Frankincense Oil Guide - Benefits, Properties, Characteristics & Composition

Frankincense essential oil is one of the most popular essential oils and is commonly referred to as king of oils probably due to its numerous benefits, versatility and antiquity. Frankincense resins and oil has been in use since antiquity for spiritual, perfumery and incense application.

Frankincense resins - essential oils guide


Frankincense is also known as olibanum and hence, frankincense oil is sometimes known as olibanum oil.


Frankincense is a gum resin that is collected after an incision is made in the stem of the frankincense tree. After incision is made, a milky-white liquid appears which then solidifies into lump which is usually tear shaped, amber to orange-brown in colour and between size of a pea and walnut.

A tree is usually ready to be tapped when it is 8-10 years old. Resins are extracted about 2-3 times in a year. It is believed that final taps during the year produces the best quality, more opaque, resins with higher content of aromatic terpene, sesquiterpene and diterpene.

There are several species and varieties of frankincense tree, which produces a different kind of resins. Some of the main species are Boswellia sacra, Boswellia carterii, Boswellia frereana, Boswellia serrata (Indian frankincense) and Boswellia papyrifera.

The genus Boswellia comprises 25 species. The species are widely distributed in India (Boswellia serrata), on the Arabian Peninsula (Boswellia sacra), in North Africa, Somalia (Boswellia carterii and Boswellia frereana), Ethiopia (Boswellia papyrifera and Boswellia rivae) and Eritrea (Boswellia neglecta).

Frankincense tree is believed to be native to Red Sea region and grows wild throughout north east Africa. Some of the largest frankincense producing areas are Somalia, Ethiopia, China, India and South Arabia.

According to some studies, population of frankincense trees are in severe decline in recent years due to over-harvesting and environmental factors. Burning, grazing, clearing of frankincense woodland areas for agriculture and attacks by the longhorn beetle have reduced the population of frankincense trees.

History of Frankincense

Frankincense has a lot of historical importance. It has been used and traded since centuries in Southern Arabia, Middle East, Egypt and India. Southern Arabia was a major exporter of frankincense in antiquity.

One such reference of frankincense is available in a from of mural depicting sacks of frankincense traded from the Land of Punt in the temple of Egyptian Queen Hatshepsut, who died circa 1458 BC. It is believed that frankincense was used in ancient Egypt for making cosmetics and perfumes and treating certain medicinal conditions.

In addition, frankincense has been mentioned in a number of holy books and religious texts. It is described in Hebrew Bible as one of the consecrated incenses. In addition, it has also been mentioned in New Testament, where frankincense along with gold and myrrh, was offered to the infant Jesus.

Further, frankincense has been mentioned in their work by Greek historian Herodotus, Theophrastus and Pliny the Elder in his Naturalis Historia.

Extraction of Frankincense Oil

Frankincense essential oil is extracted by steam distillation of oleo gum resin.

Characteristics of Frankincense Oil

The aroma of frankincense is exotic, fresh, sweet, balsamic and resinous with a hint of spice. Its enticing wood aroma is sensual and freeing.

NameFrankincense Oil
Botanical NameBoswellia sacra | Boswellia carterii | Boswellia frereana | Boswellia serrata | Boswellia papyrifera
ColourLight Yellow or Greenish
AromaFresh, Woody, Balsamic, Slightly Spicy and Fruity

Composition of Frankincense Oil

Some of the principal constituents of frankincense oil are monoterpene hydrocarbons, notably α-pinene, limonene, α-thujene, β-pinene, dipentene, phellandrene, cymene, myrcene, terpinene; also octyl acetate, octanol, incensole, among others.

Blending with Frankincense Oil

Frankincense oil blends well with sandalwood, myrrh, lavender, bergamot, patchouli, lemon, clove, cinnamon, vetiver, orange and ylang ylang oils.

