Frankincense (likewise called olibanum) is an aromatic resin used in incense and fragrances, acquired from trees of the genus boswellia in the family burseraceae. The word is from old french franc encens (‘ high-quality incense’).

There are numerous types of boswellia that produce real frankincense: boswellia sacra (syn. B. Bhaw-dajiana, syn. B. Carteri), b. Frereana, b. Serrata (b. Thurifera, indian frankincense), and b. Papyrifera. Resin from each is readily available in different grades, which depend on the time of harvesting. The resin is hand-sorted for quality.

Etymology and other names

The english word frankincense stems from the old french expression franc encens, meaning ‘top quality incense’. The word franc in old french meant ‘honorable, pure’.

Although named frankincense, the name is not referring to the franks. [1]


Frankincense is the hardened gum-like material (resin) that originates from cuts made in the trunk of the boswellia carteri tree. Individuals use it to make medicine.

Frankincense is used for colic and digestive tract gas (flatulence). It is often applied to the skin in hand cream.

The necessary oil of frankincense is used on the skin and by inhalation as a pain-killer. [2]


Flowers and branches of the boswellia sacra tree, the types from which people produce most frankincense.

The trees start producing resin at about eight to 10 years old. Tapping is done two to three times a year with the final taps producing the best tears due to their higher fragrant terpene, sesquiterpene and diterpene material. Generally speaking, the more opaque resins are the best quality. Cheap resin is produced in the horn of africa, which is the roman catholic church’s major source.

The primary species in trade are:

  • Boswellia sacra: south arabia.
  • Boswellia bhaw-dajiana (older spelling boswellia bhau-dajiana): horn of africa. It is a synonym of boswellia sacra.
  • Boswellia carteri (older spelling boswellia carterii): horn of africa, nubia. it was long considered an independent types, however in the 1980s discovered to be a synonym of (is the same types with) boswellia sacra.
  • Boswellia serrata (synonym boswellia thurifera, indian frankincense): india.
  • Boswellia papyrifera: ethiopia, eritrea, sudan.
  • Boswellia frereana: horn of africa. Resin is less bitter than, and fragrance of incense is less “heavy” than boswellia sacra. Includes no boswellic acids.

Other notable types:

Boswellia occulta: horn of africa. In 2019, it was found that somali harvesters considered boswellia occulta to be the very same species with boswellia carteri despite the fact that their shapes are various, and offered resins from both types as the same thing. Nevertheless, the chemical compositions of their essential oils are entirely various.

Recent research studies indicate that frankincense tree populations are decreasing, partially due to over-exploitation. Greatly tapped trees produce seeds that sprout at just 16% while seeds of trees that had actually not been tapped germinate at more than 80%. In addition, burning, grazing, and attacks by the longhorn beetle have decreased the tree population. Conversion (cleaning) of frankincense forests to farming is likewise a major risk.

Chemical composition

Structure of β-boswellic acid, among the main active elements of frankincense.

These are some of the chemical substances present in frankincense:.

  • Acid resin (6%), soluble in alcohol and having the formula c20h32o4
  • Gum (similar to gum arabic) 30– 36%
  • 3-acetyl-beta-boswellic acid (boswellia sacra)
  • Alpha-boswellic acid (boswellia sacra)
  • Incensole acetate, c21h34o3
  • Phellandrene
  • Among various plants in the genus boswellia, just boswellia sacra, boswellia serrata and boswellia papyrifera have been validated to contain substantial amounts of boswellic acids.


Frankincense has been traded on the arabian peninsula for more than 5,000 years. Frankincense was likewise traded from the horn of africa during the silk road age.

The greek historian herodotus wrote in the history that frankincense was collected from trees in southern arabia. He reported that the gum threatened to harvest because of winged snakes that secure the trees, and that the smoke from burning storax would drive the snakes away. Pliny the senior also pointed out frankincense in his naturalis historia.

Frankincense was reintroduced to western europe by frankish crusaders, [citation needed] and other western europeans on their journeys to the eastern roman empire where it was frequently used in church services. Although called frankincense, the name describes the quality of incense gave western europe, not to the franks themselves.

Southern arabia was an exporter of frankincense in antiquity, with a few of it being traded as far as china. The 13th-century chinese writer and custom-mades inspector zhao rugua composed that: ruxiang or xunluxiang (chinese: 乳香 rǔ xiāng/ 薰陸香 xūn lù xiāng) comes from the 3 dashi states (chinese: 大食 dàshí – caliphate (arab muslims)) of maloba (murbat), shihe (shihr), and nufa (dhofar), from the depths of the furthest mountains; the trunk of the tree is notched with a hatchet, upon which the resin drains, and, when solidified, develops into incense, which is gathered and made into swellings; it is transferred on elephants to the dashi ports, then on ship to sanfoqi; which is why it was referred to as an item of sanfoqi.

