Botanical name Boswellia serrata
Processing Method Steam Distillation
Color/Consistency Colorless to pale yellow liquid.
Aromatic Summary / Note / Strength of Aroma A base note with a medium aroma, Frankincense Essential Oil has a warm and spicy, woody odor that is haunting.
Blends With Basil, Bergamot, Cardmom, Cedarwood, Chamomile, Cinnamon Bark, Clary Sage, Coriander, Geranium, Ginger,Myrrh and Vanilla.
Frankincense originates from a small scraggly but hardy tree indigenous to the Middle East, which is small with abundant pinnacle leaves and white or pale pink flowers. The resin begins as a fragrant sticky milky-white liquid that flows from the trunk of the tree when cut. The dried tears are collected, and the resin is then distilled, producing the precious oil. The resin is known as olibanum, derived from the Arabic al-luban or 'that which results from milking', referring to the milky sap. It is used as incense, and has been traded for 5,000 years. Widely used in ancient Egypt, it was one of the ingredients used in the holy oil described in the Talmud. Frankincense was brought back to Europe by Frankish Crusaders (Frank-incense), and the oil is still highly prized today in the perfumery industry, and widely used in the manufacturing of skin-care products.
Frankincense has been traded on the Arabian Peninsula, in North Africa, and Somalia for more than 5000 years. A mural depicting sacks of frankincense traded from the Land of Punt adorns the walls of the temple of ancient Egyptian Queen Hatshepsut, who died circa 1458 BC.
The Essential oil of frankincense is produced by steam distillation of the tree resin. The oil's chemical components are 75% monoterpenes, sesquiterpenes, monoterpenoles, sesquiterpenols and ketones. It has a good balsamic sweet fragrance, while the Indian frankincense oil has a very fresh smell. Contrary to what some commercial entities claim, steam or hydro distilled frankincense oils do not contain boswellic acids (triterpenoids), although may be present in trace quantities in the solvent extracted products
There are no known adverse side effects. That being said, frankincense essential oil should not be used during pregnancy, since it does act as an emenagogue and astringent.
Hazards Skin sensitization if oxidized.
Cautions Old or oxidized oils should be avoided.
Our safety advice
Because of their high content of a-pinene, (þ)-limonene and/ or d-3-carene we recommend that oxidation of B. frereana, B. sacra and B. rivae oils is avoided by storage in a dark, airtight container in a refrigerator. The addition of an antioxidant to preparations containing these oils is recommended.
Acute toxicity No information found for any frankincense oil. For a-pinene, the acute oral LD50 in rats has been reported as 2.1, 3.2 and 3.7 g/kg; acute dermal LD50 in rabbits <5 g.kg. B. serrata can contain low concentrations
of a-thujone and b-thujone. The thujones are potentially neurotoxic, but these levels are not significant. Subacute &
Subchronic toxicity No information found for any frankincense oil. Oral octyl acetate is not subchronically toxic in
rats at 500 mg/kg.
Carcinogenic potential A commercially purchased essential oil said to be from B. carteri was cytotoxic to J82 human bladder cancer cells, but not to normal urothelial UROtsa cells, within a range of concentration. IC50 values were 1:600 and 1:1,250, respectively (Frank et al 2009). B. serrata can contain low concentrations of estragole, which is a rodent carcinogen when oral exposure is sufficiently high. (þ)-Limonene, geraniol and nerolidol display antitumoral activity.
B. frereana originates almost exclusively from Somalia, with small amounts coming from Oman; B. papyrifera is found in Eritrea, Ethiopia and Sudan; B. sacra is found in Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Eritrea, Oman and Yemen; B. neglecta and B. rivae are both found in Ethiopia and Somalia; B. serrata grows in India. Most commercial frankincense oil comes from Somalia (with most of the rest coming from Yemen and India) and most of that is from B. frereana, but B. sacra is also an important source. The resin of B. papyrifera is produced in abundance but the oil is not, as the yield is low relative to other species. In a report on trees, it has been proposed by UNEP-WCMC that CITES add Boswellia sacra to its list of threatened plant species.