Essential oils have a long therapeutic history, commonly used to promote health, improve concentration and treat a range of symptoms. The oils come from plant leaves, stems and roots, all of which are associated with various health properties.
Of these, frankincense is often considered to be the king. This reputation is partly associated with the aroma of the oil but is mostly to do with the benefits that it offers.
So then, what is frankincense good for and how can you take advantage of it?
What is Frankincense Essential Oil Anyway?
Frankincense itself is a type of aromatic resin that comes from a collection of trees in the Boswellia family. In particular, there are four key species that produce true frankincense and the resin comes in a range of grades.
The frankincense resin has a role in traditional medicine and is thought to offer health benefits.
For example, in African and Asian traditional medicine, the resin is sometimes consumed and thought to help improve digestion and the skin. Likewise, other traditional approaches involve burning frankincense daily.
Frankincense essential oil represents a modern way to get access to health benefits from the frankincense resin. The oil is typically produced through steam distillation and tends to have a balsamic sweet aroma.
As with other essential oils, frankincense is particularly relevant for stimulating the limbic system of the brain. This system plays a key role in mood and emotion. The limbic system also influences the body’s nervous system, providing a mechanism for significant health benefits.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at some of the key uses for frankincense and how this particular essential oil can be so relevant for your health.
What is Frankincense Good For?
Like any essential oil, frankincense offers a considerable range of benefits. In this post, we’re not focusing on all of these. Instead, we’re looking at the health benefits and ways to use frankincense well.
A Stress Relief Agent
Frankincense oil has significant stress relieving properties and there are various ways to take advantage of this. One option is to add a few drops to a bath, which can also help you relax and feel at peace.
Another approach is to use frankincense in a diffuser around the home. Doing so means that the aroma is in the air and can help you maintain good emotional balance and lower anxiety as well. This may be particularly important for people who have busy and stressful home lives, as well as those who may be studying for exams or something similar.
Inhaling frankincense has also been associated with lowering the heart rate and decreasing blood pressure by an associated mechanism. This is powerful because the oil doesn’t have the same side effects as most prescription medications.
Can Improve Sleep
Because frankincense can help lower stress and anxiety, it is also a good tool for helping people to sleep. In particular, the scent can make it easier to fall asleep and also serves to keep the airways open.
Multiple essential oils have similar effects and can complement one another. As such, using a blend in a diffuser or even on your pillow can often be the best outcome.
For example, lavender is well-known for promoting sleep and is the most common essential oil used for this purpose.
So, you could use a simple blend of lavender and frankincense to help promote sleep, or you may add in other oils as well.
Helps Boost the Immune System and Help with Colds
Frankincense is relevant to colds and the flu in a few different ways. For one thing, the essential oil can help improve the immune system. Doing so makes it easier for your body to fight off an infection and reduces your chance of getting sick in the first place.
At the same time, frankincense can provide direct relief from some symptoms, including helping to reduce phlegm and opening the airways. For those benefits, using a diffuser is a powerful option, although you can also just add some of the oil to a cloth and inhale it that way.
Decreases Inflammation and Pain
Frankincense is also powerful as a way to lower inflammation and pain (1,2). Such a practice is particularly relevant because many of the anti-inflammatory medications that people rely on come with significant side effects and can increase the risk of health problems.
In contrast, frankincense acts as a natural alternative and a powerful way to complement an anti-inflammatory diet.
To take advantage of this, many people include frankincense oil in lotions or creams. You can also just add a few drops to a carrier oil and massage it in directly.
Soaking a towel in a mixture of essential oil and water, then resting that towel on a painful area can also help. This is especially powerful if you deal with muscle or joint pain.
Can Improve Digestion
Another interesting area is digestion. Frankincense may be significant in a range of areas here, including reducing stomach cramps and pain, decreasing nausea and helping to fight bloating (3). By doing so, frankincense can also lower some of the symptoms associated with diseases like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), Crohn’s disease and leaky gut syndrome (4).
This effect is thought to happen through a range of mechanisms, including increases in urine production, the relaxation of digestive tract muscles and improvements to circulation (5).
May Help with Hormones
The outcomes above also mean that frankincense works well to relieve cramping associated with menstruation.
Furthermore, frankincense may help to balance hormone levels. Doing so can have a range of impacts, including reducing mood swings, anxiety and fatigue, especially during menopause and menstruation.
As a House Cleaner
Frankincense has natural antiseptic properties, making it great for cleaning. At the same time, the aroma is more appealing and natural than many other options. Taking this approach is particularly powerful if you are trying to avoid all the chemicals that come in conventional cleaning products.
A recipe at The Prairie Homestead also highlights how you can use frankincense to freshen linen because of the same properties. That post also offers insight into other ways you can use essential oils for cleaning.
As a Personal Hygiene Option
The same advantages that make frankincense good for cleaning the house also make it perfect for natural hygiene products. So, you can easily use frankincense in recipes for natural alternatives to body scrubs and even toothpaste.
