Frankincense Essential Oil: The Ancient Oil of Kings

What Is Frankincense Essential Oil?

Whether you are new to the world of essential oils or not, frankincense is one that almost everyone has at least heard of.

Some of us may remember the story in the bible about Jesus as a newborn and the three wise men that brought him some frankincense and myrrh. The story still leaves the question as to what is frankincense, where it came from, and what are its uses.

In this article, we will dive into the ancient history of frankincense. Its incredible uses, our favorite brands, and the multiple ways you can incorporate it into your life.

Where Does Frankincense Come From?

Frankincense comes from the sap of the Boswellia tree found Oman, Yeman, the horn of Africa, including Somalia and Ethiopia.

The most sought-after frankincense is from the Boswellia Sacra tree mostly found in Oman.

History of Frankincense

When people think of frankincense, they might think of the book of Matthew in the New Testament as one of the gifts given to newborn Jesus.

However, frankincense has been traded for commerce and healing properties for thousands of years. In fact, many believe that frankincense has been traded in the Middle East and North Africa for over 5,000 years. There are records of Babylonians, Assyrians, and Phoenicians, all having used the essence in a variety of ways.

How is Frankincense Harvested & Extracted?

The interesting thing about gathering the frankincense sap from the trees is that it takes two weeks to collect! First, a small “wound” or hole is punctured in the tree, but the first sap is not collected right away. The first bit of sap that comes through is not collected as it is thought to clear the impurities in the tree.

After the initial sap has passed through, the hole is enlarged. Then the sap slowly comes out of the tree until it is dried and ready to be collected in about two weeks.

After it is harvested, steam distillation is the common method used to turn frankincense extract into frankincense essential oil.

What is Frankincense used for?

Frankincense is most commonly used in Chinese medicine, Ayurveda, and aromatherapy practices. It is known to aid in inflammatory diseases such as arthritis, asthma, chronic pain, etc.

Frankincense is under the scientific microscope and on the radar of many patients suffering from various forms of cancer. The research is encouraging showing frankincense is stopping the growth of some cancer cells.

See below for a more detailed outline of frankincense and its uses for different ailments.

Health Benefits

Frankincense as an Anti-Inflammatory

One of the highlight properties of this oil is its anti-inflammatory property. This particular property is significant as so many conditions, diseases, and illnesses stem from inflammation, or inflammation is part of the symptoms a person is experiencing.

Anti-Inflammatory Research

A study done by Planta Medica shows several ways the boswellic acid found in frankincense aids in reducing inflammation. While there have not been any studies conducted on living patients with cancer, there are several studies done on cancer cells and the positive effects frankincense had on the cancerous cells.

Doctor And Patient Having Conversation

Cancer Research

A 2015 study suggests that frankincense oil may cease the growth of breast cancer cells, and even kill off some of these cancerous cells. The researchers found these results promising but ultimately concluded that more research needs to be done.

Researchers in a 2009 study looked at frankincense oil specifically derived from the Boswellia carteri species and examined the oil’s anti-tumor activity on bladder cancer cells. The findings indicated that when administered, the oil appears to differentiate between healthy and cancerous cells. Additionally, it was also found that frankincense may suppress cancer cell viability.

Similar findings were found in a 2011 study examining the effects of the oil from B. sacra on breast cancer cells.


There are many other examples of scientific research surrounding this king of essential oils. However, it’s worth mentioning that there have not been any studies done on live humans living with cancer and using frankincense as a treatment.

As always, be an advocate for yourself and your health. Consult with your doctor prior to using any essential oils as a support role in your health.

How to Apply Frankincense

Since frankincense has such a fantastic reputation for combating inflammation, using it topically is an option when healing wounds, addressing scars and stretch marks, or dealing with sciatica and back pain.

Essential Oil Safety

When applying any essential oil topically it is vital to dilute the essential oil with a high-quality carrier oil such as fractionated coconut oil. Another option is to use grapeseed oil or jojoba oil.

Frankincense Aromatherapy

Aromatherapy is probably the most popular method people use when seeking the healing benefits of frankincense.

According to The Essential Life book, frankincense can be used not only orally but aromatically for Alzheimer’s, dementia, and brain injury.

Selective Focus Photography Of Jar Releasing Smoke 1674116 E1575999461304 - Frankincense Essential Oil

When addressing coughs, congestion, and allergies, you can inhale gently straight from the bottle. You can also combine frankincense with a few drops of peppermint and apply it to the chest for relief.

If you are looking to use frankincense for meditation and prayer purposes, you can apply one drop under the nose (if you have done a skin patch test prior). Additionally, you can diffuse frankincense in a diffuser and receive the benefits that way.

Best Quality Frankincense Essential Oils

As noted above, the quality of frankincense is identifiable by its color. To reiterate, the oil that is silver in color with a slightly green hue is going to be your most potent oil, as well as your most expensive. The more common and cost-effective frankincense is going to have a brown, yellowish hue.

Searching for the best brand of essential oils can be tricky. Essential oils are not regulated and do not have a set of industry standards. Also, when you see words like “pure” and “therapeutic,” it means you are wading through marketing and advertising waters.

