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, 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.
Benzyl tiglate 1.9–5.5%
Terpinyl isobutyrate 0–3.9%
Methyl isoeugenol 1.3–3.1%
Hazards Skin sensitization if oxidized.
Cautions Old or oxidized oils should be avoided.
Our safety advice
B. Serrata oil may contain a small amount of estragole, but this is unlikely to present a problem, since it contains larger amounts of anticarcinogens. No maximum is given for B. frereana or B. neglecta which, in addition to small amounts of thujone, contain higher concentrations of pinenes.
Adverse skin reactions A 65-year-old aromatherapist with multiple essential oil sensitivities reacted to 5%, and weakly to 1% frankincense oil. B. frereana, B. sacra and B. rivae are rich in a-pinene, (þ)-limonene and/or d-3- carene. Autoxidation products of these compounds can cause skin sensitization.
Reproductive toxicity The low reproductive toxicity of sabinene, a-pinene, (þ)-limonene and octyl acetate suggests that frankincense oils are not hazardous in pregnancy.
For many years there has been little clarity about the various types of frankincense and their essential oils. The current consensus is that B. carteri and B. sacra are the same plant, though this is still disputed by some. B. thurifera has sometimes been given as a synonym for these. B. bhau-dajiana is a synonym for B. sacra, but has often been given as a separate taxon in the past. Amid the confusion over nomenclature, some frankincense oils may have been ascribed to incorrect origins. A complicating factor has been that some reports were based on materials obtained from markets rather than from properly identified trees. Some of the compositional data used here for B. papyrifera were originally ascribed to B. carteri, but there now seems little doubt that frankincense oils rich in octyl acetate originate from B. papyrifera. High a-pinene levels probably indicates B. frereana, and lower concentrations probably point to B. sacra, but more work needs to be done to confirm these findings. There may also be an a-thujene CT for B. sacra. There is a (þ)-limonene/(E)-bocimene CT of B. sacra though this is probably not used for commercial es ential oil production. Some sources give a-pinene as the major constituent of B. rivae.