Essential oils are literally the essence of a plant. They are made using a distillation process, from the seeds, barks, stems, roots, and flowers of a plant. They are very concentrated, and as well as giving plants their unique aroma, they also aid pollination, and provide us with some excellent health benefits.
Essential oils are commonly used in aromatherapy practices, as they contain aromatic compounds that help them to diffuse quickly into the air. They then interact with the olfactory sensors in our noses, and they reach the brain quickly. Smells can evoke emotional reactions, so that’s why certain scents can calm us or lift our mood.
How are essential oils used?
Oils can be used alone or as a blend, depending on the effect desired by the user. Here are the most common and effective ways that essential oils are used:
Scent can bring about strong emotional responses. Essential oils are absorbed quickly by the receptors that are responsible for our sense of smell. They can have a powerful effect on our mood, memory, and behaviour. Some oils are used to lift mood, others are used for their calming or relaxing effects. You can put oils in a diffuser to fill a room with the fragrance, you can put a few drops of oil in your palm or on a handkerchief and simply inhale it, or you can mix it with some water in a spray bottle to create your own fragrance spray for a room or for linen.
Topical application is an effective method for applying essential oils. They easily penetrate the skin and offer a localised benefit. They are effective when used in massages, as the increased circulation will distribute them more readily around the body. Remember that some oils can cause skin sensitivity though, so always dilute them with a carrier oil such as sweet almond oil first. Start off using small amounts, and it is a good idea to do a patch test on the skin on your upper arm first. If no sensitivity develops, the oil is likely to be safe to use. You can also add oil to your bath or to your favourite body lotion. Always avoid the eyes and the ears, and any areas of broken or damaged skin.
Some essential oils are used on cooking, and some are used as dietary supplements for health conditions. When taken internally, the effects of the oils are systemic due to the fact that the oils enter the bloodstream quickly through the walls of the gut. Remember to always follow instructions on recommended dosage as some oils are toxic at certain levels. Use essential oils in cooking in place of dried herbs or spices, add them to water, milk, or tea, or take them in capsule form.
Think of frankincense and you probably think of the gift that one of the three wise men gave to the baby Jesus. The oil is still used in religious practices today, but it also has many uses in aromatherapy and health.
Frankincense is also known as olibanum and it belongs to the Boswellia family of trees. The tree sap is milky white and it is extracted from the tree bark, allowed to harden, and then scraped off. This is then distilled with steam to produce the essential oil.
Boswellia trees grow in Africa and Arab regions, such as in the Yemen, Oman, Somalia, and Ethiopia. Frankincense has been cultivated and traded in Oman for thousands of years. Frankincense oil as we know it is sourced mainly from the resin of the Boswellia carterii and Boswellia sacara tree that’s commonly grown in Somalia. This tree is different from many others in that it is particularly hardy and it can grow with very little soil in dry and desolate conditions.
The word frankincense comes from “franc encens,” which means ‘quality incense’ in old French. Frankincense is clear and silvery in colour, though sometimes has a green tinge. Brown-yellow varieties are available too, and they are cheaper and more accessible. Frankincense is traditionally burned as incense, and was charred and ground into a powder to produce the heavy kohl eyeliner used by ancient Egyptian women. Frankincense oil has a woody, spicy, and fruity scent, which is known for being calming and relaxing.
Uses of Frankincense Oil
Frankincense oil is commonly used in the Middle East, where it has been used in religious ceremonies and rituals for thousands of years. It was commonly used in cosmetics used by the ancient Egyptians.
In aromatherapy, frankincense oil is used as a sedative which helps to relieve anxiety, stress, and irritability. Another common use for the oil is as a skincare oil. It promotes healthy skin by helping cells to regenerate, treating dry skin, reducing the appearance of scars, and stretch marks, and the signs of ageing. It is also used to heal skin wounds and treat insect bites.
Compounds in the oil called monoterpenes and sesquiterpenes give it most of its health benefits. The monoterpenes have been found to aid the liver to detox, and they have antibacterial and analgesic properties. Sesquiterpenes have a neuroprotective effect and they can help to regulate the glands responsible for regulating hormones.
