Chemical Composition of Frankincense Essential Oil

Frankincense is often called the “king of oils,” and for a good reason! This ancient treasure has been around for thousands of years. It was once worth its weight in gold and was even given to baby Jesus by the Wise Men. From skincare to soothing the mind, frankincense essential oil offers a wide range of benefits.

In this Ultimate Guide to Frankincense Essential Oil, we’ll explore everything you need to know about this incredible oil. Whether you’re a newbie to essential oils or a seasoned expert looking for more in-depth knowledge, this guide is for you.

frankincense essential oil benefits

What is Frankincense Oil?

Definition and Botanical Description

Frankincense isn’t just a fancy word; it’s a type of resin that comes from the bark of trees in the Boswellia genus. These trees have thick, rugged bark and produce a sticky sap. When this sap hardens in the air, it becomes what we know as frankincense resin.

Regions Where Frankincense Trees Are Commonly Found

Frankincense trees like warm and dry climates. They are mostly found in parts of Africa and the Middle East, including countries like Somalia, Ethiopia, Oman, and Yemen. The trees thrive in these regions because they love the hot sun and don’t need much water.

Historical Significance

Frankincense has been treasured for thousands of years, and its significance runs deep into the roots of many cultures. In ancient Egypt, it was used in religious rituals and was an important part of the embalming process. The Greeks and Romans also used it in their ceremonies, appreciating it for its aromatic and medicinal qualities. Even today, frankincense is used in religious practices around the world, including in Christian and Islamic traditions. Its presence in sacred texts like the Bible highlights its long-standing importance in human history.

What Does It Smell Like?

The aroma of frankincense is truly one-of-a-kind and hard to forget. It’s a complex scent that combines multiple layers. At its base, you’ll notice a woody, earthy smell, reminiscent of a forest. But there’s also a spicy undertone that’s invigorating and somewhat exotic. On top of that, you might catch a whiff of some citrus oils, adding a slightly sweet and uplifting note to the mix. It’s an aroma that many people find calming and spiritually uplifting.

Types of Frankincense Essential Oil

Frankincense comes in different varieties, each with its unique characteristics. There are four main types of frankincense essential oil that you’re likely to encounter:

  • Boswellia sacra: Often considered the highest quality, this type is native to Oman and is frequently used in religious ceremonies.
  • Boswellia carterii: This is the most commonly available type and is known for its balanced aroma and range of health benefits.
  • Boswellia serrata: Native to India, this type is often used in Ayurvedic medicine and has a slightly more citrusy aroma.
  • Boswellia frereana: This type is native to Somalia and is highly valued for its unique aroma and uses in skin care.
Type Origin Typical Aroma Common Uses Notable Characteristics
Boswellia sacra Oman Woody, slightly spicy Religious ceremonies, high-end perfumes Often considered the highest quality
Boswellia carterii Various Balanced, woody General wellness, skin care, aromatherapy Most commonly available and versatile
Boswellia serrata India Citrusy, slightly woody Ayurvedic medicine, anti-inflammatory treatments Known for its more citrusy aroma
Boswellia frereana Somalia Unique, aromatic Skin care, luxury products Highly valued for its unique aroma and skin-care benefits

In the following sections, we will delve into the unique properties and uses of each of these types of frankincense.


Chemical Composition of Pure Frankincense Essential Oil

Main Components

Frankincense is more than just a pretty smell; it’s a complex blend of various chemical compounds. The main components that give frankincense its unique properties are:

  • Alpha-Pinene: Known for its anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial effects.
  • Limonene: Provides the citrusy notes and has uplifting psychological effects.
  • Myrcene: Adds a slightly earthy aroma and has relaxing properties.
  • Beta-Caryophyllene: Known for its spicy, woody scent and potential pain-relieving qualities.

These components work together to make frankincense a multifaceted oil with numerous health benefits.

How It Is Extracted

The process of extracting frankincense essential oil is fascinating. It all starts with making small cuts in the bark of the Boswellia tree. This releases a sticky resin, which hardens upon exposure to air. The hardened resin is then collected and subjected to steam distillation to extract the pure frankincense essential oil.

This traditional method ensures that the essential oil retains all its beneficial medicinal properties, making it a highly valued product.

