Featured image: Boswellia serrata (Indian Frankincense tree) Photo: Sudhir Ahluwalia
Frankincense’s medicinal properties are in its resin. It is produced from multiple Boswellia species, the aromas of whichNumerousultiple references to frankincense in the Bible indicate its importance. The King James Bible contains 113 references to incense and 17 references to frankincense.
Frankincense was a natural insecticide used by ancient Egyptians to fumigate wheat and grain stores and deter moths. In Arabia, they burned resin to keep mosquitoes and sand flies away. According to a reference in the Talmud, frankincense was given to intoxicating criminals before putting them to death.
The antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, and anticarcinogenic properties of oleoresin have also been tested and validated in animal trials. Treatment with the essential oil of frankincense enhanced cell death and decreased the growth of human breast cancer and skin cancer cells, indicating possible pharmaceutical use.
Tests conducted on the fungi Aspergillus flavus and Aspergillus parasiticus reveal that the resin and oil of B. sacra reduce carcinogenic and other harmful effects of the fungus, validating its traditional use as a food preservative. The essential oil, which is distilled from gum crystals, is used in aromatherapy and massage oils and sold under various trade formulations. It has a soothing effect on the nerves and takes four to six hours to evaporate, properties that make it a useful fixative in incense making.
Scientific studies by Blain et al. (2010) validate the antimicrobial property of B. frereana, although it was less than that of B. sacra. The anti-inflammatory property of B. frereana has also been researched and validated, but further evaluation is needed.
This is just a preview of the medicinal properties of frankincense. This is a well-studied species. The plant’s true importance lies in its spirituality that is associated with it than in its therapeutic value. You can check here to learn more about frankincense and other herbs mentioned in the Bible.