Benefits of frankincense oil

May lower arthritis

Frankincense has anti-inflammatory impacts that may help reduce joint swelling triggered by arthritis.

Researchers believe that frankincense can avoid the release of leukotrienes, which are compounds that can trigger inflammation.

Terpenes, including boswellic acid, seem the strongest anti-inflammatory substances in frankincense.

In one 2014 study, both oral and topical boswellic acid decreased cartilage loss and joint lining inflammation in osteoarthritis in mice.

In human beings, frankincense extract might help in reducing symptoms of osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.

In one 2018 evaluation, frankincense was regularly more effective than a placebo at decreasing osteoarthritis discomfort and enhancing movement.

However, the review noted that the quality of a lot of research studies was low and more research is required.

In a subsequent research study, participants took 169.33 mg of boswellia extract two times daily for 120 days. Results showed that the supplement reduced swelling, joint pain, and stiffness in moderate to moderate knee osteoarthritis, without serious adverse effects.

Another research study found that oliban oil, another name for frankincense, reduced osteoarthritis pain when applied to the skin for 6 weeks. However, participants’ ability to do daily activities or participate in sports didn’t reveal substantial improvements.

Combinations of frankincense with other supplements may likewise be effective.

A 2018 research study found that 350 mg curcuminoid and 150 mg boswellic acid supplement taken 3 times each day for 12 weeks was connected with reduced osteoarthritis discomfort. The mix was more reliable than curcumin on its own or a placebo.

Likewise, taking a mix of 5 g of methylsulfonylmethane and 7.2 mg of boswellic acids daily for 60 days was more efficient at enhancing discomfort and function than taking glucosamine sulfate, a standard supplement for osteoarthritis).

For rheumatoid arthritis, scientists caused arthritis in rats then treated them with 180 mg/kg of boswellia extract. They found that frankincense decreased swelling but wasn’t as efficient as standard medications.

Overall, more research study is needed, especially for rheumatoid arthritis.

May improve gut function

Frankincense’s anti-inflammatory properties might likewise help your gut function properly.

One 2017 study discovered that frankincense, in mix with other natural medicines, reduced stomach discomfort, bloating, and even associated anxiety and stress and anxiety in individuals with irritable bowel syndrome (ibs).

Another study likewise showed that boswellia 250 mg tablets taken daily for 6 months improved signs in individuals with ibs.

This resin appears particularly effective at reducing symptoms of ulcerative colitis, one of the primary inflammatory gut conditions.

A study found that boswellia extract taken daily for 4 weeks enhanced signs in people with moderate ulcerative colitis in remission.

Boswellia extract also had anti-inflammatory and antioxidant impacts in rats with colitis.

Nevertheless, most studies were small or not carried out in individuals. For that reason, more research is needed prior to strong conclusions can be made.

Improves asthma

Standard medicine has actually used frankincense to deal with bronchitis and asthma for centuries.

Research study recommends that its substances may prevent the production of leukotrienes, which cause the bronchial muscles to constrict in asthma.

Frankincense might likewise affect th2 cytokines, which can trigger inflammation and mucus overproduction in individuals with asthma.

In one small research study, individuals who took a daily supplement of 500 mg boswellia extract in addition to their standard asthma treatment had the ability to take fewer inhalations of their regular medications throughout the 4-week research study.

Additionally, when scientists gave people 200 mg of a supplement made from frankincense and the south asian fruit bael (aegle marmelos), they discovered that the supplement was more reliable than a placebo at decreasing asthma symptoms.

In another research study, asthma symptoms in mice improved with boswellic acid, an element of frankincense resin.

Maintains oral health

Frankincense might assist enhance oral hygiene and prevent gum disease.

The boswellic acids it provides appear to have strong antibacterial homes, which may assist prevent and deal with oral infections.

In one test-tube research study, frankincense extract worked versus aggregatibacter actinomycetemcomitans, a germs that causes aggressive gum disease.

In another really small research study, individuals chewed gum consisting of frankincense for 5 hours, with saliva samples indicating decreased numbers of microbes each hour.

The authors recommended that frankincense might decrease sources of infection in the mouth.

However, more research study is required on the impact of frankincense on oral health.

Might have anticancer residential or commercial properties

Studies show that frankincense may have anticancer results.

Test-tube research studies recommend that the boswellic acids it includes might avoid cancer cells from spreading.

A research study evaluation notes that boswellic acids might likewise prevent the formation of dna in malignant cells, which could assist limit cancer development.

