Essential oils are a majorly trending topic right now, but these powerful plant extracts are nothing new. In fact, the use of essential oils, like frankincense, can be traced all the way back to biblical times. According to the traditional telling of the story of “The Three Wise Men”, the wise men arrive from the east to present baby Jesus with frankincense, myrrh, and gold. This is often the first time people hear of frankincense, but whether you’re Christian or not, the significant takeaway from this story is that frankincense has been considered a hot commodity for centuries.
Before I get into the health benefits of frankincense, let’s take a minute to define an essential oil. Essential oils are fragrant, natural constituents found in plants. They’re responsible for the characteristic scent of the plant and the healing properties associated with it. Essential oils are highly concentrated. It takes about 16 pounds of fresh peppermint leaves to make just one ounce of peppermint oil and almost 9.5 pounds of lavender flowers to make one ounce of lavender essential oil.
Frankincense essential oil begins as a sap from a unique family of trees called Boswellia trees. Most of the trees in the Boswellia genus produce sap, but two species specifically—the Boswellia sacra and the Boswellia carteri—produce the highest grade frankincense. During certain times of the year, the tree is cut in several places, allowing the sap to pour out. Once the sap is collected, it’s allowed to harden into a thick substance called resin. The essential oil is then collected from the resin using a process called steam distillation.
Frankincense oil has a wide array of health benefits. It’s anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, and an astringent. The oil is also considered a tonic because it benefits all the body systems, including the digestive, respiratory, and nervous systems.
Studies have shown that frankincense oil can boost your immune system, allowing you to fight off bacteria, viruses, and even certain types of cancers more effectively. Frankincense oil can also break up phlegm in your respiratory tract and lungs, helping to alleviate congestion and reduce coughing, and reduce the pain associated with minor cuts and bug bites/stings.
Because frankincense has antiseptic properties, it can also kill germs and reduce inflammation in the mouth, which may prevent bad breath, cavities, mouth sores, toothaches, and other oral infections.
When inhaled, frankincense oil has been shown to reduce both high blood pressure and heart rate. Inhaling the oil can also reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety without any of the unwanted side effects of prescription medications.
Frankincense essential oil speeds up the release of gastric juices, like bile and acids in the digestive tract. It can also stimulate peristalsis—the muscle contractions that help move food through your entire digestive tract. This can relieve constipation and reduce any associated pain and cramping.
A study done in 2012 found that a specific compound in frankincense oil, called AKBA, can kill cancer cells that have become resistant to chemotherapy. Frankincense oil may also help reduce nausea associated with chemotherapy.
Frankincense oil promotes cell regeneration and keeps your cells and tissues healthy. Applying frankincense oil to your face can help prevent wrinkles and lift and tighten skin to stop or reverse the signs of aging. Because it’s a powerful astringent, it also helps reduce acne blemishes and the appearance of large pores. The skin benefits of frankincense do not stop with the face, as you can apply it anywhere you experience sagging skin, from your arms to your abdomen to your knees.
When used in aromatherapy, frankincense oil is typically inhaled (either directly or with a diffuser) or applied topically (directly on the skin).
Because essential oils are so powerful, it’s critical for you to dilute the frankincense properly with a carrier oil before applying them to your skin. It’s also a good idea to do a patch test—or apply a small amount to the inside of your elbow to make sure you don’t experience any adverse reactions to the oil – before using the oil on large areas of your body.
Although all essential oils are different, a good rule of thumb for frankincense oil is to use a dilution of 1 percent. This means using only one drop of essential oil per teaspoon of carrier oil. You can play around with different carrier oils to find one that works for you, but my favorites are coconut oil and jojoba oil.
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