Frankincense: botanical image of the frankincense plant

Frankincense

Boswelia serrata

Family: Burseraceae

Description: A small deciduous tree reaching 2-8m (6-26ft) in height. The young leaves are covered in a fine down, as they mature they become dark-green, and are compound with an odd number of leaflets. Tiny flowers gather in axillary clusters, with five yellow/whitish petals. The fruit is a capsule. The tree starts producing resin when 8-10 years old. Extracted by making a small, shallow incision on the trunk, the milky substance coagulates when it comes into contact with air; collected by hand.

Habit and cultivation: Native to the Arabian Peninsula (Oman, Yemen) and Somalia. It grows at high elevations on perilous, rocky slopes and ravines in chalky soil or directly out the rocks. The young trees yield the most valued gum resin.

Actions (known for): Anti-inflammatory, expectorant and antiseptic.

History: The word franc meant noble or pure. Traded for more than 6,000 years and has been used in religious rites since this time. Used both medicinally and as a perfume, given as a present to Jesus and used to anoint newborn infants and initiates entering new phases of their spiritual lives. The black Kohl (made of the charred resin) has been used as eye shadow since such times.

Parts used: Resin, exuded from bark.

Constituents (bio available chemicals): Gum resin: pentacyclic triterpene acids: B-boswellic acid and aceytl-boswellic acids (acetyl-11-keto-B-boswellic acid and 11-keto-B-boswellic acid). Tetracylic triterpene acids. Also: essential oil, monosaccharrides, uronic acid, sterols and phlobaphenes.

Indications: Inflammatory bowel disease, ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease, arthritis and asthma.

Dosage: 200-400mg 3 x daily

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