The Benefits of Frankincense Oil
Frankincense is thought of as a tonic as it may be beneficial to all systems of the body. Here are just some of its amazing health benefits:
It’s a potent anti-inflammatory
Research carried out by Cardiff University found that frankincense can inhibit the production of inflammatory molecules in the body, which can damage the tissues, especially cartilage. Animal studies have found that the oil works well as a natural painkiller for people who have arthritis. For joint and muscle pain, massage the oil into the affected area, or add the oil to a diffuser in your home and relax. You can also make a compress by adding a few drops of oil to a washcloth soaked in warm water. Apply the cloth to the affected areas.
As well as working on the joints and muscles, it is effective for reducing inflammation associated with conditions such as asthma, and inflammatory bowel conditions.
It can relieve the symptoms of coughs and cold
Next time you have an irritating and unpleasant respiratory infection from a cold or flu, think about using frankincense oil. It can relieve a cough and it can help to get rid of phlegm from the lungs. It also helps to unblock the nasal passages and the airways. Just add a few drops of oil to a cloth and inhale to reap the benefits. The oil can also be put into a diffuser.
It can keep your mouth healthy
The antiseptic properties of frankincense oil can help to prevent bad breath, cavities, toothaches, mouth ulcers and other infections. Some natural oral care products contain frankincense oil or you can even mix some oil with baking soda to make a natural and effective toothpaste.
It can relieve digestive problems
If you have any digestive problems, such as gas, constipation, stomach aches, irritable bowel syndrome, or another inflammatory bowel condition, frankincense oil can bring you some relief. It helps to speed up the digestion of food, which keeps the gut healthy, working properly, and prevents constipation. Add one to two drops of the oil to eight ounces of water or to a tablespoon of honey and drink it for relief of digestive discomfort.
Frankincense oil regulates estrogen production in women and helps reduce the risk of tumours or cysts forming after menopause. For women of childbearing age, it can help to regulate the menstrual cycle.
Frankincense oil is being studied for its potential to treat cancer. Scientists are researching a compound in the oil that might help to stop cancer from spreading. A 2012 study suggested that a chemical compound found in frankincense called AKBA could kill cancer cells which have not responded to chemotherapy.
When Frankincense oil is inhaled, it has been shown to reduce heart rate and blood pressure, and it can also relieve anxiety and depression. What’s even better, it can do this without giving you the unwanted side effects that are associated with antidepressants and antianxiety drugs. Add a few drops of frankincense oil to a warm bath to reap the stress-relieving benefits. You can also add frankincense oil to a diffuser or vaporiser to help fight anxiety and to create a feeling of relaxation.
It’s an effective disinfectant
Frankincense oil is a natural antiseptic, so it can help to eliminate bacteria and viruses from your home. You can burn the plant to deodorise and disinfect a particular area, or you can put it in a diffuser to get rid of unpleasant smells from your home. Mix it with water to create an effective cleaner for floors and surfaces in your home. It’s a good choice for anyone who wants to reduce the amount of chemicals they use in their home.
It fights the signs of ageing
Frankincense essential oil is a powerful weapon to have in your skincare arsenal. It acts as an astringent which means that it can reduce the size of pores and blemishes, it can prevent wrinkles and can tighten the skin, which loses elasticity as we age. Mix 6 drops of oil to 1 ounce of unscented oil and apply it directly to the skin. Be sure to always do a small patch test first on the skin of your upper arm to test for possible allergic reactions or sensitivity. The oil has been shown to fade scars and stretch marks too.
It helps to boost immunity
Studies have shown that frankincense oil has immune boosting properties that may help to kill bacteria and viruses, and inhibit the growth of cancer cells.
It can balance hormones
Frankincense oil reduces unpleasant symptoms associated with menstruation and menopause by balancing hormone levels. It can help to relieve pain, cramps, constipation, headaches, anxiety, nausea, fatigue and mood swings, which can be distressing.
