your Sleep
Frankincense is perfect for sleep blends. With its calming and soothing properties, it offers therapeutic actions that assist with falling asleep.
The following is one of my favorite sleep blends that I market and it’s perfect for the whole family.
Deep Sleep Chest and Neck Rub
Note: Diffusion is not recommended for overnight usage. Creams and inhalers are a better nighttime choice.
23. Strengthen Hair Follicles
Frankincense’s beautiful skin healing properties, blended with the right oils, can be beneficial to our hair as well.
For hair loss, try the following blend:
Add to 2 ounces of your favorite carrier oil. Argan is great for the hair and one that should be considered. Blend to one ounce and apply to hair. Wrap in a warm towel and rinse.
Was this list helpful to you? Although frankincense is not on the list of “at risk” or “watch” for sustainability yet, there has been an expressed concern of its over-harvesting. To learn more about plants and sustainability, please visit the NAHA website for two sources of plants that are a concern for sustainability.
Please leave a comment to let me know if this list helped and tell me about your own personal experiences with frankincense essential oil. We can all share our experiences to take part in compiling a more complete list of its benefits. Be sure to share, too, so that others can learn about all of this oil’s natural benefits.
- Mojay, Gabriel; Aromatherapy for Healing the Spirit; Frankincense, Pg. 75
- Tisserand, R. and Young, R. (2007) Essential oil safety; A guide for health care professionals (2nd Ed.). NY: Churchill Livingston; Frankincense, pg. 287-289
- https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21350392; a-pinene
- Tisserand, R. and Young, R. (2007) Essential oil safety; A guide for health care professionals (2nd Ed.). NY: Churchill Livingston; Kinetics and dosing, pg. 66 (6)
- Mojay, Gabriel; Aromatherapy for Healing the Spirit; Frankincense, Pg. 230
- Sheppard-Hanger, Sylla; The Aromatherapy Practitioner Reference Manual; Frankincense, Pg. 125
- Mojay, Gabriel; Aromatherapy for Healing the Spirit; Frankincense, Pg. 74