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Health Benefits of Frankincense Essential Oils

Anti-inflammatory Properties

Frankincense has been a staple in traditional medicine for its anti-inflammatory properties. The compound alpha-pinene is believed to be the key player in reducing inflammation. Whether you’re dealing with arthritis, skin irritations, joint pain or even digestive issues, a few drops of frankincense essential oil mixed with a carrier oil can offer relief. Some people even use it in homemade salves and ointments specifically designed to reduce inflammation.

Antimicrobial Effects

When it comes to fighting off bacteria and viruses, frankincense holds its own. Its antimicrobial qualities make it a valuable addition to homemade cleaning solutions. More than just a household cleaner, it can also be applied to minor cuts and scrapes (diluted, of course) to prevent infection. Always remember to consult a healthcare provider for serious wounds or infections.

Respiratory Health

Frankincense is a popular choice for natural respiratory support. Its anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties can help relieve symptoms of conditions like asthma, bronchitis, and even the common cold. A simple way to use it is to add a few drops to a bowl of hot water and inhale the steam, or to use it in a diffuser to help clear airways.

Mental Well-being

The soothing scent of frankincense is often used to reduce stress and improve mental clarity. Its calming effects can be particularly beneficial in high-stress situations or during activities that require concentration. Many people diffuse frankincense during meditation or yoga practices to enhance their focus and spiritual connection.

Skin Care

Frankincense is a gem in the world of skincare. Its anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties make it ideal for various skin conditions like acne, eczema, and even psoriasis. Additionally, it promotes cell regeneration, which can help reduce the appearance of scars and wrinkles. It’s commonly found in high-quality skincare products, but you can also make your own facial serum or lotion by diluting it with a carrier oil.

Category Benefit Description
Physical Anti-inflammatory Great for treating skin conditions and joint pain.
Antimicrobial Useful in cleaning and minor wound care.
Respiratory Health Helps clear airways and supports lung function.
Emotional Stress Relief The calming aroma helps alleviate stress and anxiety.
Mental Clarity Known to improve focus and mental well-being.
Spiritual Sacred Connection Used in various religious and spiritual ceremonies.
Symbol of Purity Believed to cleanse the soul and ward off negative energy.
Frankincense Essential Oil

Spiritual Meanings

Role in Religious and Spiritual Practices

Frankincense has long been associated with the divine and the mystical. In various religious traditions, including Christianity, Islam, and even ancient Egyptian practices, frankincense has been used in ceremonies and rituals. In Christianity, it’s one of the gifts presented by the Wise Men to the newborn Jesus, symbolizing divinity. In Islamic traditions, it’s often used in incense burners to purify the surroundings.


The spiritual symbolism of frankincense goes beyond religious practices. It’s often seen as a symbol of purification, sanctity, and spiritual enlightenment. In many cultures, burning frankincense is believed to ward off evil spirits and bring positive energy. Its aroma is thought to facilitate a deeper state of meditation, helping individuals connect with their inner selves and even higher powers.

Uses of frankincense essential oil

Application & Diffusion

How to Apply Topically

Applying frankincense essential oil to your skin is simple, but there are a few things to keep in mind:

  1. Dilute with a Carrier Oil: Always dilute frankincense essential oil with a carrier oil like jojoba or coconut oil. A good rule of thumb is to use 1-2 drops of frankincense for every tablespoon of carrier oil.
  2. Spot Test: Before applying it to a larger area, do a patch test on a small area of your skin to make sure you don’t have any allergic reactions.
  3. Application Points: Apply the diluted oil to points like your wrists, temples, or even the soles of your feet. For skincare, apply it directly to the affected area.

How to Diffuse Effectively

Diffusing frankincense essential oil can fill your space with its calming aroma:

  1. Choose the Right Diffuser: Use an ultrasonic or nebulizing diffuser for the best experience.
  2. Amount of Oil: Generally, 3-5 drops are sufficient for a standard diffuser. However, this can vary based on the size of the room and the diffuser’s capacity.
  3. Duration: For a calming atmosphere, diffuse for 30-60 minutes. For respiratory benefits, you can diffuse up to 3 hours.
Frankincense essential oil for emotional well-being

How to Use Frankincense Essential Oil

Topical Application

We’ve already touched on this a bit, but it’s worth noting that frankincense is extremely versatile when it comes to topical use. It can be used in massages, skincare routines, and even for wound care. Always remember to dilute it with a carrier oil and conduct a patch test first.


