Home > What is Frankincense?

What is Frankincense?


The story of the three wise men in the Bible highlights Frankincense as one of the three gifts given to Jesus at his birth. There are many theories prevalent about the symbolic significance of this gift, yet it is considered to be highly valuable and occupies an important part in the traditions of many religious cultures. Frankincense is basically a fragrant gum resin obtained from the plant family Burseraceae and is burned as incense. The specific tree, Boswellia sacra, it is believed is generally found in Africa.

The tree trunk is given a deep and longitudinal incision; as a result of which a milky substance called 'oleo resin' is secreted which hardens on contact with air. This hardened resin, after about three months is harvested as Frankincense. The collection of this special resin takes place from May till September.

Historically, Frankincense is wrapped in economic, religious and medicinal significance. The Arab state of Oman considers this resin as its national scent and uses it as incense in homes and offices. It is, in fact an integral part of Oman culture and finds good use in the treatment of congestion, joint inflammations and anxiety disorders. It is also chewed to get a fresher breath and stronger teeth. Around the tenth century, Frankincense was also believed to be an effective cure for dysentery, tumor, fever and vomiting.

Frankincense is a constituent of perfumes and has been a sought-after trade commodity. It was also used as a wine additive. The highest quality of Frankincense is the clear silver/green grade. So much was the trade significance of Frankincense resin that Pliny the Elder, who was a first century Greek writer, claimed that the control of Frankincense trade is responsible for the immense wealth of Southern Arabians making them the richest people. Traditionally, Egyptians and Babylonians have been using Frankincense for their religious rites and ceremonies. The burnt remains of this incense was powdered as 'kohl' and used for Egyptian art. The resin is also has significance to many Jewish rituals and has played a vital role in the Catholic Church.

Frankincense oil has a woody, earthy, spicy, and slightly fruity aroma, which is calming and relaxing. Aromatherapy uses Frankincense for its aromatic properties. The fragrance of frankincense is said to help with centering and connecting to Spirit, to elevate the mind and to aid in visualization and aid in meditation. It is also used to help achieve calm, relaxation and a general sense of wellness and wellbeing. Frankincense is available as incense sticks commercially and also in its raw 'tear' shape to be burnt on coal directly, just like the old times.

There is little doubt about the inherent qualities of Frankincense. Used with care and consideration it can well be a renewable resource for mankind to benefit from. The resin is a treasure from times that were and its lingering fragrance is there to bless the future