Essential oils have served as natural remedies for thousands of years. In fact, as early
as 4,500 B.C., the ancient Egyptians have been using aromatic oils distilled from plants to make healing salves, ointments, perfumes and other cosmetics. They also used pure, natural oils to purify the air during religious rituals and ceremonies and offered
them as fragrant sacrifices to their gods. Certain essential oils like cedarwood oil were even used in mummification for their preservative effects.
In the Eastern world, the use of essential oils dates back to between 3000 and 2000 B.C. During this period, ancient Chinese and Indian healers were said to have relied on aromatic oils derived from medicinal
herbs such as ginger, cinnamon, sandalwood and myrrh to support the body’s natural healing processes. In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), essential oils are believed to have the power to invigorate or sedate both mind and body.
Meanwhile in the western world, the first use of essential oils was documented between 500 and 400 B.C. The ancient Greeks extracted oils from edible herbs such as thyme, cumin, peppermint, marjoram and saffron
and thoroughly studied their healing properties. Like the ancient Chinese, they believed that these fragrant oils can be used for harmonizing, balancing and supporting the body’s natural defenses.
The ancient Greeks also used essential oils to make therapeutic incense. But instead of extracting them from the leaves or flowers of certain plants, they harvested aromatic resins from trees or shrubs and
burned them on charcoal blocks to release the strong fragrance of their essential oils. This method is one of the oldest examples of aromatherapy in ancient times. Some of the most popular resins used by the ancient Greeks were pine resin (amber), camphor,
fir, myrrh and frankincense.
The wonderful health-supporting properties of Frankincense Serrata
Frankincense is a fragrant spice well-known
today for its Biblical connection. In the Old Testament, frankincense was one of the spices Moses was instructed to gather and use to make holy incense for the Tabernacle. Frankincense was also one of the precious gifts the magi brought with them to offer
to the baby Jesus. At the time, frankincense was worth more than gold. While many scholars believe it was used to symbolize Jesus’ divinity, there’s more to frankincense known of its value and perceived meaning.
Frankincense resin is sourced from trees that belong to the genus Boswellia. Of the many known Boswellia species, only six produce resins that can be used as incense. But because these trees only grow in remote parts
of Asia and Africa, and the process of harvesting their resin is time-consuming, frankincense still commands a steep price even today. The six main sources of this valuable resin are B. carterii, which is native to East Africa and
the Dhorfar valley of Oman; B. frereana and B. thurifera, which can be found in Somalia; B. sacra, which is native to Oman, Yemen and Somalia; B. papyrifera, which grows in Ethiopia, Eritrea and
Sudan; and B. serrata, which can only be found in India.
Said to be the oldest documented frankincense in the world, frankincense serrata, or Indian frankincense, is believed to be the frankincense mentioned in the Bible. Frankincense serrata is best-known for its ability to support healthy, glowing
skin, which is why it is highly recommended as part of a natural skincare routine. It also has a brighter citrus aroma than other types of frankincense.
According to studies, the chemical composition of frankincense
is influenced by environmental factors, such as geography, climate, soil and time of harvest. Because different types of frankincense grow in different environments, they contain different bioactive and aromatic components. This is why they have their own
distinct smells and health benefits. Frankincense serrata owes many of its beneficial properties to a-thujene, a monoterpene that’s also found in eucalyptus. Frankincense serrata essential oil is said to contain up to 65% a-thujene.
Frankincense serrata also contains beneficial compounds called
Boswelli acids. These pentacyclic triterpenes can be found in the oleo-gum resin harvested from Boswellia trees. The oleo-gum resin refers to the mixture of volatile oils, tree gum and resin that oozes out of Boswellia trees. Aside from waiting
for substantial amounts to come out, harvesters also wait an additional three months or so for this mixture to dry and harden before it can be sold as frankincense. Pure frankincense essential oil can be extracted from the dried oleo-gum resin using hydrodistillation
or steam distillation.
Four major boswellic acids are present
in frankincense serrata resin: B-boswellic acid (BBA), acetyl-B-boswellic acid (ABA), 11-keto-B-boswellic acid (KBA) and 3-O-acetyl-11-keto-B-boswellic acid (AKBA). According to a study published
in the journal Neurological Sciences, the BBA in frankincense serrata can support the healthy functions of nerve cells. Other studies, on the other hand, have shown that KBA, ABA and AKBA can support the healthy functions of various immune
Health benefits of using Frankincense Serrata Essential Oil
Unbeknownst to many, frankincense resin is actually edible and is sometimes
used orally to address problems related to digestion. But some types, like frankincense serrata, has a bitter taste and may also contain black or brown impurities, so only high-grade, translucent pieces of dried frankincense resin are recommended for internal
consumption. When chewed like a gum, studies show that frankincense resin can also support optimal oral health.