It can promote a good night’s sleep
Frankincense essential oil helps to combat any underlying anxiety or stress that can keep you up at night. It has a calming scent that helps you to fall asleep naturally.
How can you use frankincense oil?
The health benefits of frankincense oil can be experienced by applying it topically, inhaling it using a diffuser or vaporiser, or ingesting it. For pain relief, massage the oil onto the affected areas. Using a diffuser or vaporiser can help to treat colds and clear the airways. You can also apply a few drops on a wash cloth and inhale the scent or add it to your bathwater for a relaxing bath soak.
Frankincense oil can be directly applied to the skin or blended with other carrier oils such as jojoba or sweet almond oil and used as a massage blend.
Is frankincense oil safe?
Frankincense is generally safe. Though even though the oil is a natural product, it contains active compounds which can potentially interact with medications and existing health conditions. It can also cause sensitivity of the skin. To check for this, apply a small amount of the oil to the skin on your upper arm and wait for 24-48 hours to ensure that no adverse reaction occurs. If you are consuming frankincense oil, dilute it with a carrier oil such as coconut oil, some honey, or a glass of water.
Side Effects of Frankincense Oil
Frankincense essential oil does not appear to have any adverse side effects. In large amounts however, it may be toxic.
Rarely, the oil can cause reactions in some people, such as skin rashes and digestive problems like nausea or stomach pains. Frankincense is also known to thin the blood, so anyone who has problems related to blood clotting should not use frankincense oil or should consult their doctor first. The oil can interact with anticoagulant medications. Frankincense essential oil is also not recommended for pregnant women and women who are breastfeeding. It can induce uterine bleeding which can lead to a miscarriage.
Frankincense Oil Recipes
Frankincense oil blends well with carrier oils like jojoba oil, coconut oil or shea butter. It can be mixed with other essential oils to get specific benefits. For example, it blends well with citrus oils to lift the mood and energize, but it also blends well with lavender essential oil as a relaxing, calming blend. Frankincense is versatile and it has many practical applications. Try these homemade frankincense recipes.
Body butter to get rid of scars
- 2 ounces shea butter or coconut oil
- 10 drops of jasmine oil
- 10 drops frankincense oil
- Small container or jar to mix the ingredients
How to make it:
- Melt the shea butter in a bowl over a saucepan of hot water, until it’s liquid.
- Make sure the oil is not too hot, then add the other oils and stir them together to combine. Ideally, heat the shea butter to room temperature.
- You can either apply it on your scar right away, or if you’d like to make it into a cream with a longer shelf life, put it in the fridge until it’s cool, then use a hand blender to blend the oils into a white cream.
- Pour the cream into a glass jar or containers, and keep it at room temperature to use whenever needed.
Relaxing face and body cream
Apply this at night as it helps you to relax and fall asleep. It is also good for fighting skin blemishes while you rest.
- 5 drops frankincense essential oil
- 5 drops lavender essential oil
- 5 tablespoons organic coconut oil
- 1/2 teaspoon olive oil
- Small container or jar to mix the ingredients
How to make it:
Use coconut oil that’s not completely solid. If it’s hard, melt it a little. Add the other oils and stir together to combine. Apply a thin layer to your face and body. Store the cream in a glass jar or container.
Essential oils have long been used for medicinal purposes, as body care products and cosmetics, and in religious ceremonies and healing rituals. They are the essence of nature, made from the distilled parts of a plant, such as the bark, seeds, roots, leaves, or flowers. They contain many active compounds which can benefit health.
Frankincense has great religious significance, and it turns out that it provides its fair share of health benefits too. It is being researched as a potential anti-cancer treatment, it boosts immunity, kills bacteria and viruses, reduces inflammation and combats stress. It can be ingested, inhaled, or applied topically to gain these wonderful benefits and more. The three wise men might have been onto something with frankincense when they offered it as a gift. It is one of nature’s gifts, and it offers us plenty of ways to enhance our health without overloading our bodies with chemicals.