Benefits Of Frankincense: 14 Reasons Why You Need This In Your Life

Written by Varsha Patnaik , MSc (Biotechnology), Certified Diet & Nutrition Coach

Frankincense is an ingredient that has been used for thousands of years for its medicinal properties and for religious ceremonies (1). Possessing properties that can help fight cancer, improve memory to giving you smooth skin, frankincense benefits you in more ways than you possibly know (2 ). In this article, you will explore some of the benefits of frankincense, some of its interesting properties, and any possible side effects it may result in.

What Is Frankincense?

Dubbed “The King of Oils”, frankincense has been used by ancient cultures around the world for thousands of years. With its roots in Africa and the Middle East, frankincense can be found today across Asian countries as well. Coming from the boswellia tree, this oil has been used by ayurvedic and Chinese healers for centuries for healing chronic diseases. Western countries have used frankincense as part of their religious ceremonies (3 ). It is still used across cultures for its pharmacological and aromatic properties.

Now that we know where frankincense originated from, let us check out the interesting properties of frankincense.

Properties Of Frankincense

Properties-Of-Frankincense

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Also known as olibanum, the sacred frankincense is taken from the boswellia tree by making incisions on it. This produces the milk-colored resin which is then kept out to dry for a few days. Once it dries and turns orange-brown, you get what we know as frankincense. Frankincense has plenty of properties that are beneficial for us. They are:

  • Analgesic Properties

Ancient cultures around the globe have used frankincense for thousands of years due to its medicinal properties. One of them happens to be analgesic or pain-relieving properties. A study was conducted to see the effect of frankincense extract and oils on the stomach, muscle, and arthritis pain. 300 mg/kg of both frankincense oil and frankincense extract were given to mice and their pain levels were monitored. The results showed a significant decrease in pain levels in comparison to aspirin (4).

  • Antimicrobial Properties

This may not be known but frankincense also exhibits antimicrobial properties according to research. A study was conducted to examine the antibacterial activity of frankincense. The researchers created frankincense extract from trees found in Oman. They checked the Minimal Inhibitory Concentration (MIC) against gastrointestinal pathogens and bacteria. Minimal inhibitory concentration is the lowest amount of concentration of a drug that is required to stop the growth of an antimicrobial. The results showed that the extract was successful in inhibiting the growth of bacteria, thus proving the potency of the plant (5).

  • Antidepressant And Antianxiety Properties

You would have probably heard many people saying that essential oils are really good for reducing your stress and anxiety. Frankincense is no exception. A study was done to see the effects of frankincense extract on depression and anxiety-like behavior in rats. Fifty rats were given frankincense extract for 6 days. The results showed a decrease in depression and anxiety-like behavior in them (6). Even though this test was done on rats, researchers suggest it shows potential and has to be tested in humans.

  • Immunity-boosting Properties

With COVID ravaging the world, health-conscious consumers have been looking for natural products to help in boosting the immune system. A study examined the immune system modulation properties of frankincense oil. The experiment showed a strong immunostimulant activity of the oil, suggesting that frankincense may be beneficial for boosting the immune system (7).

Exhibiting interesting properties such as relieving pain and fighting against bacteria shows why people have been using frankincense for thousands of years. Check out the different health benefits of frankincense in the next section.

14 Health Benefits Of Frankincense

14-Health-Benefits-Of-Frankincense

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If ayurvedic and Chinese physicians have been using frankincense for thousands of years, there has to be something to it right? Let us see what modern research says about the health benefits of frankincense.

1. May Reduce Arthritis

Ayurvedic healers have used the gum resin of frankincense to treat various types of inflammatory diseases for centuries (8). A pilot study was conducted to see the safety and efficacy of frankincense extract on the symptoms of osteoarthritis. 48 patients diagnosed with osteoarthritis were administered either frankincense extract or placebo for 120 days. The researchers saw an improvement in the knee joint gap. They also observed that there was also a decrease in the levels of C-reactive protein, a marker associated with osteoarthritis of the knee (9).

2. May Improve Gut Function

Research has indicated that frankincense may help with your gut function. Researchers conducted a study to see the efficacy of frankincense along with ginger and yarrow on the severity of symptoms caused by irritable bowel syndrome. 60 patients with irritable bowel syndrome were given these three herbal medications for three months. The result showed a reduction in bloating, abdominal pain, depression, and anxiety (10). While the results are promising, more studies need to be done before a definitive answer is reached.

3. Improves Asthma

Arthritis is not the only inflammatory condition that frankincense has shown promising results in. A study was conducted to see the effect of casperome along with corticosteroids on asthma patients. 32 patients with asthma were administered 500 mg along with corticosteroids of casperome or extract made from frankincense every day for 4 weeks. The patients were also asked to keep track of the number of inhalations they took per day. After four weeks, researchers saw a decrease in the number of inhalations taken by the patients. This study shows promising results of the effect of frankincense on asthma. But more research needs to be done to substantiate this further (11).

