The healing ‘tears’ of Frankincense

Why is Frankincense (Boswellia sacra) significant and given as a gift to Jesus in recognition of his Divinity? The reason is that in ancient times Frankincense was just as expensive as gold in terms of weight and is mentioned 22 times in the Bible.

Yet Frankincense is also rich in terms of its healing and therapeutic qualities. The essential oil comes from the dried and distilled resin of the Boswellia tree, grown in Somalia, Ethiopia, the Red Sea and Lebanon. It is extracted by tapping the bark, where the sticky resin exudes and forms ‘tears’ that harden. These ‘tears’ naturally protect the tree from infection and repairs damage and disease and we use it in the same way, to protect and repair our bodies and minds.

Traditionally Frankincense was used as incense in churches and for meditation. It is a balancing oil, calming and sedative, slowing the pace of, and deepening, the breath making it a comforting oil when stressed and anxious. However, it can also be energising as according to the Greek philosopher Pythagoras, Frankincense heightened his senses and awareness, enabling him to prophesise. Culpepper suggested it helped with depression and poor memory, helping strengthen the nervous system. It has a lemony, warm woody aroma which can sometimes be spicy and musky making Frankincense a dynamic oil – both relaxing and stimulating. When Frankincense is burned it produces phenol which is highly antiseptic, historically believed to banish evil spirits from sick rooms. Being rich in monoterpenes it helps clear mucus and catarrh making it expectorant so good for asthma, coughs, bronchitis and laryngitis – perfect for these winter months where our immune systems are low and susceptible.

Frankincense is also a lovely oil for the skin, particularly mature skin, balancing oily skin, it is anti-inflammatory, healing scars, wounds and sores – similar to how the resin ‘tears’ repair damage to wounds of the tree, we can use the oil to repair damage to human skin. It blends beautifully with Myrrh but also any citrus oil such as Bergamot, orange, lemon, and floral oils like Rose, Geranium, Lavender and Jasmine.

This is an oil gifted by kings given to a future king – if you believe in the Christmas story yet it’s healing, meditative power is far reaching both historically and cross culturally making it a magical oil producing perfect harmony, balance and calm.

Avoid in pregnancy, unsuitable for children and those who are taking immunosuppressant medication.

Bathe in forest Pine

I’m starting Advent with the festive healing scent of Pine (Pinus sylvestris), or Scots Pine as it is known, which has a fresh, woody, resinous – somewhat harsh – aroma. The oil is extracted from the needles of this diamond shaped tree, making it a Christmas tree favourite. It is also the national tree of Scotland.

Like most essential oils, Pine has medicinal qualities. It is rich in monoterpenes making it an excellent expectorant, both anti-viral and bactericidal, therefore good for respiratory congestion such as asthma and bronchitis. It can also have a clearing effect for the common cold. It has wound-healing properties for inflamed skin such as eczema and is an anti-inflammatory for muscular aches and pains, and arthritis. Put 1-2 drops in a burner at this time of year to clear the air and get you into festive mood.

The scent will remind you being in a pine forest because it is the evaporation of the essential oils from the pine needles that creates the scent when you are in a forest environment. For those who are spending more time indoors, when you burn this oil, it will create that space – a healing space – where you can imagine yourself taking a slow, mindful walk through a pine forest and you can experience the sensory power of a forest bath.     

Do not use in pregnancy. It is a very stimulation oil so not recommended for high blood pressure or those with sensitive skin. Consult a doctor or qualified aromatherapist if you have any concerns.