Frankincense Oil Guide

Properties of Frankincense Oil

Frankincense oil has anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, astringent, carminative, cicatrisant, cytophylactic, digestive, diuretic, emmenagogue, expectorant, sedative, tonic, uterine, vulnerary properties.

Benefits of Frankincense Oil

Fight Cancer:

According to study conducted, frankincense essential oil, especially from Boswellia sacra, may be effective for treatment of breast cancer. It has shown to help in suppression of cellular network formation and disruption of spheroid development of breast cancer cells. The results are similar to a previous observation related to human bladder cancer cells.

Anti Aging and Skin Care:

Frankincense oil is a natural skin care and anti-aging agent. It helps in rejuvenating the skin cells, reducing the scars and aging signs and effects. Because of these abilities, it is widely used in cosmetic products, especially skin care and beauty. Frankincense oil is also beneficial in healing of minor wounds and insect bites. It is a beautiful addition to any skin care routine. Blend it with rose and lavender for a treat to your skin.

Relieve Stress:

Frankincense oil has sweet, musky and earthy aroma that helps in relieving stress and anxiety and induce feeling of calmness. Frankincense has been used in religious ceremonies due to its ability to increase cellular respiration, slow down breathing and heart rate.

Pain Reliever:

Frankincense oil is a natural option to fight muscle aches and joint pain. Apply it on area of concern to boost circulation and decrease pain. For sore muscles or joints, dilute it with carrier oil and message on the affected area.

Oral Care:

The astringent and antiseptic properties of oil make it beneficial for oral health as well. Frankincense oil is useful against a number of oral health issues like bad breath, toothaches, cavities, infection and mouth sores. According to research, frankincense oil is has ability to improve plaque-induced gingivitis.


Frankincense oil is a natural anti-inflammatory agent in case of conditions like arthritis, asthma, painful bowel disorders, and other. It is a natural treatment option for pain-related conditions that affect the muscles, joints and tendons.

Other Benefits:

  • Its immune-stimulant properties increase white blood cell (WBC) count and support a healthy immune function.
  • Frankincense oils is a natural diuretic, helps to relieve digestive discomfort and flatulence.
  • Frankincense’s regulating properties may be helpful for balancing menstrual cycles and relieving pre-menstrual symptoms like irritability, headache and cramps.
  • Frankincense oil can be used in a chest massage during an asthma attack to slow down breathing. For chronic lung issues, it helps to loosen and remove mucus and is a pulmonary antiseptic.

Other Usages:

In addition to resins, frankincense oil is also used in preparation of incense. Frankincense oil is used as as fixatives and fragrance components in soaps, cosmetics and perfumes.

Safety With Frankincense Oil

Frankincense oil is non-toxic, non-irritant and non-sensitizing oil. However, it is still preferable to conduct a patch test before using topically. Dilute with a carrier oil before each use.

Consult your healthcare provider if you’re pregnant, nursing, taking medications, or being treated for other health challenges. Keep out of reach of children.

Care must be taken in storing frankincense oil. Must be stored in a cold and dark place. The shelf life of frankincense oil is around 3 years.

Frankincense is known to have blood-thinning effects, so people with problems related to blood clotting should not use frankincense before consulting with their health care provider.


The above statements have not been evaluated by the FDA. This information is for educational purposes only, it is not intended to treat, cure, prevent or, diagnose any disease or condition. Nor is it intended to prescribe in any way. This information is for educational purposes only and may not be complete, nor may its data be accurate.

Konstantine, Ramit. Essential Oils: A Complete Guide to Healing With Natural Herbal Remedies, Alternative Therapies, and Using Essential Oils For Beauty, Essential Oils For Stress and Weight Loss.
Kymberly Keniston-Pond. “Essential Oils 101.
Susan Burgess. “Aromatherapy and Essential Oils for Beginners: Au Naturoil: A Guide for Stress Relief, Healing Remedies and Natural Cleaners - With Over 100 Essential Oil Recipes.
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