Frankincense, also known as olibanum, is a resin obtained from the Boswellia sacra tree as well as other closely related trees. The resin is gathered by slashing the bark of the tree and allowing the sap to bleed out and harden. These hardened bits of sap, called tears, are then collected by hand.
There is some evidence that populations of Boswellia trees are declining due to over-collection of Frankincense tears.
Frankincense is native to North Africa and the Arabian Peninsula and has been cultivated and traded for at least 5000 years. It is mentioned several times in the Jewish Talmud and the Christian Bible as it was used in some of their sacred rituals and still is in some Orthodox traditions. Frankincense was also used ceremonially as incense and/or offering by ancient Pagans in Persia, Babylonia, Egypt, Greece, and Rome.
The essential oil of frankincense, obtained through steam distillation of the dried resin, is used in perfumery and cosmetics as well as in the creation of ritual anointing oils. Its scent can be described as sweet, spicy/warm, lemony and piney.
The fragrance of frankincense is said to elevate the mind and to aid in meditation and visualization, centering and connecting to Spirit. It is also used to help achieve calm, relaxation and a general sense of wellness.
Frankincense in Healing
Frankincense is an edible resin that can be used in tonics to ensure good digestion and clear skin. Frankincense used internally should be clear and free of dark impurities.
Indian Frankincense, Boswellia serrata, called dhoop is used in Ayurvedic medicine to speed the healing of wounds, balance the female system and help with the treatment of arthritis.
Burning frankincense inside the home purifies the atmosphere, drives away disease, and encourages good health.
Frankincense essential oil can be added to skincare products designed to soften and moisturize dry skin, to reduce and slow signs of aging, to speed the healing of blemishing and minor wounds, and to reduce scarring.
Frankincense in Magic and Ritual
According to some translations of the Orphic Hymns, Frankincense is a suitable offering to Apollo, Ares, Artemis, Asklepios, Zeus, Boreas, Eos, Dike, The Erinyes, Hephaistos, Herakles, Hermes, Hygeia, The Kouretes, Korybas, Dionysos, Mnemosyne, Nike, The Muses, Notos, Ouranos, Palaemon, the Bacchae, Themis, The Titans, Tyche, Zephyros, Mercury, Diana, Jove, Daimones, Vulcan, Silenos, Satyros
Frankincense resin is useful for fumigating sacred space in preparation of any ritual as it burns away negativity and raises the energy of the space. Some believe this is the most powerful and useful incense for this purpose and it is used for exorcism as well.
Essential oil of frankincense has been added to anointing oil used for rites of passage rituals, particularly for infants.
It was also used for part of the embalming process by ancient Egyptians.
To Use Frankincense
Frankincense resin can be burned over hot coals in a brazier. It is often crushed and mixed with other resins, particularly myrrh. Adding frankincense to any incense blend will increase the action of the other woods, herbs, and resins in the blend.
To use frankincense for suffumigation – Once the brazier is smoking nicely, use a feather, a fan or your hand to direct the smoke around the space, person or object you wish to fumigate or pass an object to be cleansed through the smoke as it rises.
Be careful not to inhale too much smoke as inhaling any smoke is dangerous and frankincense smoke has a slightly psychoactive effect.
As an offering, frankincense can be burned in a brazier over charcoals or placed directly into the ritual fire after it has been blessed and dedicated.
Frankincense essential oil can be combined with other oils and a carrier oil to make anointing oil.