Discover Frankincense

In our household frankincense is one of our favorite go to essential oils, and our girls would swim in it if they could. But what is frankincense, and why do we use it?

What’s Frankincense

There are several different species of the frankincense (boswellia) tree in the world, namely the following: 

  • Boswellia papyrifera 
  • Boswellia serrata
  • Boswellia carterii 
  • Boswellia sacra
  • Boswellia frereana

The Boswellia Species

Each specie has a different compound structure, so although Boswellia papyrifera is the most common form of frankincense resin, and is commonly used in perfumes and incense; the others have more use to our bodies. There are currently 623 scientific studies on frankincense listed on PubMed: 

Unfortunately it’s also common for companies to lower their prices by substituting synthetic compounds and/or a cheaper specie of boswellia (frankincense). This is especially the case for Boswellia Frereana, which can be triple the price of Boswellia carterii. A lower quality of the resin is also frequently sold due to its cheaper price. 

The expense of Boswellia Frereana is probably due to it being more difficult to harvest (its resin is also in bigger size). This variety of tree grows out of rocks and can be found in the same same vicinity as Boswellia Carterii, which grows out of the ground.  Boswellia sacra is only really grown in Oman and Yemen, yet Boswellia Frereana doesn’t grow in Southern Arabia.  

Frankincense Resin vs Essential Oils

Frankincense comes in various forms once a tree has matured for 5-10 years. Typically at three different times of the year (for Boswellia Frereana only once a year or longer), the frankincense tree is nicked, or some of its bark is pealed away to allow the tree’s milky sap to bleed slowly over the fresh wound. Ten days later the semi-hardened sap (tears) are harvested and placed in dry caves for approximately four to six months. This is frankincense resin.

There are various grades to frankincense. The highest quality of frankincense resin is clear to a silvery white. The lowest quality, and most typical is muddy brown in color. Frankincense resin can either be burned as a form of incense, or depending on your source can be added to pitchers of water as a favoring, and for its internal benefits. Frankincense is commonly chewed as gum, especially of the Boswellia Frereana variety due to its resin being softer in nature.  

The resin can also be distilled via hydrodistillation to extract its essential oil, which takes several hours. Again, depending on your source the essential oil can be used aromatically (e.g. diffused), applied topically (e.g. used directly on your skin or added to a facial cream), or taken internally (e.g. in a glass of water, vegetable capsule or added to food).

Frankincense Resin

Why Use Frankincense

Frankincense helps to center emotions, including temporary sadness, feeling blue, and even occasional feelings of anxiety, which everyone experiences at some point. It is great at supporting healthy cell regeneration in the body, which we all want to have. It also supports focus and healthy cognitive function. 

The chemistry of frankincense is mainly monoterpenes (can be 82%), which help reprogram cellular memory. It therefore supports cellular regeneration, as well as the immune system. Frankincense also contains sesquiterpenes which help deliver oxygen molecules to cells. They are also known to delete miswritten codes in DNA. 

Frankincense was valued more than gold during ancient times for good reason, and only those with great wealth and abundance possessed it. It is mentioned multiple times in the Bible, and in one of the oldest known medical records, Ebers Papyrus (from ancient Egyptians dating from 16th century BC). It is still a very precious and valuable oil today. 

A key naturally occurring constituent in frankincense is Alpha-Pinene (you’ll want to look that beauty up). There are a few key resources listed at the end providing useful locations of further research regarding the origin, and historical uses of frankincense.

How To Use Frankincense 


Frankincense has a woodsy, warm and fresh aroma. You can either diffuse the essential oil via a cool water vapor, or burn the resin for a more intense ‘smoke’. Both ways are popular during meditation or yoga. 

Resin Burner

When diffusing at night to promote a restful night sleep, add 2-4 drops of Frankincense essential oil into your diffuser, along with a couple of drops of Lavender essential oil. 

When one of my daughters were requiring some assistance after a typical childhood accident (5 years old), there was a significant decrease in her anxiety levels after dropping a drop of Frankincense in her palm. She rubbed her palms together, cupped her hands over her nose and breathed in the relaxing aroma.  


