What is Frankincense Aromatherapy Oil?

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  • Written By: Celeste Heiter
  • Edited By: Lauren Fritsky
  • Last Modified Date: 27 February 2020
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Frankincense aromatherapy oil is an essential oil made from the resin of the boswellia tree. Known also as olibanum, frankincense aromatherapy oil is a thin, pale yellow-green liquid commonly used for spiritual and therapeutic purposes. The oil has a rich, complex aroma that is variously described as spicy, woody, earthy and balsamic. When used in the practice of aromatherapy, frankincense oil is believed to have a calming, grounding effect that relieves stress and quiets the mind.

The genus Boswellia is a hardy tree native to northwestern India, southern Arabia, and eastern Africa. Four species of the Boswellia genus are used to produce frankincense aromatherapy oil: Boswellia sacra from Saudi Arabia; Boswellia frereana from Somalia; Boswellia carteri from eastern Africa, and Boswellia serrata from India. The word frankincense is derived from French words “franc”, meaning noble, pure, or real, and “encense”, meaning incense.


Frankincense aromatherapy oil is produced by peeling away the bark of the boswellia tree and cutting an incision in the trunk. Over the course of several weeks, the milky sap flows from the incision and hardens into resinous drops called tears. The essential oil is then extracted from the resin through steam distillation. Frankincense is available in several grades of quality, depending on the soil and climate in which the boswellia trees grow, the season in which the resin is harvested and how close to the incision the resin tears have formed. Other factors include its purity, aroma, color, and age.

When used for therapeutic purposes, frankincense aromatherapy oil is commonly combined with unscented oils or lotions and massaged into the skin by a massage therapist. Frankincense aromatherapy oil may also be heated over a small flame in a fragrance diffuser, which releases the aroma of the frankincense into the air. Other aromatherapy techniques include the use of frankincense oil in perfumes, soaps, bath oils, and incense.

An aromatherapist chooses essential oils according to clients’ conditions and symptoms. Frankincense aromatherapy oil is used to calm the mind in clients who suffer from stress and anxiety. When applied through massage, frankincense aromatherapy oil may also be used to treat muscular aches and pain associated with arthritis and rheumatism. Frankincense oil may also be diluted with neutral oils and applied topically to treat various skin conditions and in vaporizers to treat respiratory disorders. Frankincense is generally considered non-toxic; however, it is important to consult with a physician before ingesting, inhaling, or applying topically.


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