For that matter, some people advocate mixing the oil with baking soda to create a natural toothpaste. But, as always, if you’re going to do so, pay close attention to the way that your body responds.
For Improving Skin Health and Appearance
Frankincense oil is often used to help improve the skin in a number of ways. For example, it has been associated with better wound healing and making scars less significant. In a similar way, the oil may help fight other types of skin blemish, such as stretch marks and eczema.
By extension, frankincense is also used to fight the signs of aging. Some people find that the oil can help decrease the appearance of wrinkles and lift skin that has become saggy.
This outcome can be simply achieved by mixing a few drops of the oil with a base oil or lotion (like shea butter or coconut oil) and then rubbing it directly on the skin. You shouldn’t do so on broken or damaged skin but the process is fine for skin that is healing.
As with any product you use on the skin, make sure you test a small area first to make sure there are no side effects or allergic reactions.
Could Help Fight Cancer
More research is needed in this area, of course. Still, the outcome does offer more evidence that frankincense is a powerful essential oil.
Frankincense Oil Recipes
The most common way to use any essential oil is through burning it or via a diffuser. Of those options, a diffuser offers more benefits overall, as burning an essential oil can alter the structure somewhat, which then impacts the benefits that it has for health.
But, there are many other uses too.
For one thing, frankincense oil is commonly blended with carrier oils like shea butter or coconut oil. Doing so helps to dilute the oil, which makes it more practical for uses like spreading on your skin.
You can also blend frankincense with other types of essential oils, depending on what outcomes you’re looking for. There is no shortage of such combinations out there and what you choose.
Realistically, the potential applications are almost endless, simply because there are so many different oils out there, along with other ingredients that you can add them too.
However, the site called A Delightful Home can be a great place to start, as they offer recipes for 20 different frankincense oil blends that can help. At the same time, the site has a list of various homemade products that you can make with frankincense oil, such as face cream and body butter.
Another example is the video below, which highlights a recipe for making ginger, frankincense and myrrh arthritis cream. This type of cream can work well for many people, especially as ginger does have anti-inflammatory properties.
You can also find a good recipe for frankincense body butter on a site called Pure Skin Blog. Finally, we compile a range of recipes and infographics about essential oils on our Nutrition You Can Use Pinterest board, so you can check out that board for ideas and inspiration.
Frankincense Side Effects
Like most essential oils, frankincense is well-tolerated and considered safe overall. This is particularly true when you compare it to medications, which often have many different side effects.
However, research into this field is still relatively new, so it’s important to proceed with care.
With that in mind, you typically need to use essential oils in a diluted form. When undiluted they can potentially cause irritation to the skin, especially for people who have sensitive skin. Using a carrier like coconut oil helps to get around this, and most recipes for essential oils do involve some degree of dilution.
Additionally, it’s important to take care if you plan to ingest the oil. Many people do support the idea of taking essential oils internally, although there is a considerable amount of debate about the safety and efficacy of doing so.
At Nutrition You Can Use, we recommend doing so sparingly, if at all. Realistically, essential oils are expensive and there is relatively little evidence that ingesting them offers significant benefits.
If you do plan to ingest them, make sure you use a formulation that actually disperses the oil. For example, simply putting essential oil in water won’t help and there is a risk that doing so will harm your mouth or throat. The site The Hippy Homemaker offers some information about ways to avoid this issue if you do plan to ingest the essential oil.
Finally, frankincense is associated with blood thinning. As such, you would need to talk to your doctor first if you have any issues with blood clotting or are on medication that has a similar effect.
If you’ve never used this type of oil before, our beginner’s guide to essential oils can be a great place to start. That post highlights many of the reasons that people use this type of oil, along with key ways to get started.
But, not everybody falls into that category. Instead, many people may have used essential oils before or might be specifically interested in frankincense.
With that in mind, there is no shortage of options for buying the oils, along with many high-quality products out there. In most cases, Amazon is a good place to start, especially as it offers an indication of what people think of individual products.
One good option is the brand Healing Solutions, which provides this essential oil:
The brand is an appealing one partly because it gets such a large amount of positive feedback. At the same time, the company has a strong emphasis on testing and using quality controls for their oils.
Now, because the essential oils industry is so unregulated, there is no way to guarantee that you get what the labeling claims. However, this oil can be a good place to start.
Some other people prefer going through brands like doTERRA.
The company can be a little frustrating, as they use a direct sales model and have excessively high prices. But, that aspect also means that there is more transparency than most other essential oil companies and doTERRA does produce high-quality oil.
With that in mind, as long as you get a legitimate seller, doTERRA can be a good way to go.
But, regardless of the brand you choose, pay close attention to the wording. In particular, anything that says perfume oil or fragrance oil is likely to be synthetic or adulterated. As such, the oil may not offer all the same benefits.
Additionally, be wary of the claims that any brand makes. For example, companies often claim to have therapeutic grade essential oil or oil that has been certified. But, essential oil is an unregulated industry – so the claims don’t really mean anything.
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