Although some reports suggest that frankincense essential oil does not contain boswellic acids, recent studies have found ways to extract oils from frankincense resin that contain high amounts of boswellic
acids. One such study, published in the journal BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine, reported a viable way of obtaining essential oil fractions with high boswellic acid content using hydrodistillation.
Thanks to its incredible health benefits and many uses, some aromatherapists have dubbed the essential oil derived from frankincense resin as the “King of Oils.” Diffusing frankincense essential
oil and applying it topically after proper dilution in a carrier oil are two of the safest and most effective ways to enjoy the oil’s health-supporting properties. Here are some of the wonderful things frankincense serrata essential oil can do for you:
- Support healthy joint function and mobility – In a randomized, placebo-controlled study published in the journal Arthritis Research & Therapy, researchers
found that the AKBA in frankincense serrata can support healthy joints and cartilage by protecting them against enzymes that break down collagen. Collagen is a structural protein that serves as the main component of your articular cartilage, which helps
your joints move smoothly. An earlier study published in the journal Phytomedicine also reported that frankincense serrata extracts can support optimal joint function and mobility.
- Support healthy respiratory function – According to research, frankincense serrata has a long history of use as a folk remedy for supporting the respiratory system. A
study published in the Natural Products Journal found that frankincense serrata has bioactive components that can exert a relaxant effect on your trachea, or windpipe, which transports air to and from your lungs. This means that
diffusing and inhaling frankincense serrata essential oil can help you breathe more easily.
- Support healthy glowing skin – Your skin also benefits from the protective effects of
AKBA against collagen-degrading enzymes. As one of your skin’s building blocks, collagen plays an important role in preventing your skin from sagging. An Italian study published in Planta Medica confirms this and notes that
the boswellic acids in frankincense serrata can help keep your skin soft, smooth and firm. Meanwhile, a study published in the journal Frontiers in Physiology found that frankincense serrata can also protect against enzymes that
dissolve hyaluronic acid. A naturally occurring compound, hyaluronic acid is crucial for maintaining healthy, younger-looking skin because it helps keep your skin moisturized.
- Support the body’s natural defenses – Because your skin is home to different types of immune cells, it can be considered an active immune organ whose main function is to
serve as a physical barrier against external threats. According to a study published in Letters in Applied Microbiology, frankincense serrata essential oil can provide invaluable support to your immune system, thanks to bioactive components
like a-thujene and p-cymene. These phytochemicals possess beneficial properties that can support the protective functions of your skin. A study published in the journal Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity also
reported that the AKBA in frankincense serrata can support healthy immune regulation.
- Support healthy teeth and gums – Frankincense serrata essential oil is an excellent natural product to use to support optimal oral health. According to a study published in the journal BMC
Research Notes, the boswellic acids in frankincense serrata, particularly AKBA, can help you maintain healthy teeth and gums, thanks to their potent biological activities. In fact, the researchers believe that frankincense serrata essential
oil has great potential for use in all-natural, non-toxic mouthwashes.
- Support healthy sleep patterns – Frankincense serrata essential oil is one of the most widely
used aromatic oils for aromatherapy because of its amazing benefits. Besides rejuvenating your mind and body, frankincense serrata essential oil’s unique scent can also induce feelings for relaxation. This makes it a great essential oil to
diffuse in your bedroom to help you get deep and restful sleep.
- Naturally uplift mood – Aside from boswellic acids and a-thujene, frankincense serrata contains a bioactive
compound called incensole acetate that can positively influence certain ion channels in your brain involved in emotional regulation. This means that when diffused in the air, the incensole acetate in frankincense serrata essential oil can help reduce
anxious feelings and naturally uplift your mood.
- Has natural cleansing properties – On top of their health benefits, boswellic acids have natural cleansing properties that make frankincense
serrata essential oil the perfect non-toxic cleaning agent to use around your home. Take advantage of frankincense’s unique properties by using it in combination with myrrh essential oil. You can also diffuse frankincense serrata essential oil to purify
and freshen the air in your home so you can breathe more easily.
October 14, 2022 Denis I