FRANKINCENSE: Boswellia Carterii, Boswellia Sacra, Boswellia Serrata, Boswellia Frereana, Boswellia Rivae, Boswellia Papyrifera, Boswellia Ovalifoliolata, etc.
Also known as: Indian Frankincense, Salai, Gajabhakshya Salai Guggul, Olibanum, etc.
Parts Used: resinous exudate (gum resin)
Systems/Organs affected: heart, liver, spleen, structural, skin, kidneys, prostate, intestinal, immune, respiratory, lymph
Properties: emmenogogue, antiseptic, nervine, antispasmodic, anti-carcinogenic, antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, hepatic, anti-arthritic, analgesic, anodyne, sedative, cytophylactic (cell stimulator), expectorant
Frankincense is a small, shrub-like tree with white or pink flowers and lots of leaves. The resin is harvested by making deep gashes in the trunk of the tree which then exudes a milky sap. This sap solidifies in tear-shaped lumps that dry and fall to the ground where they are then gathered. At this point they are amber in color and about 1/4-1 1/2 inches in size. The oil is generally steam distilled, extracted via alcohol or by using a chemical solvent. However, the alcohol extraction or steam distilled versions are the only ones that should be used for medicinal purposes. The oil has a woodsy, slightly lemon scent with a hint of camphor. The boswellia tree rarely grows over 23 feet high and is actually related to the tree that produces myrrh. It is native to the Middle East close to the Red Sea and is alson found in Iran, Lebanon, China, Oman and Africa. The bulk of the distillation takes place in Europe although some is also done in India.
Frankincense is a member of the Burseraceae family (a species of plants that exude gums and resins). Much has come to light about this plant/tree since 2005 that is worth knowing. Frankincense has quite a history. It is steeped in spiritual and physical applications. The Egyptians burned it in their temples, used it to expel evil spirits and as part of their embalming process. They, along with the Chinese and East Indians, also used it to enhance their meditation by simple inhalation of the burning incense. During that time frankincense was a major part of the trade market between countries. It was prized by many and highly sought after. Camel caravans made regular journeys through treacherous terrain to take it to other parts of the world. The Queen of Sheba made the journey herself to ensure business with King Solomon. The Syrians and Babylonians would gift it to their Gods. The Romans used it in government ceremonies and medicinal practices and the Egyptians also mixed it with cinnamon to ease sore muscles. Dioscorides used it for skin issues, pneumonia, hemorrhages and eye disorders. Ambroise Pare', a 16th century surgeon, used frankincense to stay the flow of blood in wounded soldiers and noted that it also helped scar tissue to form more quickly. He also gave it to women to help with abscesses developed from breast feeding. The French doctor Cabasse, used it for skin cancer with great effect. The Chinese used it to treat tuberculosis and leprosy. Early practitioners from both eastern and western cultures used it for digestive issues, skin diseases, urinary tract infections, respiratory problems, nervous disorders, rheumatism and syphilis to name just a few. The Egyptians found it so useful in preserving the skin of the dead that they started using it for the skin of the living. There is NO doubt this herb has medicinal capability, the real question here is what has modern science found it to be useful for?
Frankincense contains a unique set of components known as boswellic acids. Four of these have been found to be anti-inflammatory and one of them in particular, acetyl-11-keto boswellic acid, also known as AKBA, is the ONLY substance in nature found to inhibit two inflammatory enzymes responsible for a number of health conditions. These enzymes (5-lipoxygenase, also known as 5-LOX and human leukocyte elastase, aka HLE) are the first enzymes released in the cytokine pathway. That pathway makes leukotrines, which are inflammatory substances that add to and/or cause disease. In essence, frankincense has been found to STOP inflammation BEFORE it starts by inhibiting those enzymes.
A study entitled, 'Special Extract of Boswellia Serrata (H 15) in the Treatment of Rheumatoid Arthritis' published in Phytomedicine found that 30 knee patients who were given boswellia experienced less pain and had more mobility. A similar study found that after 90 days of supplementation there was not only a significant reduction in pain but that the levels of a cartilage-degrading enzyme also was reduced. Another study on boswellia found it to be just as effective as Mesalamine, the prescription drug used to treat Crohn's disease. (So why aren't they using it instead of the drug now?????) Other similar studies found it effective for ulcerative colitis. More recently (2000), the Germans found boswellia extract to be more effective against cancer than chemotherapy. (Mol Pharmacol, 2000 July; 58(1):71-81-'Acetyl-boswellic acids are Novel Catalytic Inhibitors of Human Topoisomerases I and II Alpha').
In 2005, researchers found that this plant works by altering the expression of tumor necrosis factor alpha (aka TNF-a). This basically means that frankincense inhibits the inflammatory process that causes disease at the root. The main inflammatory enzymes are blocked by this plant, preventing diseases like rheumatism, respiratory illnesses (such as emphysema), cystic fibrosis, arthritis, cancer, heart attacks, hardening of the arteries, etc. from taking place.
Scientists conducted a study with mice that had a genetic defect in which they had only one copy of the 5-LOX gene (normally there are two). They found that these mice were protected from atherosclerosis. This led them to believe that using boswellia, which inhibits the 5-LOX enzyme, can keep one from developing atherosclerosis.
In a study done on ulcerative colitis with 30 patients (20 took boswellia three times a day for six weeks, 10 took NSAIDS commonly used for IBS) it was found that 70% of those supplementing with frankincense went into remission compared to 40% of the control group.THAT IS SIGNIFICANT. (Shaking my head thinking what in the %#*&$(#* is wrong with the medical field and big pharma....do they want to help people or not. HMMMMMM).
In a double blind study done on 80 people suffering with asthma, 70% of those taking boswellia had improvement in their condition compared to only 27% of the control group.
In animal tests where free radical damage was intentionally introduced, frankincense was found to reduce damage done to the liver by 80% and damage to the heart by 50%!!!!!! It also has tested effective against 112 different gram positive bacterial strains including staph and the dreaded MRSA.
Europe and England still use this oil for a host of maladies including swollen lymph glands, to heal and soothe mucus membranes, clear up lung congestion, assist with stomach complaints and digestive issues, to help with colds, bronchitis, asthma, laryngitis, cystitis, kidney issues, reproductive problems, breast and uterine issues, depression and more. Not bad for an herb barely known by most of the modern world (other than the Biblical references).
Frankincense also has quite a history in the spiritual and emotional realms. Many countries use it to enhance meditation and to fortify the mind. It is believed to help people to let go fo the past and focus one's energy on the future.
There is no doubt after researching all the uses of this plant that it is something everyone should consider keeping around the house and in one's first aid kit. Please note that boswellia can also cause menstruation so it should NOT be used by pregnant women. This herb should also NOT be used by those on blood thinners. Always consult a qualified physician before starting any herbal supplementation.
As is customary with all of my posts, I am including some links herein for your perusal. Use them wisely. Stay healthy and strong!