A small tree, it has small leaves and pale pink flowers. The whole tree has abundant resin the exudes a milky juice which hardens to "tears" on exposure to the air. The solid "tears" are then collected

A genus of 25 species of evergreen shrubs or small trees, native to tropical regions of Asia and Africa. An oleo-gum resin, known as frankincense, exudes naturally from the bark. Exploited species include B. frereana, B. papyrifera, B. sacra, and B. serrata. Frankincense has been used for cosmetic and medicinal purposes since earliest times, especially as and ingredient in theriacs and panaceas. In one myth, Adam was given, gold, myrrh, and frankincense by God to console him for losing the garden of Eden. It was associated with longevity and memory in Classical times, and burned as an incense to drive away evil spirits. Reliefs (c.1512-1482BCE) on Queen Hatshepsut's temple at Luxor in Egypt show frankincense trees in pots, grown to make rejuvenating face masks.

Resinous, evergreen tree, with papery, peeling bark, and clusters of pinnately-divided leaves, 15-30cm (6-12in) long. Small 5-petaled, creamy white flowers appear in spring, followed by 3-5-angled, red-brown capsules.

Common Name:
Other Names:
Olibanum, mastic tree
Botanical Name:
Boswellia sacra syn. B. carteri
Native Location:
Somalia, Ethiopia, Saudi Arabia, Arabia, Horn of Africa
Well-drained to dry soil in full sun. Prune lightly in early spring.
By semi-ripe cuttings in summer.
Gum resin is collected all year, although quality is dependent on location and season, that from the driest areas in the hottest months, being the finest; it is used fresh or dried for distillation, decoctions, or powders.
Steam Distillation
2-5m (6-15ft)
1-3m (3-10ft)
Min. 10-15°C (50-59°F)
Parts Used:
Gum resin (ru xiang), oil.
Color and Odor:
The essential oil is colorless with a warm, balsamic, spicy aroma that is dry and fortifying with sweet undertones.
Frankincense was among the earliest incenses, with 3000 years of continual religious usage. Valued as highly as gold, it was long used by the Egyptians for religions and ceremonial purposes. Mentioned several times in the Bible.
Antiseptic, sedative, tonic, cytophylactic, cicatrizant, expectorant, astringent, anti-inflammatory
A bitter, pungent, warming herb that stimulates the circulation, calms the nerves, and has decongestant and above properties.
Magickal Influences:
Spirituality, Meditation
  • Respiratory System—Slows down and deepens the breathing, ensuring calm and comfort. Very useful for asthma, particularly for those suffers with a fearful disposition.
  • Skin—Rejuvenating for the skin; especially good for aging skin and wrinkles, and for preserving a youthful complexion. Effective for healing wounds, scars, and injuries.
  • Emotions—Reduces tension. Frankincense calms the physical form and awakens the higher consciousness. It produces a heightened awareness of the spiritual realm and deepens religious experience. Frankincense is ideal for use prior to meditation. Offers strength in the face of adversity and hardship, and protection from the material world, bringing enlightenment, releasing subconscious stress and lifting the spirits.
Medicinal Uses:
Internally for bronchial and urinary infections. Not given to pregnant women (although traditionally used as a fumigant during and after childbirth in Oman). Externally as an inhalant for excess mucus and douche for vaginal infections. In Chinese medicine, internally for menstrual pain and externally for injuries, skin eruptions, and as a wash for gum, mouth, and throat complaints. Regarded as a rejuvenative in Ayurvedic medicine. Important in aromatherapy for relieving anxiety.
Frankincense 7 Frankincense 4 Frankincense 7
Benzoin 3 Rose 3 Cedarwood 3
Lavender 2 Neroli 2 Mandarin 2
Culinary Uses:
Resin is chewed in countries of origin.
Economic Uses:
Used in anti-wrinkle creams, incense, and perfumery. Essential oil is used commercially to flavor candy, bakery products, desserts, ice cream and soft drinks.
Aromatherapy Blends and recipes by Franzesca Watson Copyright © 1995 Thorsons, Harper Parker Publishing Inc. Pp 104-105
Magical Aromatherapy by Scott Cunningham Copyright © 1988 Llewellyn Publications, Inc. pp 85-86
Encyclopedia of Herbs by Deni Brown Copyright © 1995, 2001 Dorling Kindersley Limited pp.145-146