The King of Essential Oils: Frankincense
Written by: Anna Field RN-BC, BSN, RD
With the advent of western medicine and the ever widening reach of the pharmaceutical industry, essential oils are sadly pushed to the side as “complementary and alternative medicine”. Truth be told, though, they were the original pharmaceuticals, with their use documented in written manuscript dating back to 4500 BC. Both left and right, MDs and naturopaths, young and old critics and enthusiasts, agree on one thing: plants are powerful!
Behold frankincense, (boswellia carterii) a potent healing oil with medical properties and many influences on the nervous system and spiritual awareness.
Used as an aromatic, as frankincense oil molecules travel to your nose, olfactory receptor cells are triggered and send an impulse to the olfactory bulb. Olfaction, aka sense of smell, is the only one of the five senses that can have direct, immediate effects on the brain. Depending on the olfactory receptor type that was triggered, the olfactory bulb then transmits impulses to other parts of the brain and limbic system. The limbic system is connected to the parts of the brain that control heart rate, blood pressure, breathing, memory, stress levels, and hormone balance.
Frankincense has a muscle relaxant effect. It soothes tension and tightness in the body when inhaled. A few drops inhaled releases a cascade of relaxation in the body, both physically and emotionally.
Additionally, frankincense has an instant uplifting effect on spirit and attitude. It improves awareness and focus and decreases fatigue. For this reason, frankincense is a great tool for starting your day, starting a project, or a long night of studying. Instead of drinking another caffeinated beverage, reach for frankincense to elevate your mind and spirit!
In a recent scientific research study published in the medical journal Oncotarget, frankincense essential oil exhibited anti-cancer properties in melanoma, a deadly skin cancer. It also suppresses tumor progression in breast cancer in a 2018 research study published in Oncology Reports. What an awe-inspiring, powerful plant it is.
In a fast paced chaotic world, frankincense’s antidepressant effect is truly a lifesaver. Used for its uplifting and anxiety busting properties, this essential oil has the ability to diminish apprehension and create a sense of well-being. This is amazing news for those affected by seasonal affective disorder (SAD), the baby blues, or anyone who needs some extra help snapping out an unsavory mood.
The woody, spicy aroma of frankincense will shift your perspective, create a nourishing environment in your body, and brighten your spirit.
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Hakkim, F, et al. (2019). Frankincense essential oil suppresses melanoma cancer through down regulation of Bcl-2/Bax cascade signaling and ameliorates heptotoxicity via phase I and II drug metabolizing enzymes. Oncotarget. May 28; 10(37): 3472–3490. doi: 10.18632/oncotarget.26930
Kazemian, A., Toghiani, A., Shafei, K, Afshar, H., Rafiei, R., Memari, M. & Adibi, P. (2017). Evaluating the efficacy of mixture of Boswellia carterii, Zingiber officinale, and Achillea millefolium on severity of symptoms, anxiety, and depression in irritable bowel syndrome patients. Journal of Research in Medical Sciences. Nov 28;22:120. doi: 10.4103/jrms.JRMS_905_16.
Life Science Publishing. (2014). Essential oils pocket reference (6th edition). USA.
Ren, P., Ren, X., Cheng, L. & Xu, L. (2018). Frankincense, pine needle and geranium essential oils suppress tumor progression through the regulation of the AMPK/mTOR pathway in breast cancer. Oncology Reports. Jan;39(1):129-137. doi: 10.3892/or.2017.6067