Up until now, test-tube research studies recommend that frankincense may fight breast, prostate, pancreatic, skin, and colon cancer cells.

It might also help reduce adverse effects of cancer treatment.

In one research study of people being treated for brain growths, 4,500 mg of boswellic acid extract taken every day helped reduce brain edema– a build-up of fluid in the brain– while likewise reducing individuals’ routine medication dosage.

More advantages

Frankincense’s anti-inflammatory impacts might help in reducing symptoms of osteoarthritis and potentially rheumatoid arthritis. Nevertheless, more top quality research studies are required to validate these impacts.

Frankincense might help in reducing signs of ibs and ulcerative colitis by decreasing inflammation in your gut. Nevertheless, more research is required.

Frankincense may help alleviate asthma symptoms and decrease the quantity of asthma medication needed. Larger research studies should be done to validate these outcomes.

Frankincense extract may assist battle gum disease and preserve oral health. Nevertheless, more research studies are required. [3]

Helps reduce stress responses and unfavorable emotions

When inhaled, frankincense oil been revealed to reduce heart rate and high blood pressure. It has anti-anxiety and depression-reducing capabilities, however unlike prescription medications, it does not have negative adverse effects or trigger undesirable drowsiness.

A 2019 research study found that compounds in frankincense, incensole and incensole acetate, have the capability to trigger ion channels in the brain to ease stress and anxiety or anxiety.

In a research study involving mice, burning boswellia resin as incense had antidepressive results: “incensole acetate, an incense part, elicits psychoactivity by activating trpv3 channels in the brain.”.

Researchers recommend that this channel in the brain is implicated in the perception of warmth in the skin.

Safeguards skin and prevents signs of aging

Frankincense advantages consist of the ability to reinforce skin and improve its tone, flexibility, defense mechanisms against bacteria or acnes, and appearance as someone ages. It might assist tone and lift skin, decrease the look of scars and acne, and treat wounds.

It might likewise be useful for fading stretch marks, surgery scars or marks connected with pregnancy, and recovery dry or cracked skin.

An evaluation published in the journal of traditional and complementary medication suggests that frankincense oil minimizes inflammation and skin irritation, while also producing a more even complexion. Studies suggest that it’s the pentacyclic triterpene (steroid-like) structure of frankincense oil that adds to its calming effect on irritated skin.

Enhances memory

Research study recommends that frankincense oil can be used to improve memory and discovering functions. Some animal studies even show that using frankincense during pregnancy might increase the memory of a mother’s offspring.

In one such research study, when pregnant rats received frankincense orally during their gestation period, there was a substantial boost in the power of learning, short-term memory and long-term memory of their offspring.

Might help balance hormones and improve fertility

Frankincense oil benefits might consist of minimizing signs related to menstruation and menopause by balancing hormone levels, although the research on this subject is limited. It has been utilized to help relieve:.

  • Discomfort
  • Cramps
  • Constipation
  • Headaches
  • Anxiety
  • Nausea
  • Tiredness
  • Mood swings

Frankincense oil might likewise help with regulating estrogen production and may minimize the danger of growth or cyst development in premenopausal ladies.

Animal studies have actually shown that frankincense oil can be utilized as a fertility-promoting agent, which may be because of the oil’s chemical structure acting likewise to that of steroids. When frankincense was utilized on rats internally, it increased fertility and the variety of implantations and practical fetuses, which recommends that the oil might perhaps increase sperm motility and density.

Reduces digestion

Frankincense assists the gastrointestinal system appropriately detox and produce bowel movements. Research indicates that it might likewise assist to reduce pain and cramping in the stomach, alleviate queasiness, eliminate excess water from the abdominal area that can trigger bloating, and even alleviate pms-related stomach pains.

It does this by speeding up the secretion of digestive enzymes, increasing urination production, relaxing the muscles of the gastrointestinal tract and helping improve circulation, which is required for correct digestion health. It’s been revealed to be beneficial in decreasing signs of dripping gut syndrome, persistent colitis, ulcerative colitis, crohn’s disease and ibs.

Acts as a sleep aid

Frankincense utilizes include lowering levels of anxiety and chronic tension that can keep you up at night. It has a relaxing, grounding scent that can naturally assist you to drop off to sleep.

This natural sleep aid assists open breathing passages, permits your body to reach an ideal sleeping temperature level and can eliminate pain that keeps you up, which has been validated in research studies examining frankincense substances. [4]

Respiratory health

Traditional chinese medicine and the indian ayurvedic system have actually been using frankincense for rather some time to treat bronchitis and asthma, knowing the respiratory health benefits.

