The Story Of Sacred Frankincense Essential Oil

Frankincense (meaning “true incense” in French) is one of the oils that I take with me everywhere I go.

It is quite a watery essential oil so I often mix it with myrrh oil which is so thick and resinous that given enough time it will dry and cause the cap of my oil bottle to seize so badly I can’t open it without using pliers.

The blend of frankincense and myrrh produces a near perfect harmony.

I will talk about myrrh oil in an upcoming post.

Individually these oils produce a state of near euphoria in me and the mixture, a state of what I can only call “grounded elation”.

The 3 Wise Men brought to the Christ child the gifts of frankincense, gold and myrrh, the most precious commodities of the time.

Frankincense comes from the sap of the Boswellia sacra tree, which grows in the harsh desert environments of the southern Arabian peninsula and Somalia. Most of the trees in the Boswellia genus are aromatic, and many of them produce a scented resinous sap, but only one tree, the Boswellia sacra, produces the highest grade of frankincense, also known as “true” or “commercial” incense.

Boswellia sacra, the frankincense tree

Harvesters slash the bark and let the resin bleed out and harden. The dried sap, or resin, is called frankincense “tears.” The resin is then steam distilled to produce the frankincense essential oil.

The sap of the Boswellia tree is collected.

For more than 5,000 years frankincense has been a prized treasure throughout much of the world. Because of the high demand for frankincense from Europe to Asia, the kingdoms of southern Arabia became an integral part of global economy with shipping connections to India, the Mediterranean and the Silk Road.

In ancient times frankincense was considered an effective remedy for everything from toothaches to leprosy and was valued as highly as gold.

The dried sap or frankincense resin

It is believed that the Babylonians and Assyrians burned it during religious ceremonies. Murals depicting the frankincense trade show up on walls of Egyptian temples dating to about 1500 BC.

An Egyptian pharaoh and attendant holding vessels of essential oils.

The ancient Egyptians bought entire boatloads of the resin from the Phoenicians, using them as incense, insect repellent, perfume and salves for wounds and sores. It was also used as a key ingredient in the embalming process.

According to the book of Exodus, frankincense and myrrh were components of the holy anointing oil and the incense ritually burned in Jerusalem’s sacred temples. The ancient Greeks and Romans also imported massive amounts of the resins, which they burned as incense, used during cremations and took for a wide variety of ailments.

The Boswellia tree has also been cultivated in southern China and frankincense has been a staple of traditional Chinese medicine since at least 500 B.C.

To this day frankincense is still used in Catholic and Orthodox Christian church services around the world.


For over 20 years I have tested many many essential oil brands. I use only the finest grade, made by Young Living.

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