The History of Frankincense

When many of us think about Frankincense we immediately think of the Bible and the Wise Men giving it to Jesus. Frankincense certainly has a long history and is one of the more well known essential oils. Frankincense, which is also known as olibanum or oil of Lebanon is grown mainly in Oman and Somalia. Many of the Omani and Somali people chew the resin and are said to have beautiful teeth.

It comes from the sap like substance from a tree. The bark of the Frankincense tree is cut three times to ensure purity of the resin that is harvested.

It is one of the most adulterated essential oils in the world as it is quite expensive and many companies add other substances to it to make it go further. In some cases it is merely jojoba oil that is added and sold as a 3% dilution. However some unscrupulous companies add alcohol and even chemicals such as propylene glycol.

Arab traders supplied the great civilizations of Egyptand Mesopotamia with Frankincense. They learnt about chemistry and medicine from the Greeks and for centuries they were the world leaders in these areas. Frankincense is mentioned in one of the oldest known medical records, the Ebers Papyrus, dating back to the 16th Century BC.

Ancient Egyptians called the Frankincense resin ‘tears or sweat of the gods’. When Tutankhamen’s tomb was opened in 1922 they found pots containing Frankincense and Myrrh. They used Frankincense for embalming bodies, particularly the head, as well as keeping their skin supple in the searing dry heat.

The Mesopotamians used Frankincense in their rituals and traces of it have been found on top of high mountains as they liked to perform these rituals as high up as possible. They would burn huge amounts of resin and incense to attract the gods and goddesses. The Frankincense resin has long been used in the making of incense all over the world.

Frankincense has a sweet, warm, balsamic aroma that is stimulating and elevating to the mind. Useful for visualising, improving one’s spiritual connection and centring, it has comforting properties that help with focusing the mind on the positive.

In the Souk in Cairo, people make a living going from shop to shop with Frankincense burners dispelling negative energy from previous customers and attracting new ones in.

Frankincense is used in the censers in the Catholic Church to bring about an increased sense of spirituality. It is a symbol of the prayer of the faithful rising to heaven.

Frankincense essential oil is used in aromatherapy and perfumery. It is a common ingredient in skincare.

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