One crucial factor you must consider when searching for the best quality essential oil is the quality control testing of that specific oil. There is a test called gas chromatography, and mass spectrometry is also known as GC/MC testing. Thermo Fischer Scientific defines GC/MC testing as, “GC/MS is the analysis method of choice for smaller and volatile molecules such as benzenes, alcohols and aromatics, and simple molecules such as steroids, fatty acids, and hormones. It can also be applied to the study of liquid, gaseous, and solid samples.”

Basically, what this does is it identifies different properties within the substance it’s testing. Finding a brand that does third-party testing is ideal. Companies that have invested in this type of testing are companies like Young Living and doTerra. They are known to provide higher quality oils and provide the consumer with a more top quality grade of oil for the money.

In looking for the best frankincense, you, of course, have your well-established Young Living and doTerra as a go-to for oils. Mountain Rose HerbsPlant Therapy, and Eden’s Garden are all high-quality choices too. All of these companies have had the GC/MC testing done on their oils are publicly posted or available upon request.

What Does Frankincense Smell Like?

When I sat down to write this as someone who has smelled frankincense countless times, describing its scent was tough for me. It just smells like frankincense. Knowing that is useless information for you, I went looking for a more specific description of how frankincense smells.

It is important to note that your frankincense may vary in smell depending on what tree it came from. The two most popular trees are the Boswelli sacra and Boswelli carteri. They do smell pretty much the same, but for those with ultra-sensitive noses such as myself, you can tell the difference and may even develop a preference. I prefer the Boswelli Sacra from Oman for no particular reason other than I like it better than the other.

Most people describe the scent of frankincense oil to be a spicy scent with a hint of lemon along a pine/wood smell.

In short, it smells like citrus and the woods! It smells like mother nature after a good rain in the pine forest paired with a glass of fresh lemonade.

Frankincense and Myrrh? Like Peanut Butter and Jelly

Frankincense, myrrh, and gold were the three gifts given to Jesus as a newborn. This might be where some of us have had at least an introduction to hearing about these amazing essential oils.

Myrrh 2736724 1280 1024X682 1 - Frankincense Essential Oil

At the time, these two gifts were worth more than their weight in gold and were seen as one of the most valuable gifts you could give a person. Many people still hold both of these oils in high esteem as they are considered symbolic of “Christ’s kingship, divinity, and sacrificial death.”

It was also recorded that Jesus was offered wine and myrrh at the crucifixion for pain management.


Myrrh is harvested much like frankincense and is typically collected as a resin and burned as incense.

It is also made into essential oil and is often paired with frankincense for its similar and complementary healing properties.

Frankincense Incense

If you want a unique incense burning experience outside of premade incense sticks, you can purchase frankincense (and myrrh if you’re interested) in its resin form.

Methods of Burning

Incense On Stand Burning, Smoke Forming Heart

There are two primary ways to burn frankincense. The more traditional route, typically used in ceremonies, involves a charcoal puck, tongs, a stove (or another source of high heat), ash or sand, and an incense burner that can tolerate high heat. This particular method produces a great deal of smoke and is not recommended for daily use inside your home.

I found another way to burn frankincense resin that seems to be more agreeable if you want the smell without the smoke.

You will need an aromatherapy/essential oil warmer, a little vegetable oil, a few nuggets of frankincense resin, a tea light candle, and a lighter.

All you need is to put around two teaspoons of vegetable oil (depending on the size of your warmer), two or three nuggets of resin dropped in the oil, and light the tea light candle underneath, and you are all set with frankincense without the smoke!

This same method works for myrrh, as well. If you feel so inclined, you can put a couple of nuggets of each to blend the smells and benefit from the healing properties of both at the same time.

Trying to Keep the Bugs Away?

If you are outside a lot and are looking for a way to keep the bugs away, burn it the traditional way! Take a high heat-resistant bowl and make a cone of ash. Take a pair of tongs and a charcoal puck and light the charcoal. Allow it to burn for 3-5 minutes until the puck is covered in its ash and then set the charcoal on the ash, taking care NOT TO TOUCH THE CHARCOAL as it will be extremely hot. Sprinkle about ¼ – ½ tsp of frankincense on top of the charcoal puck and let it burn. This will create a decent amount of smoke, a beautiful scent, and keep the bugs away! Please take caution when experimenting with any of the above methods. [12]

Side Effects for Frankincense Oil

Currently, frankincense is considered safe for use in adults. It is recommended frankincense be diluted with a carrier oil as it may cause minor skin irritation. It should not be used in women who are pregnant or nursing.

The Wonderful World of Frankincense

Frankincense is called “king of the oils” for a reason. Outside of myrrh, it is one of the oldest essential oils that has been traded, used, and sought after. It holds a fascinating history of being grown in some of the toughest terrains that require people to risk their lives to tap the trees.

I want to invite you to invite frankincense into your life, into your home, and your healing. This oil has become a staple at my house as my go-to oils of peppermintlavender, and lemon.

I hope this article has brought a little history, a few new facts, and maybe even a little relief into whatever may be ailing you today.

Be well and oil on friends!

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