Frankincense essential oil has been used for medicinal and religious purposes since ancient times. In fact, it was one of the gifts that the three kings brought to baby Jesus on his birth.
Also known as the ‘king of oils,’ Frankincense oil has many medicinal properties, so it is used as an alternative therapy to treat various health concerns. There has been a lot of research on the health benefits of frankincense oil, including treatment for cancer.
Let us learn more about Frankincense essential oil and its various health benefits.
What is frankincense essential oil?
Frankincense essential oil, also known as olibanum, is derived from the sap of two types of Boswellia trees – Boswellia sacra and Boswellia carteri.
The sap that is extracted from the bark is left to dry and harden. This hardened sap is then steam distilled to produce frankincense essential oil.
This oil is yellowish green in color and has a woody, lemony and pine aroma.
These trees are found in Middle Eastern countries like Yemen and Oman and also in African countries like Somalia and Ethiopia. It also grows in India and Pakistan.
History of frankincense essential oil
Frankincense oil has been traded in the Middle East and North Africa for more than 5,000 years. The Babylonians and Assyrians burned it during religious ceremonies.
The ancients Egyptians bought the resin of Boswellia tree from the Phoenicians and used them in incense, insect repellent, perfumes, and salves.
They also used it in the embalming process. Frankincense was charred and ground to make kohl, which the Egyptian women used for their eyes.
The ancient Greek and Roman recognized the antiseptic, anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties of this oil and prescribed it for indigestion, coughs, hemorrhoids and bad breath.
Health benefits of frankincense oil
1. Fights cancer
Several lab studies have shown that Frankincense oil can be used to treat ovarian, breast and skin cancer. According to a 2015 research from Oman,
Frankincense essential oil may cause breast cancer cells to stop growing and die off. The researchers also showed that this method is cost effective and less time consuming (1).
Another study evaluated frankincense oil for its anti-tumor activity and signaling pathways in bladder cancer cells. The results of the study showed that frankincense oil distinguishes normal cells from the cancerous cells and suppresses cancer cell viability (2).
Another study showed that frankincense contains a chemical compound called AKBA, which is successful in killing cancerous cells that have developed a resistance to chemotherapy (3).
2. Reduces inflammation
According to scientists from Cardiff University, Frankincense essential oil inhibits the production of key inflammatory molecules which help in preventing the breakdown of the cartilage tissue which causes conditions like arthritis (4).
Frankincense oil is rich in boswellic acids, which makes it an effective remedy for painful conditions that affect the muscles, joints, and tendons. According to studies, it also treats conditions like bowel disorders and asthma.
3. Reduces stress
Frankincense essential oil has anti-anxiety and anti-depressant abilities which induce a feeling of peace and relaxation. The calming aroma of this essential oil helps to overcome negative thoughts.
Studies have also shown that burning Boswellia resin has a calming effect on the brain. According to a 2008 study from Israel, incensole acetate, an incense component, elicits psychoactivity by activating TRPV3 channels in the brain.
The TRPV3 channels in the brain play a role in emotional regulation (5).
The calming scent of this oil and lower levels of anxiety also help in improving sleep quality. Frankincense oil helps open breathing passages which help you sleep better.
4. Boosts immunity
Frankincense oil has antimicrobial qualities that help in destroying infection-causing viruses, bacteria, and fungus. According to a 2003 study from Egypt, frankincense oil exhibits strong immunostimulant activity (6).
5. Improves memory
Frankincense oil improves memory function, mental clarity, and mental stimulation. It is rich in sesquiterpenes, which is known to stimulate and oxygenate the limbic system of the brain. As a result, our memory retention improves, and the mood is improved.
According to a 2010 based animal study, using frankincense oil during pregnancy can also improve the memory of the offspring.
Another study showed that hypothyroidism impairs learning and memory in adult rats and this can be prevented by using frankincense essential oil (8).
6. Reduces digestive issues
Frankincense essential oil is beneficial in lowering digestive problems. It relaxes the digestive tract muscles and accelerates the secretion of the digestive enzymes. It also increases urine production and improves circulation which improves digestive health.
Studies have shown that Frankincense oil shows promising results in patients with IBS, chronic colitis, ulcerative colitis, and Crohn’s disease (9).
