by Joseph Mercola
Essential oils carry biologically active volatile
compounds in a highly-concentrated form that can
provide therapeutic benefits in very small amounts
Frankincense essential oil - commonly referred to as
the King of Oils - is made from the resin of either
the Boswellia sacra or Boswellia carterii tree
Frankincense essential oil is pale yellow-green with
a woody, earthy and spicy aroma. Traditionally used
in many religious holy rites, it is also commonly
used as an ingredient in perfumes and skin care
Substances found in frankincense essential oil have
been scientifically shown to speed wound healing,
reduce inflammation and stress, boost immune
function, improve oral and uterine health, treat
respiratory issues and digestive disorders, promote
sleep and fight cancer
Several studies have demonstrated that alpha-pinene,
a bioactive ingredient in frankincense oil, induces
cell death in cancer cells, including malignant
melanoma cells, breast cancer and pancreatic cancer
Scents can have a powerful influence on your well-being.
Aromatherapy, which uses
concentrated essences of various botanicals, allows you to harness
the olfactory power of plants for healing on many levels.
Essential oils carry
biologically active volatile compounds in a highly-concentrated form
that can provide therapeutic benefits in very small amounts.
There are hundreds and many thousands of essential oils available if
you factor in combinations, each with its own potential benefits.
That said, one essential
oil that stands out above the crowd is frankincense essential oil -
commonly referred to as the King of Oils - made from the resin of
Boswellia sacra or Boswellia carterii tree.
Boswellia trees grow in African and Arabian regions, including
Yemen, Oman, Somalia and Ethiopia. The oil is pale yellow-green with
a woody, earthy and spicy aroma.
Frankincense oil is
traditionally used in many religious holy rites, and as an
ingredient in perfumes and skin care products.
Its main chemical constituents are,
sesquiterpenes are thought to be the most valuable elements of
According to the "Studies in Natural Products Chemistry - Bioactive
Natural Products, Part H," 1 monoterpenes work in the
liver and kidneys, and lower cholesterol activity in the liver.
Some monoterpenes have,
Sesquiterpenes may cross the blood-brain barrier, as seen in this
2013 animal study, 4 and help stimulate the limbic
system, aka the emotional center, of your brain.
secretions of antibodies, serotonin, endorphins and
neurotransmitters which can influence your mood and emotions. 5
Quality frankincense oil is nontoxic and generally nonirritating.
6 That said, it's always best to perform a skin test
before using it undiluted on your body.
Should any irritation occur,
be sure to dilute it with a carrier oil.
Health Benefits of Frankincense Oil
Anecdotally, many swear by its healing powers, and substances found
in frankincense essential oil - such as
acid - have been scientifically shown to impart a number of health
benefits, including: 7
Speeding up wound
Fight the appearance of stretch marks, age spots and wrinkles
Reducing inflammation and inflammatory conditions such as
rheumatoid arthritis 10 and bronchial asthma 11,
Reducing stress hormones
Boosting immune function
Improving oral health by preventing bad breath, cavities,
toothaches, mouth sores and other infections 17, 18
Supporting uterine health in women by regulating estrogen
production. It also helps regulate the menstrual cycle in
premenopausal women 19
Treating respiratory issues such as colds, allergies, asthma and
bronchitis by reducing phlegm buildup and congestion 20,
Improving digestion and treating digestive disorders such as
chronic colitis, ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease 22
23, 24, 25, 26,
Frankincense is also one of the best oils to use for the removal of
One recent study 29
confirmed that frankincense essential oil is bioactive and affects
human gene expression, upregulating at least 42 and downregulating
41 genes, stating that,
"Many of these signaling pathways are closely
related to the biological processes of inflammation, immune
response, and tissue remodeling in human cells."
also noted that:
"Alpha-pinene, the top constituent of FREO [frankincense essential
oil], is widely recognized as the major anti-inflammatory component
Alpha-pinene showed anti-inflammatory properties in human
peripheral blood mononuclear cells and mouse macrophages through
inhibition of tumor necrosis factor-α, interleukin-1β, nitric oxide,
and mitogen activated protein kinases.
An in vitro study showed that isolated alpha-pinene had the ability
to reduce the expression of pro-inflammatory cytokines.
study found that alpha-pinene inhibited the nuclear translocation of
NF-kB induced by lipopolysaccharide in THP-1 cells, explaining its
benefits in the treatment of upper and lower airway diseases.
Recent research has also provided evidence that alpha-pinene has
some immune-enhancing properties, particularly regarding enhanced
In two related studies, the effects on human immune function of
essential oils from trees were investigated.
In both studies, 30,
31 it was found that exposure to alpha-pinene
increased T-cell activity and decreased stress hormone levels."
