Frankincense: the potent, pure and prestigious oil

Frankincense, also called olibanum, is an aromatic resin obtained from trees in Somalia (more than 82% of the world’s supply), particularly the Boswellia sacra and Boswellia carterii trees.

The English word “Frankincense” is derived from Old French “franc encens” meaning high quality incense. The resin is known as olibanum, in Arabic al-lubān meaning “that which results from milking”, referring to the milky white sap tapped from the Boswellia tree. (

How is Frankincense resin extracted?

When fine top layers are scraped or slashed off (striping) the Boswellia tree bark by harvesters, a white sap begins to ooze out and is left to harden. These hardened resins are called tears. The resin is then removed and left to harden even further. Each species of Frankincense tree produces a slightly different type of resin, and differences in soil and climate can create even more diversity of the resin, even within the same species.

“The trees start producing resin when they are about eight to 10 years old. Tapping is done two to three times a year with the final taps producing the best tears due to their higher aromatic terpene, sesquiterpene and diterpene content. Generally speaking, the more opaque resins are the best quality.” (

How is Frankincense essential oil extracted from the resin?

Frankincense essential oil is extracted by steam distillation from the resin. Extraction of the resin from the tree as described above is called resin tapping.

The resin is placed in the distillation unit still (container) above boiling water and steam rises to extract the oil which drops into the water. As oil and water generally don’t mix, the oil will float or sink depending on its weight and the infused water is drained leaving the pure oil, ready for the next stage of testing for purity and potency.

“Today distillation is still the most common process of extracting essential oils from plants. The advantage of distillation is that the volatile components can be distilled at temperatures lower than the boiling points of their individual constituents and are easily separated from the condensed water.” (

Why is Frankincense so wonderful?

Frankincense essential oil is a rich, dense smelling aroma. Frankincense is “grounding, calming and relaxing without being sedating. The aroma is woody, earthy and also has a slightly fruity/sweet, warm, spicy attitude to it.” (

“Skin Care: Blemishes, dry and mature complexions, scars, wounds, wrinkles.
Respiratory System: Asthma, bronchitis, catarrh, coughs, laryngitis.
Genito-Urinary System: Cystitis, dysmenorrhoea, leucorrhoea, metrorrhagia.
Immune System: Colds, ’flu.
Nervous System: Anxiety, nervous tension and stress-related conditions.” (Julia Lawless, The Encyclopedia of Essential Oils, Harper Thorsons, 1992)

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