Frankincense essential oil also reduces pain and cramping in the stomach and prevents bloating by flushing out excess water.
7. Balances hormonal levels
Frankincense oil reduces the symptoms of menopause and menstruation. It balances hormonal levels which help in alleviating moods swings, anxiety, fatigue, headaches. It also helps relieve cramps, constipation, and nausea.
Frankincense oil also regulates estrogen production which reduces the risk of tumors in pre-menopausal women.
8. Improves fertility
Frankincense is used by the Jordanian population for increasing fertility and as an aphrodisiac. The resin of frankincense contains boswellic acids and pentacyclic triterpenes which have a chemical structure similar to steroids.
According to a 2007 study, oral administration of frankincense increases fertility in male rats. Also, the number of implantations and the number of viable fetuses also increased, which may be due to the increase in sperm motility and sperm density (10).
9. Nourishes skin
Frankincense oil can revive and rejuvenate the skin. It reduces the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles, and scars. It can also be used to fade stretch marks, surgery scars. Frankincense oil is also helpful in healing dry and cracked skin.
The astringent qualities of this oil also reduce the appearance of acne.
According to studies, frankincense essential oil has a soothing effect on the skin due to its pentacyclic triterpene (steroid-like) structure (11).
10. Alleviates respiratory problems
Frankincense oil eases respiratory issues naturally. Its anti-inflammatory and antidepressant qualities allow the breathing passages to relax and this reduces the risk of asthma attacks.
Inhaling this oil helps in removing phlegm that has deposited in the lungs and respiratory tracts. This oil also provides relief from the congestion of the nasal tract and lungs.
The boswellic acids present in frankincense oil help in the inhibition of leukotriene biosynthesis and this helps to prevent chronic inflammatory diseases like asthma (12).
Ways to use frankincense oil
1. Anxiety relief
To one teaspoon of a carrier oil add 2 to 3 drops of frankincense oil and massage on your neck and temples.
You can also add five drops of frankincense oil and one teaspoon of almond oil to a cup of Epsom salts. Use this in your bath water to promote relaxation.
2. Oral health
Add one drop of frankincense oil to your toothbrush before you put toothpaste and then brush your teeth. This process boosts your oral health.
3. Skin care
Mix three drops of frankincense oil, three drops of myrrh oil and one ounce of rosehip oil to make a natural face serum. Use this mixture on your face daily to reduce the appearance of wrinkles, dark spots, acne marks, and stretch marks.
4. Cold and flu relief
Put a drop or two of frankincense essential oil on a handkerchief and inhale it directly or can also use a diffuser to inhale this oil. Inhaling this oil helps reduce inflammation in the nasal passage, reduces phlegm and provides relief from coughing.
5. Arthritis relief
Add a few drops of this oil to a carrier oil and massage it on your painful joints to ease the pain caused due to conditions like arthritis.
Mix five drops of frankincense oil with almond oil and apply it over your stomach twice a day to improve your digestive health.
7. Natural disinfectant
Add a few drops of frankincense oil to water and pour it into a spray bottle. Use this mixture to clean shelves and other surfaces around the house. This natural cleaning aid helps to get rid of bugs and germs, without the use of harsh chemicals.
Side effects and precautions
Frankincense essential oil is considered safe to use for most people. However, you must undergo an allergen patch test before you use frankincense oil on your skin. In some rare cases, frankincense essential oil can cause skin rashes, nausea or stomach pain.
Always check with a doctor if you want to take this oil internally. Dilute this oil in water before you ingest it and make sure you use the best quality essential oils.
Avoid frankincense essential oil if you are pregnant or nursing as it may trigger contractions, prompt menstruation and lead to miscarriage.
If you have problems related to blood clotting, you must consult with your doctor before taking frankincense oil as this oil is known to have blood thinning effects.
We do not know enough about the safety of this oil for children, so you should not use frankincense oil for children.
Frankincense essential oil is derived from the sap of two types of Boswellia trees – Boswellia sacra and Boswellia carteri. This oil is yellowish green in color and has a woody, lemony and pine aroma.
It provides relief from various ailments like arthritis, indigestion, flu, asthma, and stress. It also balances hormones, improves skin condition and boosts memory.
Though it is generally considered safe for use, always do a patch test before using frankincense oil for the first time.