There are multiple ways to use Frankincense essential oil topically. Examples include:

  • Applying a drop or two to the face to help smooth the appearance of healthy-looking skin. You can even make a face serum in a glass dropper bottle, by putting in 2 drops of Frankincense, 2 drops of Lavender and then adding Jojoba oil (or any other carrier oil you like for your face). There are multiple places to buy a glass dropper bottle, such as at 
  • For emotions rub 3-4 drops all over your neck and outer ears. 
  • Frankincense is a popular oil for massage and skin care. 
  • Add several drops of Frankincense to 1/2 cup of Epsom salts in a bowl/bucket. Add warm water and soak your feet. Or enjoy a relaxing Frankincense bath. 
  • Frankincense features prominently in Young Living’s skin care products.

 The Vitality line of Young Living’s essential oils are specifically labeled for internal use to support our internal wellness.  

A simple way to take Frankincense Vitality essential oils is by adding a drop of it to your glass of water, juice or even your daily shot of Young Living’s Ningxia Red. 

 However, if you like tea, why not try this combination that is a take on Earl Grey:

A simple way to take Frankincense Vitality essential oils is by adding a drop of it to your glass of water, juice or even your daily shot of Young Living’s Ningxia Red. 

However, if you like tea, why not try this combination that is a take on Earl Grey:

Here are some other  yummy recipes we created that all contain Frankincense Vitality:Frank’s Scottish Shortbread

There are multiple other ways to use Frankincense and Frankincense Vitality, and plenty of other recipes around. 

Why not give it a go. 

Young Living’s Frankincense 

Currently Young Living’s Frankincense products include:

  • Frankincense and Frankincense Vitality (Boswellia carterii)
  • Sacred Frankincense (Boswellia sacra)
  • Frankincense Resin (not for internal consumption)
  • Resin Burner (comes with a bag of frankincense resin)
  • Slique Gum (contains Boswellia Frereana resin)

There also have numerous other products that contain frankincense, including:

  • ART (Age Refining Technology) products e.g. cleanser, masque, toner, moisturizers
  • Boswellia Wrinkle Cream
  • Wolfberry Eye Cream
  • Essential oil blends e.g. Abundance, Acceptance, Awaken, Believe, Brain Power, Build Your Dream, Common Sense, Egyptian Gold, Exodus II, Forgiveness, Fulfill Your Destiny, Gathering, Gratitude, Harmony, ImmuPower, Into The Future, Live Your Passion, Longevity, Longevity Vitality, The Gift, Valor…
  • Slique Tea – Ocotea Oolong Cacao
  • Animal Scents e.g. Medwell, T-Away
  • KidScents e.g. GeneYus, Sleepylze, Tender Tush
  • Collections: e.g. Oils of Ancient Scripture, Premium Starter Kit

Thanks to long term relationships, Young Living was allowed to be the first foreign company in Oman to build a large commercial distillery in modern times for Boswellia sacra, which is distilled in Salalah, Oman. The partner farm where they harvest the resin is a historical site that used to be a banana plantation. 

Young Living obtains its Boswellia Carterii from Somalia. 


Elemi, which originates from the Philippines, is known as the poor man’s frankincense. There are some similarities, so if price is an issue this is a good  substitute essential oil.


The following are some resources that we have reviewed and contain valuable information regarding frankincense. 



  • Healing Oils of the Bible, by David Stewart Ph.D
  • D. Gary Young The World Leader in Essential Oils, by Mary Young, Young Living Essential Oils
  • Essential Oils Desk Reference (EODR). Complied by Life Science Publishing.
  • Mind Your Brain, by Elizabeth Erickson, M.S (

Other Books (not read):

  • The One Gift, by D. Gary Young
  • Shutran’s Ancient Apothecary, by D. Gary Young

The information contained in this document is for your education purposes only. It is not be used to diagnose, prescribe, treat or prevent any condition of the body and should not be used as a substitute for medical advice. These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration.

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