4. Maintains Oral Health

The king of oils is said to help prevent gum diseases and maintain oral health. A study was done to see the effect of frankincense on gingivitis. Gingivitis is a medical condition that causes irritation and swelling of the base of your gum called gingiva. 0.1 gram of frankincense extract or 0.2 gram of frankincense powder or placebo was given to seventy patients between the age of 15 to 18 years old who were diagnosed with gingivitis. The results showed a decrease in the symptoms of gingivitis, hence showing that frankincense may be used as a remedy for oral conditions (12).

5. May Have Anticancer Properties

Frankincense may have properties that can help fight cancer. A test-tube study was conducted to see the effect of frankincense and myrrh on cancer cells such as breast cancer cells, tumor cells, etc. The researchers found that the cancer cells showed an increased sensitivity to both plants and high anticancer properties (13 ). This study shows a lot of promise but more research needs to be conducted on humans to solidify this fact.

6. Helps Prevent Diabetes

WHO estimated that 422 million people across the globe were diagnosed with diabetes in 2014, a marked increase from 108 million people in 1980 (14). One study was done to see the effect of frankincense gum resin on the blood glucose levels and lipid profile of fifty-six diabetic patients. The gum resin was administered twice daily for eight weeks along with their standard antidiabetic treatments. The researchers saw a significant decrease in blood glucose levels (15). Another study was done to examine the antidiabetic effect of Boswellia Serrata or frankincense extract on female diabetic rats. Administering 200, 400, and 600 mg/kg doses of boswellia extract for seventeen days saw a decrease in the blood glucose levels (16 ).

7. Promotes Smooth Skin

In recent times, frankincense has been touted as a remedy for smooth skin. A study was done to see the effect of frankincense essential oil on human skin. The results were promising as the researchers saw that the oil exhibited anti-inflammatory and tissue remodeling properties in the skin (17). Even though research in this area is scarce, advocates say that it can help in providing lipids that help slow down the aging process.

8. Prevents Heart Disease

While there is limited research in this field, a research study was conducted to test the cardioprotective and antioxidant properties of frankincense. The result suggests that frankincense exhibits mild cardioprotective and antioxidant properties, warranting a more detailed investigation of the same (18 ).

9. May Improve Sleep Patterns

The effects of frankincense on sleep patterns have not been investigated sufficiently and do not have many studies that support this. One study was done where the effect of frankincense essential oil on stressed rats was examined. The experts saw a reduction in oxidative stress levels as well as decreased levels in non-rapid eye movement sleep (6). This research suggests that decreased levels of oxidative stress may help in relieving sleeplessness, but sufficient research studies on humans need to be done.

10. Improves Memory

Mostly done in rats, studies have shown that frankincense may improve your memory. A study was conducted to see the effect of frankincense on rats with Alzheimer’s. The results showed that there was a slight improvement in memory (19). But more studies have to be done to support this.

11. Enhances Fertility

Frankincense has been used by the people of Jordan as an aphrodisiac and an agent for fertility. A study was conducted by researchers at the Jasrah University, Jordan to see the effect of frankincense on the reproductive system of male rats. Administering doses of 250mg/kg and 500 mg/kg body weight to male rats for 60 days saw an improvement in fertility. Along with this, the researchers observed an increase in sperm motility and sperm density levels in rats (20).

12. Helps With Digestive Problems

Research was conducted to see the efficacy and safety of frankincense supplements on patients with a mild form of irritable bowel syndrome. While 34 subjects were given standard medications for abdominal pain, the rest 35 were given frankincense supplements for 6 months. The results showed that the group given frankincense supplements showed a slight decrease in self-assessed symptoms and a lesser need for standard medications. Thus showing positive results when it comes to irritable bowel syndrome and frankincense (21).

13. Helps With Ulcerative Colitis

Ulcerative colitis is a medical condition characterized by the formation of ulcers (sores) on the colon. Studies have been optimistic in relation to frankincense and ulcerative colitis. A study tested the effect of Boswellia Serrata gum resin on patients with ulcerative colitis. The patients were given 350 mg thrice for 6 weeks and their symptoms were monitored. The results showed that the patients showed improvement in their symptoms, out of which 82% of the patients went into remission (22 ).

14. May Help With Heavy Menstrual Bleeding

If you experience heavy menstrual bleeding every month and are looking for a natural alternative, frankincense might be what you’re looking for. A study was done to see the effect of frankincense and ginger on heavy menstrual bleeding. Women with heavy menstrual bleeding were given ibuprofen and either frankincense or ginger or a placebo for seven days of the menstrual cycle. The results showed a decrease in bleeding during the menstrual cycle (23 ). While the results are promising, more studies need to be conducted.

