When it comes to essential oils, frankincense is considered one of the most ancient oils. Stories, including The Bible, mention the oil many centuries ago and document its use in a variety of medical ailments. Today, the oil can easily be found from essential oil brands thanks to its delightful fragrance. Discover more about frankincense essential oil benefits with this handy guide.
What Is Frankincense Essential Oil?
Frankincense oil is extracted from five types of trees, which belong to the botanical family Boswellia. The species include Boswellia sacra, Boswellia carterii, Boswellia frereana, Boswellia serrata, and Boswellia thurifera. The essential oil is also known as olibanum and features a woodsy scent that is ideal for aromatherapy. You can blend the oil with other woodsy fragrances like cedarwood oil and white fir oil.
The oil from Boswellia trees is steeped in ancient history. In ancient times, the Bible says frankincense oil, myrrh, and gold were given to baby Jesus by the Three Wise Men. The frankincense was meant to symbolize deities and was presented in the form of incense (1). In addition to extraction as an oil, frankincense resin has been used by traditional societies for centuries in alternative medicine.
The term frankincense traces its roots to ancient French. The saying “franc encens” translates literally to “high-quality incense”. The oil is extracted from hardy trees by puncturing the bark. The resin begins to ooze out and hardens over time. The resin and oils contain high concentrations of terpenes, pinene, sesquiterpenes, and diterpenes. Some of the highest quality frankincense oils are produced in the Middle East including Somalia and Oman.
Health Benefits of Frankincense Essential Oil
Frankincense oil may help to boost relaxation and decrease stress when used in a diffuser or vaporizer. Research also shows that frankincense oil contains chemical properties that trigger interactions in neurotransmitters to decrease stress. One such study published in the FASEB Journal found that an ingredient in frankincense — incensole acetate — increases psychoactivity by triggering TRPV3 channels in the brain (2). The effects were shown on mice and additional human research is needed to establish these benefits.
Immune System Health
Frankincense oil contains chemical agents that help to boost immunity and protect the body from bacterial and viral pathogens that can make you sick. An Egyptian study found that frankincense oil boasts immunomodulatory effects thanks to ingredients like terpenes (3).
The oil is also a great disinfectant and astringent agent, making it useful in natural remedies and homemade cleaners. A 2012 study found that a blend of frankincense and myrrh oils demonstrated antimicrobial properties against pathogens in the lab (4).
Frankincense can be found in many skincare products thanks to its moisturizing properties. The oil helps to build healthy cells and can minimize the appearance of scars and stretch marks when used consistently over a long period of time. It also helps to support healthy skin cells and offers anti-aging properties. A study published in Biochimie Open found that frankincense essential oil works in human dermal fibroblasts to reduce inflammation and support tissue remodeling (5).
Add a few drops of frankincense oil to your favorite moisturizer to support skin health. You can also combine a few drops with a carrier oil and gently rub it into your muscles to induce relaxation and unwind after a stressful day.
Frankincense oil may help to boost oral health and fight bad breath thanks to chemical constituents. Research shows that a compound called boswellic acid is effective in eliminating pathogens that are connected to bad breath and poor oral health (6).
Additional research published in the DARU Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences found that frankincense gum was effective at fighting plaque-inducing gingivitis. The study consisted of 75 participants who chewed the gum every day for a 14-day period. Participants who chewed frankincense gum had significantly improved oral health compared to participants who were given a placebo (7). Add a few drops of frankincense oil to your toothpaste or look for holistic or all-natural toothpaste that lists frankincense as an ingredient.
Limited research shows that frankincense oil may help with health problems including certain types of cancer such as breast cancer, colon cancer, and prostate cancer. Frankincense oil boasts anti-inflammatory properties that can help to prevent oxidative damage caused by free radicals.
A small study published in the International Journal of Nutrition, Pharmacology, Neurological Diseases found that frankincense may work to kill certain cancer cells (8). Additional laboratory studies show that frankincense oil may produce anti-tumor effects by directly targeting cancer cells (9). Animal and human studies on the effects of frankincense oil and cancer in humans are still in the early stages. One such study showed that frankincense oil may help treat symptoms of cancer including fluid in the brain (10).
Side Effects of Frankincense Essential Oil
Frankincense oil may cause irritation if it is applied directly to the skin. As with all essential oils, make sure to dilute it with a carrier oil such as coconut oil or jojoba oil before applying to the skin. Test the oil on a small patch of skin and wait 24 hours to determine if you have a reaction before applying liberally. The oil can also cause allergic reactions when used in a diffuser for people who are sensitive to trees in the Boswellia family. Avoid using frankincense oil if you are allergic to it.
Always talk to a qualified healthcare professional before using frankincense essential oil. While side effects are generally mild, a healthcare provider can help you understand any potential medication interactions or side effects specific to your situation. DIY home remedies including essential oils are not approved for use in the treatment of medical conditions by the FDA. While research shows it may have therapeutic properties, it’s always a good idea to take to qualified professionals before using it.
Soothe and Boost Skin Health With Frankincense OIl
The use of frankincense oil can help boost relaxation and support a healthy immune system. The oil boasts healthy skin properties and may offer benefits for oral health. Use the oil in a diffuser or apply it topically with a carrier oil. You can also use essential oil in a warm bath or as part of a muscle massage.