Inhaling the aroma of frankincense can have immediate and profound effects on your emotional and mental state. You can use a diffuser, as mentioned earlier, or simply inhale directly from the bottle. Some people even like to put a drop on a cotton ball and place it in their car or workspace.

Ingestion (If Applicable and Safe)

While some sources suggest that frankincense can be ingested, it’s crucial to consult with a healthcare provider first. If approved, it can be used to support digestive health and other internal issues. Make sure to use food-grade frankincense and follow all safety guidelines.

Precautions and Dosage Recommendations

  • Allergies: Always conduct a patch test to check for allergic reactions.
  • Pregnancy: Consult your healthcare provider if you’re pregnant or nursing.
  • Children and Pets: Extra care should be taken when using frankincense around children or pets. Consult professionals for proper dosages and applications.
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What Other Oils Does It Blend Well With?

Frankincense has a unique, versatile aroma that makes it a great team player in essential oil blends. Here are some other essential oils, that it pairs well with:

Complementary Oils

  1. Lavender: For a calming and relaxing blend.
  2. Lemon: To add a citrusy, uplifting note.
  3. Peppermint: For an invigorating, refreshing experience.
  4. Tea Tree: Enhances the antimicrobial effects, great for skin care.
  5. Sandalwood: For deepening the spiritual and meditative effects.

Suggested Blend Recipes

  1. Stress Relief: Mix 3 drops of frankincense, 2 drops of lavender, and 1 drop of lemon. Diffuse or apply topically.
  2. Skin Care Serum: Blend 2 drops of frankincense, 2 drops of lavender, and 1 drop of tea tree with a tablespoon of jojoba oil. Apply to face and neck.
  3. Meditation Aid: Combine 3 drops of frankincense and 2 drops of sandalwood. Diffuse during meditation or yoga.
frankincense essential oil for skincare

What Carrier Oil Works Best?

When it comes to diluting frankincense essential oil for topical use, the choice of carrier oil can make a difference. Here are some carrier oils that work well with frankincense:

  1. Jojoba Oil: Mimics the skin’s natural oils, making it great for skincare blends.
  2. Coconut Oil: Solid at room temperature but melts easily, good for balms and salves.
  3. Olive Oil: Widely available and rich in nutrients, suitable for general use.
  4. Sweet Almond Oil: Light and easily absorbed, ideal for massages.
  5. Grapeseed Oil: Lightweight and odorless, good for oily or sensitive skin.

Proportions for Mixing

  • For a standard dilution, mix 1-2 drops of frankincense essential oil with one tablespoon of your chosen carrier oil.
  • For sensitive skin or for use on children, consider using a more diluted blend, such as one drop of frankincense per two tablespoons of carrier oil.
choose store frankincense essential oil

DIY Recipes

Frankincense essential oil is not just for diffusing; you can incorporate it into various homemade products. Here are some easy-to-make recipes:

Skincare Products

Frankincense Face Serum

  • 2 drops Frankincense essential oil
  • 2 drops Lavender essential oil
  • 1 tablespoon Jojoba oil

Mix the oils and apply to your face and neck before bedtime.

Diffuser Blends

Relaxation Blend

  • 3 drops Frankincense essential oil
  • 2 drops Lavender essential oil
  • 1 drop Bergamot essential oil

Add to your diffuser and enjoy a calming atmosphere.

Massage Oils

Soothing Joint Rub

  • 3 drops Frankincense essential oil
  • 2 drops Peppermint essential oil
  • 1 tablespoon Coconut oil

Blend the oils and massage into sore joints.

Home Cleaning Solutions

Natural Cleaner

  • 5 drops Frankincense essential oil
  • 5 drops Lemon essential oil
  • 1 cup distilled water
  • 1 cup white vinegar

Mix in a spray bottle and use as a multi-surface cleaner.

