A Brief History of Frankincense Essential Oil

Featured on The Essential Life

Everything You Need to Know About Frankincense Essential Oil

What is Frankincense?

Frankincense is the dried sap of the Boswellia tree, found in the southern regions of the Arabian peninsula & parts of Africa. The sap is harvested from the Boswellia trees by slashing the bark with special knives, in a practise known as stripping, which allows the sap to flow out & harden in the sun. This hardened resin is then collected & sorted visually for quality. The resin is flammable & ready to be used as incense as soon as it is dried out. Trees are typically stripped 3 times a year with the final stripping producing the finest quality Frankincense resin.

The History of the Frankincense Trade in Arabia

Frankincense has been a traded commodity in Africa & the middle east for 5000 years, & features heavily in early religious text from these regions, as well as the the Hebrew & Christian Bibles. The popularity of Frankincense resin & Frankincense Essential Oil in religious ceremonies made it a valuable commodity, & the city port of Mosha, on the Arabian coast, was established primarily as a central processing & distribution hub for the Frankincense harvest from the area.

The early days of the large scale Frankincense trade were very organised, with the raw Frankincense being transported on barges up river to the city of Shabwah where it was sorted, graded, taxed, & sent out overland by camel caravan. The development of the Frankincense trade is credited with inspiring the development of the camel as a beast of burden, & with the rapidly advancing ship building industry. These ships allowed the trade routes to stretch across the sea, going as far as mainland China & Europe. The trade of Frankincense is credited with helping the cultures of the middle east flourish & the level of organisation surrounding the trade was instrumental in the advance written language in the area.

Early Uses of Frankincense in Burial Ceremonies

The Greeks, Romans & Egyptians all used Frankincense in ceremonies surrounding death, & used the burning incense as an offering to the departed, as well as a means of covering the odor of the deceased body. The Egyptians took the use of Frankincense in their burial ceremonies even further. They packed the empty body cavities of the deceased with Frankincense to help preserve the body as well as cover the odors of decomposition.

In Roman ceremonies buring the expensive commodity was often used as a means to demonstrate wealth, & the emperor Nero famously burned the entire yearly harvest of Frankincense at the burial ceremony of his favourite concubine.

Frankincense Essential Oil & Christianity

Frankincense is mentioned many times in the Old Testament, & was famously presented as one of the gifts of the magi to the baby Jesus at the time of His birth. The use of Frankincense as incense fell from favour in Christian ceremonies around the third or fourth century as it was seen as a form of idolatry, & as the traditions of conspicuous consumption popular in pagan Rome gave way to the more modest & humble Christian ways the expensive commodity lost much of its popularity. Today Frankincense Essential Oil is highly regarded as a deeply spiritual oil, largely because of its prominence in the Nativity story.  

Frankincense as Early Medicine

Frankincense Essential Oil can be used medicinally as an inhalant when burned, or mixed with water to form a tonic. This substance has been used for thousands of years to treat a wide variety of ailments including nausea, chest-congestion, indigestion, & recovery from childbirth. In Ayurvedic Medicine Frankincense Essential Oil is used to treat arthritis, heal wounds & strengthen the immune system. Frankincense Essential Oil has also been used throughout history as a topical pain reliever to treat stings from ants & scorpions.

Other Uses for Frankincense Essential Oil

Aside from religious ceremonies & medicine, Frankincense has had many practical uses in daily life throughout history. The cultures of the Arabian peninsula used Frankincense in all manner of products including deodorant, toothpaste & flavouring for food & drink. The smoke of burning Frankincense, aside from having a pleasant aroma, also drives away flying insects such as mosquitoes, & was vital in protecting from mosquito-borne maladies such as malaria. Frankincense was also used heavily in perfumes & Aromatherapy, a practice which continues to this day.

Living The Essential Life With Frankincense Essential Oil

Frankincense has such a rich history & so many wonderful healing properties. Frankincense Essential Oils's many therapeutic benefits are why we have chosen to feature Frankincense Oil as our Essential Oil of the Month (#EOM) for December. To learn more abut Frankincense Essential Oil & how to use it, stay tuned to our website where, each morning, we post our Diffuser Blend of the Day (#DBOD) which, throughout the month of December, will include Frankincense Essential Oil. 

We also post new information daily, so check back often!

If you have any questions or comments about using Frankincense Essential Oil, let your voice be heard in the comments. You can also reach us via email at info@TheEssentialLife.org. We would like to invite each & every single one of our readers to make their mark on The Essential Life by becoming a contributor to The Essential Life website. If you have words of wisdom that you would like to share with The Essential Life community & you'd like to see your articles featured here, on The Essential Life blog, please submit you articles here