What is Frankincense? A Closer Look

Chances are you have at least heard of frankincense. After all, frankincense resin has been treasured for thousands of years...
What is Frankincense? A Closer Look

Chances are you have at least heard of frankincense. After all, frankincense resin has been treasured for thousands of years by numerous cultures and is even mentioned throughout popular religious texts. In ancient times, the precious substance was valued as much as gold and often associated with kings and royalty. Although frankincense isn’t worth quite as much now as it was back then, it continues to be prized and highly sought after today. But what is frankincense and what makes it so special?

What is Frankincense?

Frankincense comes from several different types of Boswellia trees that grow in dry, rocky, arid regions such as the Arabian Peninsula and Africa. When the trees are damaged, either naturally or by humans in a process called striping, they secrete a thick sap that becomes a hard, golden, aromatic resin when dried. Frankincense resin is often burned as incense for religious, ceremonial, and energetic purposes. (In fact, the term frankincense comes from the Old French, “francencens,” which means “high-quality incense.”) But did you know that it is also useful for medicinal purposes? For example, locals in the regions where frankincense comes from chew on pieces of the resin as a natural form of aspirin. No wonder it is so popular!

Frankincense Oil

When dry frankincense resin is hydro or steam distilled, the oils inside the resin— which give frankincense its remarkable properties— are drawn out and condensed in a cooled container, forming a rich, smoky, beautiful essential oil that has all the benefits of the resin but with even more potential applications.

Frankincense oil is quickly climbing its way up the list of most popular essential oils as more and more people learn about how useful it is. We are confident that after we introduce you to these gorgeous oils, you’ll want to add it to your collection, too!

Benefits & Uses of Frankincense

Now that we have touched upon where frankincense comes from and what it is, let’s talk about some of frankincense’s uses and benefits. Frankincense is available in resin form, essential oil, and hydrosol. But before we get into the individual members of the remarkable frankincense family, here are some of our favorite ways to use it:

  • Usher in peace & tranquility, aid meditation & mindfulness

    • Frankincense can help soothe and reduce stress, encourage emotional healing, and support calmness and reflection.
    • In an inhaler, diffuser, or in any of your favorite blends. Burn the resin in your favorite space. Use the hydrosol as a room or linen spray.
  • Prevent & minimize wrinkles, skin imperfections, & scars

    • Frankincense is very healing and rejuvenating for the skin. it can help regenerate skin cells and contains antioxidant properties, making it excellent for promoting overall skin health.
    • Create your anti-wrinkle serum, scar salve, or add it to any of your favorite skin-nourishing blends.
  • Acne remedy

    • Frankincense is an excellent choice for treating acne, as it has antiseptic qualities while being extraordinarily healing and gentle. Perfect for sensitive skin!
    • Use in a facial serum or lotion, face wash, or facial spray. Try spritzing face with the hydrosol. Combine with lavender for even more acne-busting power!
  • Alleviate minor pain, inflammation, muscle tension, & headaches

    • Frankincense’s anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties make it useful for relieving pain, especially relating to headaches and general muscle tension.
    • Add frankincense to a carrier oil and apply directly to an area of concern. For headaches, apply to the back of neck and forehead. Chew on a piece of the resin for a natural aspirin-like effect.
  • Provide respiratory support

    • Frankincense encourages healthy lung function, helping to open up breathing as well as clear congestion and mucous.
    • Use frankincense oil in an inhaler or diffuser during times of illness or allergies, add to a blend and rub onto the chest, or burn frankincense resin to help promote clear breathing.

The Frankincense Family

Since frankincense can come from a variety of Boswellia trees, it can vary from one type to another in color, quality, and chemical composition. Additionally, climate and region can affect those things, as well. We are very fortunate to offer not only a variety of frankincense products but also several different types of frankincense oil.

Here are all of the pure, organic frankincense products that we carry at Aromatics International. 

1. Frankincense Frereana Oil (Boswellia frereana)

Our frankincense frereana oil — also known as “Maydi”, or “king of all frankincense”— hails from the Daallo Mountains of Somaliland. It has a distinct, deep, earthy, musky aroma. This resin is highly prized and rarely made into an oil. We are so fortunate to offer this remarkable frankincense frereana oil.

Main chemical components:

  • Monoterpenes 82.99%
  • Sesquiterpenes 1.71%
  • Monoterpenols 2.67%

2. Lavender Infused Frankincense Oil (Boswellia carterii/Lavandula angustifolia)

This beautiful oil is distilled from the resin of Boswellia carterii trees of Somaliland and has been infused with beautiful, fragrant lavender buds. This lavender bud infusion gives this gorgeous oil even more calming, balancing, and healing properties! It has a fresh, lemony, woodsy, piney aroma with hints of soothing lavender.

Main chemical components:

  • Monoterpenes 68.79%
  • Ethers 11.79%
  • Esters 2.86%

3. Frankincense Oil (Boswellia carterii)

This oil is distilled from resin from Boswellia carterii trees in Somaliland. It has a beautiful, fresh, lemony, woodsy, piney aroma.

Main chemical components:

  • Monoterpenes 80.33%
  • Ethers 4.84%
  • Esters 2.2%

4. Frankincense Sacra Oil (Boswellia sacra)

The sacra oil is distilled from “Royal Hijari” resin from the Boswellia sacra trees in Oman. It has a warm, radiant, resinous, earthy, and slightly balsamic aroma and is believed to have a higher energetic vibration than carterii oil.

Main chemical components:

  • Monoterpenes 92.44%
  • Sesquiterpenes 1.85%
  • Monoterpenols 1.47%

5. Frankincense Hydrosol (Boswellia carterii)

This delightfully gentle and aromatic hydrosol is distilled from the wildcrafted resin of Boswellia carterii trees. Hydrosols are excellent for those with extra sensitive systems, including children. To learn more about hydrosols, check out our blog, What is a Hydrosol?

6. Frankincense Resin (Boswellia carterii)

This gorgeous, golden resin derived from the Boswellia carterii trees of Somaliland, Africa is beautifully aromatic and perfect for burning as incense for a variety of intended purposes as well as used for medicinal purposes. If you are into meditation, this resin is a must have! If you're new to burning resin, check out this short video highlighting the steps:

Choose Sustainable Frankincense

Sustainability is a significant concern for frankincense production all over the world due to the risk of over-exploitation and unethical harvesting methods that can destroy trees that take decades to replace. When choosing your frankincense, we urge you only to buy oils and resins that have been sustainably produced. Aromatics International is dedicated to finding responsible, ethical distillers and producers and only sources products that have been sustainably harvested and produced. To learn more about how we approach sourcing our products, check out our Aromatics Approach. You can rest assured that all of Aromatics International’s products are sustainably and responsibly produced!

Frankincense Recipes

Whether in resin form or as a beautiful oil, frankincense is truly a treasure. If you haven’t experienced frankincense for yourself, or, perhaps, you have only tried one type, we encourage you to explore the frankincense family. (Be sure to let us know which one is your favorite!) We’ve included some recipes to help get you going.

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Karen Williams


Hi, my name is Karen Williams. As a professional aromatherapist, I love to create amazing blends that inspire and promote a healthier lifestyle. I got my start many years ago as a registered nurse working in the hospital system. But along the way I knew something was missing. I wanted to help people more holistically. Then, I discovered essential oils, and my approach to life changed forever. Now, I’ve made it my mission to share what I’ve learned about aromatherapy with my friends, family, and the world. Because - life is so much better with health, happiness, and community. 

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