Frankincense Wise Man. Artist, Katie Moore

The frankincense tree is said to be the greatest storied tree in world history.  There has been much confusion over the exact identity of this tree – for the simple reason that the substance known as Frankincense has been obtained from several different species of Boswellia trees.  The wood is very resinous, which protects them in case of injury. Small, whitish-yellow, 5-petaled flowers appear in axillary racemes. The trees often appear to be growing directly out rocks and boulders. They cling to the rock faces by means of special adaptive disk-like swelling that grow at the bottom of the trunk, but only develop in terrain that makes the necessary and useful, e.g. on steep mountain-sides.

In the ancient world incense trees fueled the economy of the Arab world as oil does today. Trading cities positioned at important points of the Silk Road (spice or incense routes) prospered considerably thanks to the thoroughfare business. At one time Frankincense was more valuable than gold – needless to say, a situation much relished by the traders who only benefitted from the obscurity and remoteness of the trees. It was a commodity that was so valuable that kings estimated their wealth upon how much of each that they possessed. In fact, frankincense was anciently regarded as being more valuable than gold. Newborn royal children were anointed with these precious oils.  Even more importantly, frankincense was considered to be sacred.  It was a key element in ancient Isreal’s tabernacle and temple worship of Jehovah.

Although the worldwide demand for it has broadened in recent years, the actual worldwide consumption used to be far greater than it is now. Much Frankincense is still gathered in the traditional way from wild growing trees. The trees, although provided by nature, ‘belong’ as deliberated by unspoken agreement, to particular families who live nearby and who claim the right to harvest them. In the ancient world all Frankincense trees were decreed to belong to the King and only he negotiated the harvesting rights with the various merchants for a goodly fee. Studies have shown that where families take a ‘guardian’ position towards the trees they are far better cared for and protected as naturally any desert dweller will be quite careful to protect the source of their livelihood compared to roving harvesters who do not have any vested interest in the welfare of a particular tree.

Harvesting Frankincense is quite a time-consuming process. A deep incision is made into the trunk (actually several incisions per tree, although according to recent research more than 5 incisions causes considerable stress to the trees.) and a small piece of bark next to it is removed. This wounding causes the tree to ‘bleed’ a milky white substance that seals and heals the wound and prevents infection. After three months the resin has hardened enough to be scraped off the trunk, and these white pieces are called “tears”. However, to obtain the best quality Frankincense the process of wounding is repeated 3 times and only the resin collected from the third harvest is considered to be of superior quality. The solid resin is sorted into various qualities, some as tears, and some as grains of different colour and sizes. The quality is determined by the degree of opacity. Resin destined for distillation is shipped off while still slightly sticky on the inside, which denotes high concentration of volatile oil.  A symbolism can be drawn here between the harvest of the frankincense tree and the suffering, crucifixion and Atonement of Jesus Christ… for by his stripes we are healed.

Used to treat every conceivable ill known to man, Frankincense is anticatarrhal, anticancer, antidepressant, anti-infection, anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, antitumor, expectorant, immune stimulant, and sedative.  It has been used to address aging, Alzheimer’s, aneurysm, arthritis, asthma, balance problems, brain health, brain injury, cancer, coma, concussion, confusion, coughs, depression, fibroids, genital warts, hepatitis, immune system support, inflammation, improve vision, infected wounds, liver cirrhosis, Lou Gehrig’s disease, meditation & prayer, memory, mental fatigue, miscarriage, moles, MRSA, multiple sclerosis, polyp, Parkinson’s, plague, postpartum depression, respiratory problems, scarring, tumors, ulcers, virus, warts, wrinkles, aging, insect bites, any respiratory illness or disease, carbuncles, diarrhea, diphtheria, gonorrhea, headaches, hemorrhaging, herpes, high blood pressure, jaundice, laryngitis, meningitis, nervous conditions, prostate, pneumonia, sciatic pain, snake bites, sores, spiritual awareness, stress, syphilis, tension, tonsillitis, wounds, pineal and pituitary gland function… Yes, basically healing of any kind!

“Frankincense does not kill anything, because God did not create it to kill.
Instead, frankincense digests , or breaks down abnormal cells.

– D. Gary Young, founder of Young Living Essential Oils