Frankincense Exhibits Cancer Cell-Specific Cytotoxicity
While research is still scarce, a small number of studies have
looked at frankincense oil's anticancer potential, finding positive
A 2011 study 32
looking at alpha-pinene's effect on malignant melanoma, the most
aggressive and dangerous form of skin cancer, found alpha-pinene
induced apoptosis in melanoma cells.
According to the authors:
"Our results demonstrated that α-pinene was able to induce apoptosis
evidenced by early disruption of the mitochondrial potential,
production of reactive oxygen species, increase in caspase-3
activity, heterochromatin aggregation, DNA fragmentation and
exposure of phosphatidyl serine on the cell surface.
Most importantly, this molecule was very effective in the treatment
of experimental metastatic melanoma reducing the number of lung
This is the first report on the apoptotic and antimetastatic activity of isolated α-pinene."
That same year, another study
33 found Boswellia sacra
essential oil induces tumor cell-specific apoptosis in human breast
cancer cells and suppresses tumor aggressiveness.
Here, the authors
"More abundant high molecular weight compounds, including boswellic
acids, were present in Boswellia sacra essential oil prepared at
All three human breast cancer cell lines
were sensitive to essential oil treatment with reduced cell
viability and elevated cell death, whereas the immortalized normal
human breast cell line was more resistant to essential oil
Boswellia sacra essential oil hydrodistilled at 100ºC was more
potent than the essential oil prepared at 78ºC in inducing cancer
cell death, preventing the cellular network formation… causing the
breakdown of multicellular tumor spheroids… and regulating
molecules involved in apoptosis, signal transduction and cell cycle
Similar to our previous observations in human bladder cancer cells,
Boswellia sacra essential oil induces breast cancer cell-specific
Suppression of cellular network formation and disruption of spheroid
development of breast cancer cells by Boswellia sacra essential oil
suggest that the essential oil may be effective for advanced breast
Consistently, the essential oil represses signaling pathways
and cell cycle regulators that have been proposed as therapeutic
targets for breast cancer…"
In 2012, researchers found
34 frankincense essential
oil made from Boswellia sacra induces cell death in human pancreatic
cancer cells as well.
A study 35 published in 2014 reported that frankincense
essential oil selectively induced apoptosis in cancer cells via
NRF-2-mediated oxidative stress.
How to Use Frankincense and Other Essential Oils
Essential oils can be used in a number of different ways.
example, you can:
Add a drop or two to a teaspoonful of your favorite carrier oil;
moringa oil and coconut oil are just two examples of many
Add a few drops of the essential oil to your bath to create an
aromatic soak. Your body may also absorb some of the oil. To prevent
the oil from separating and floating on the surface of the water,
first mix the oil with a small amount of full-fat milk
Apply a drop or two of frankincense on your pulse points during
meditation or yoga. Keep in mind that while frankincense can be used
neat (undiluted), other oils must be diluted with a carrier oil
before applying to your skin
Apply a few drops of oil to a hot compress
Diffuse the oil in a diffuser or vaporizer made specifically for
essential oils (do not add to standard humidifiers)
Quality Is of the Essence
When it comes to essential oils, quality is paramount.
First of all,
what we're talking about here is pure, therapeutic grade essential
oils from plants, not synthetic fragrance oils or perfumes, which
can be toxic and typically contain allergenic compounds.
But even among essential oils the quality can vary widely, and
assessing the quality of any given brand can be difficult, as
factors such as growing conditions and methods of harvesting,
distillation, manufacture and storage can all affect the final
Boswellia trees can produce different colored resins.
and muddy frankincense are touted as the cheapest and most readily
accessible, while silver and clear frankincense are considered
The University of
Minnesota 36 offers helpful guidance regarding
international standard-setting agencies and considerations to take
into account when looking for an essential oil.
One of the most important considerations is to look for a statement
What you're looking for is 100 percent essential oil
(meaning it has not been diluted, altered or mixed with anything
Price can be a tipoff. If it's really cheap, it's probably a
reflection of poor quality.
Improve Your Health With Frankincense Essential Oil
Frankincense oil is probably one of the safest and most beneficial
essential oils you can use to support your health.
It may also be a
good choice if you want to improve your prayer or meditation
sessions, as it helps promote feelings of peace, comfort and
relaxation, as well as combating stress.
Despite its safety, it may not be suitable for everyone.
experience any kind of adverse reaction, stop using it. Always do a
small skin patch test before using on larger areas of your body, and
dilute if needed.
According to the National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy,
frankincense essential oil diluted with a carrier oil is safe to use
during pregnancy, and Autism Parenting magazine recommends it
for children on the autism spectrum and/or for those with attention
deficit hyperactivity disorder. 37
Using Essential Oils
Safely 38 also lists frankincense as an essential oil
safe to use for children.
That said, according to RxList, 39 frankincense oil may
There are also
indications that boswellia may have blood-thinning effects, and also
can interfere with prescription anticoagulants such as warfarin,
40 so people with blood clotting issues should use it
Sources and References