A testament of their famed medicinal prowess, Boswellia trees are capable of thriving in unforgiving conditions. They have been farmed on the desert plains boarding the Dhofar mountains for over five thousand years, tapped 2 or 3 times a year for their sap; an aromatic resin known as frankincense. The name derived from the French term franc esens meaning ‘pure incense’ or more literally (and intriguingly) ‘free lightning’.
The resinous sap is famous throughout the world for the sweet smelling smoke released on combustion. Plumes of this fragrant smoke filled the tomb of Tutankhamen, and the tents of nomadic tribes on the Arabian Peninsula, fumigating their living spaces and seeping into cushions and embroidered panels. Clouds of frankincense followed trade caravans from the Holy Land to the Mediterranean, mingling with the local fragrances of cypress, olive and balsam.
This unique scent hypnotised ancient people and became associated with spiritual purification. In many cultures uncleanliness was associated with illness and sweet-smelling smokes would be used to mask bodily odours and musky living quarters. For as long as it has been revered as a purifying substance in the external world, frankincense resin has also been used as a healing medicine for our internal world. The internal benefits of frankincense resin truly are numerous and surprisingly well-researched.
Perhaps most known of all, is its ability to increase memory and learning, reduce learning impairment and help prevent symptoms relating to dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Indeed, traditionally, adherents of Islam would often chew on the resin whilst reading the Quran so that its words and message would sink in and be absorbed better. Frankincense is excellent at boosting immune function, is a potent antiviral, and an effective anti-inflammatory. It has also been shown to boost fertility in both sexes. The resin is also reported to improve skin quality and complexion, speed muscle recovery and help bring down a fever. Do further research and you will discover much more of its medicinal properties including those anti-carcinogenic and neuroprotective. The simplest method of all to utilise frankincense’s exceptional medicine cabinet is to make frankincense water.
To make frankincense water simply pour 1 litre of recently boiled, approximately 90 degree C water onto 10g of the resin pieces (or desert “tears” as they are often called) in a pot, jar or jug. Let cool and sit overnight whilst the water-soluble components of the frankincense gum slowly seep into the water, turning it cloudy or milky. In the morning, filter and bottle and drink at least a cup a day. Any remainder of the resin can be reused towards the next batch, chewed as a gum or simply be dried and burnt as incense. Many people like to take their supplements or superfoods with frankincense water, as like fulvic and humic acids, the resinoid water is reported to increase the potency and absorbability of many minerals and nutrients. Important note: Not all Frankincense types are suited to this type of preparation. Some Frankincense resins have no (or very low) water-soluble gum and will not create an emulsion when steeped in water. If the solution does not turn white or cloudy overnight, know that the resin is question is not suitable for water production. For highest-quality medicinal Frankincense (Boswellia Sacra) resin with the longest track-record of scientific research pertaining to its beneficial phytochemistry and most used for frankincense water, see my store here.