How to store essential oil-infused soap

Substitutions for Frankincense

Sometimes you might find yourself out of frankincense oil or perhaps you’re looking for a less expensive alternative. Here are some oils that can serve as substitutes:

Alternative Oils with Similar Properties

  1. Myrrh: Often used alongside frankincense, it has similar spiritual and skin-care benefits.
  2. Cedarwood: Offers a woody aroma and can be used for relaxation and skincare.
  3. Sandalwood: Another oil with spiritual significance, it can also be used for skin health.
  4. Patchouli: Offers grounding effects similar to frankincense and can be used in skincare.
  5. Turmeric: Has strong anti-inflammatory properties but lacks the spiritual aspects of frankincense.

When to Use Substitutions

  • Skincare: If you’re out of frankincense, Myrrh or Sandalwood can be good alternatives for skincare recipes.
  • Spiritual Practices: Cedarwood or Sandalwood can be used in place of frankincense during meditation or religious ceremonies.
  • Anti-Inflammatory Needs: For anti-inflammatory purposes, Turmeric or Patchouli can serve as substitutes.
Choosing the right essential oils for your needs

Risks and Precautions

Possible Side Effects

While the frankincense extract is generally considered safe, it’s essential to be aware of potential side effects:

  • Skin Irritation: For some people, frankincense can cause skin irritation or an allergic reaction.
  • Gastrointestinal Issues: If ingested improperly, it can lead to nausea or stomach discomfort.

Allergic Reactions

Always perform a patch test before using frankincense topically, especially if you have sensitive skin or are prone skin sensitivity due to allergies.


  • Pregnancy and Nursing: Consult your healthcare provider before using frankincense if you’re pregnant or nursing.
  • Children and Pets: Use caution and consult professionals for proper dosages and applications when using frankincense around children or pets.
  • Medications: If you’re taking any medications, especially blood thinners or anticoagulants, consult your healthcare provider before using frankincense.
frankincense essential oil for pets

What Are the Health Benefits of Frankincense Essential Oil?

Frankincense essential oil brings various health benefits. Known for its potent anti-inflammatory properties, health benefits of frankincense oil include alleviating joint pain and reducing inflammation. It also aids in relieving stress and anxiety, boosting the immune system, and promoting healthy skin. Incorporating frankincense essential oil into your routine can be a natural and effective way to enhance your overall well-being.

How to Choose Quality Frankincense Essential Oil

Certifications to Look For

When shopping for frankincense essential oil, it’s crucial to look for certain certifications to ensure you’re getting a high-quality product:

  • USDA Organic: Indicates that the oil is free from synthetic additives and pesticides.
  • GC/MS Tested: Guarantees that the oil has been tested for purity and quality.

Red Flags

Beware of the following signs that may indicate a lower-quality or adulterated product:

  • Extremely Low Price: Quality frankincense is not cheap. An unusually low price is often a red flag.
  • Lack of Botanical Name: The label should specify the botanical name (e.g., Boswellia serrata), not just the common name.
Proper Storage of Essential Oils

Frequently Asked Questions

Can Frankincense Essential Oil Be Ingested?

While some sources suggest that frankincense can be ingested for specific health benefits, it’s crucial to consult with a healthcare provider for more research and personalized advice. Make sure to use food-grade frankincense and follow all safety guidelines.

How Does It Interact With Medications?

If you’re taking medications, especially blood thinners or anticoagulants, consult your healthcare provider before using frankincense. It could potentially interact with certain medicines.

Can It Be Used On Pets?

Frankincense is sometimes used for pets, particularly dogs, for skin conditions and calming effects. However, consult your veterinarian for proper dosages and applications, as pets can be more sensitive to essential oils.

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Frankincense essential oil is truly a versatile and powerful natural product. Its rich history and spiritual significance make it unique, but it’s the wide range of health benefits that make it indispensable in modern wellness practices.

From its anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties to its calming and spiritually uplifting effects, frankincense has something for everyone. Whether you’re looking to enhance your skincare routine, deepen your meditation practice, or find a natural way to promote respiratory health, this “king of oils” is worth exploring.

Remember to always choose a high-quality product and consult healthcare providers for specific health concerns and potential interactions with medications. With proper knowledge and precautions, frankincense can be a valuable addition to your natural wellness toolkit.