Some studies have actually discovered frankincense may help reduce the opportunity of an asthma attack and asthmatic-related signs, such as shortness of breath. According to one six-week research study, 70 percent of asthmatic participants showed improvement after using frankincense regularly. [5]
The main chemical constituents of the essential oil are limonene, pinene, borneol, farnesol, phellandrene, myrcene, and other constituents. Limonene demonstrates antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and anti-fungal homes. It is thought to decrease sensations of stress and anxiety and to stimulate the body immune system. Pinene is known to enhance and stimulate the respiratory system and is reported to have diuretic residential or commercial properties based on empirical proof. Borneol contributes tonic, anesthetic, sedative and anti-spasmodic properties to this oil. Farnesol is the part that allows this oil to lower the user’s indications of aging by smoothing the look of wrinkles and increasing skin’s elasticity.

Utilized topically and cosmetically, its astringent and cytophylactic qualities help frankincense oil to minimize the appearance of wrinkles and skin imperfections such as discoloration. It promotes the development of brand-new cells, thus when utilized on cuts it promotes much faster recovery.

Used in aromatherapy, frankincense works as an expectorant to clear the nasal passage, promote the relief of blockage, and motivate simple breathing. It’s sweet, woody fragrance is sedative and improves mood by diminishing feelings of stress and anxiety while improving concentration and memory.

Used medicinally, this anti-inflammatory oil is understood to relieve inflamed skin by reducing the experiences of redness, swelling, and itching. It assists to decontaminate and tighten the pores, consequently promoting the quick recovery of cuts, wounds, and scars. It is utilized to relieve flatulence, stimulate the growth of new skin cells, and promote blood flow and circulation to name a few proficiencies.

As highlighted, frankincense essential oil is considered to have lots of restorative properties. The following highlights its lots of advantages and the sort of activity it is believed to reveal:.


Astringent, cytophylactic.


Carminative, expectorant, sedative.


Bactericide, anti-inflammatory, astringent, carminative, cicatrisant, cytophylactic, diuretic, emmenagogue, expectorant, tonic. [6]

Side-effects & allergic reactions of frankincense oil

When applied to the skin: frankincense important oil or gum extract is possibly safe. It may cause skin irritation in some individuals.

When inhaled: frankincense vital oil is potentially safe. There isn’t adequate trustworthy details to understand what the negative effects might be.

For details on the security of taking frankincense by mouth, see boswellia serrata. [7]


Boswellia might be safe when taken by mouth for as much as 6 months. It could be safe when applied to the skin for approximately five weeks. But follow your doctor’s directions.

Boswellia may trigger side effects, including:.

  • Queasiness
  • Diarrhea
  • Bloating
  • Heartburn
  • Heartburn
  • Allergies [8]

Boswellia is a natural extract, however it can still have negative effects. It might trigger digestive side effects, such as nausea, acid reflux, and diarrhea.

Some people may experience skin rashes when using boswellia, particularly if they use it straight to the skin.

Boswellia appears to serve as an anti-inflammatory. As a result, it might engage with comparable drugs, such as nsaids. It is necessary to talk to a physician before taking boswellia together with other medications, such as:.

  • Aspirin
  • Naproxen
  • Ibuprofen

Boswellia might also disrupt the action of particular drugs, including some anticoagulant medications and antiplatelet drugs. Anyone taking these drugs must speak to a physician prior to taking boswellia. [9]

Conventional Utilizes

The oleoresin gum from b. Serrata has actually generally been used for its anti-inflammatory effects in conditions such as asthma, osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, colitis, and irritable bowel syndrome. It has likewise been used for the management of diabetes, urinary conditions, dermatological disorders, and renal impairment. Boswellic acids have demonstrated immunomodulatory, antiproliferative, cytotoxic, and antimicrobial results; nevertheless, there are no appropriate medical trials to support any of the uses.


Administration with high-fat foods may improve plasma levels of b. Serrata. Asthma: 300 to 400 mg of an extract (consisting of 60% boswellic acids) 3 times daily. In one trial, 300 mg 3 times daily of powdered gum resin pills (s-compound), or 400 mg 3 times daily of an extract (standardized to 37.5% boswellic acids per dosage) was utilized. Inflammatory conditions: 300 to 400 mg of a b. Serrata extract (consisting of 60% boswellic acids) 3 times daily was utilized in a clinical trial of clients with knee osteoarthritis. Two capsules of articulin-f (includes b. Serrata, withania somnifera, curcuma longa, zinc complex) 3 times daily; or supplementation with casperome (150 mg of boswellic acids) 3 times daily has actually been utilized for inflammatory conditions such as osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. Ulcerative colitis: 350 to 400 mg 3 times daily. [10]


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