After reading through the above section, you can see why frankincense is dubbed “The Liquid Gold”. Fighting cancer, arthritis to playing a major role in improving symptoms of digestive conditions, the benefits of frankincense are many. Let us have a look at some of the possible side effects that can arise from frankincense.

Possible Side Effects

Like everything on this earth, frankincense has its pros and cons. While research does not have many studies that support the claim that frankincense is unsafe, one literature review shows that frankincense along with other medicinal herbs may interact with blood thinners such as warfarin and may cause adverse effects (24). Even though frankincense is considered by most experts to be safe, it is advisable to consult a doctor before using frankincense.

Summary

Now that we are at the end of the article, we can say with some optimism that frankincense is indeed beneficial to us. From having anticancer properties, fighting bacteria to playing a massive role in tissue remodeling in our skin, we can see the various benefits of frankincense. While frankincense is relatively safe to consume, it is highly recommended that you visit your doctor before starting frankincense. You can use it in your daily life by using it as a perfume or mixing it with other essential oils and have a nice and relaxing bath after a long day of work!

Expert’s Answers For Readers’ Questions

Is frankincense oil good for the face?

Frankincense has been claimed by advocates to have properties that help fight wrinkles and acne. While there is no research conducted yet to support this claim, this study showed that frankincense may play a role in tissue remodeling and anti-inflammatory properties in the skin (17).

Can frankincense shrink tumors?

Experts have conducted studies that suggest that frankincense oil is helpful in inhibiting tumor growth and inducing tumor cell death (25). However, further studies are required to substantiate the study’s findings.

Does frankincense help with pain?

Frankincense has been used by healers for thousands of years for its analgesic properties. Modern Science has seen the effect of frankincense in relieving pain. Scroll up to read more about the analgesic properties of frankincense.

Does frankincense have any healing properties?

Just like other medicinal herbs, frankincense has been championed by consumers and doctors alike for their manifold medicinal properties.

References:

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  1. Frankincense: Systematic Review
    https://www.bmj.com/content/337/bmj.a2813
  2. Frankincense (乳香 Rǔ Xiāng; Boswellia Species): From the Selection of Traditional Applications to the Novel Phytotherapy for the Prevention and Treatment of Serious Diseases
    https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2225411016301961
  3. Seeing the Unseen of the Combination of Two Natural Resins, Frankincense and Myrrh: Changes in Chemical Constituents and Pharmacological Activities
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6749531/
  4. Analgesic Effects of Crude Extracts and Fractions of Omani Frankincense Obtained from Traditional Medicinal Plant Boswellia Sacra on Animal Models
    https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25312172/
  5. Chemical Composition, Antibacterial Activity, and Antibiotic Potentiation of Boswellia Sacra Flueck. Oleoresin Extracts from the Dhofar Region of Oman
    https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/34122610/
  6. The Effects of Frankincense Essential Oil on Stress in Rats
    https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31582666/
  7. Chemistry and Immunomodulatory Activity of Frankincense Oil
    https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/12710734/
  8. Boswellic Acids (Components of Frankincense) as the Active Principle in Treatment of Chronic Inflammatory Diseases
    https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/12244881/
  9. A Pilot, Randomized, Double-blind, Placebo-controlled Trial to Assess the Safety and Efficacy of a Novel Boswellia Serrata Extract in the Management of Osteoarthritis of the Knee
    https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1002/ptr.6338
  10. 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
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5721494/
  11. Functional Study on Boswellia Phytosome as Complementary Intervention in Asthmatic Patients
    https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Francesco-Di-Pierro/publication/287279226_Functional_study_on_Boswellia_phytosome_as_complementary_intervention_in_asthmatic_patients/links/5e75e58f4585157b9a4e0e42/Functional-study-on-Boswellia-phytosome-as-complementary-intervention-in-asthmatic-patients.pdf
  12. The Effect of Frankincense in the Treatment of Moderate Plaque-induced Gingivitis: a Double-blinded Randomized Clinical Trial
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3304380/
  13. Composition and Potential Anticancer Activities of Essential Oils Obtained from Myrrh and Frankincense
    https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24137478/
  14. Diabetes
    https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/diabetes
  15. The Effects of Boswellia Serrata Gum Resin on the Blood Glucose and Lipid Profile of Diabetic Patients: A Double-Blind Randomized Placebo-Controlled Clinical Trial
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5960856/
  16. The Antioxidant Capacity and Anti-diabetic Effect of Boswellia serrata Triana and Planch Aqueous Extract in Fertile Female Diabetic Rats and the Possible Effects on Reproduction and Histological Changes in the Liver and Kidneys
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3941871/
  17. Biological Activities of Frankincense Essential Oil in Human Dermal Fibroblasts
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5801908/
  18. Cardioprotective and Antioxidant Effects of Oleogum Resin “Olibanum “from Bos Boswellia carteri Birdw. (Bursearceae)
    https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24856757/
  19. Therapeutic Effect of Frankincense in a Rat Model of Alzheimer’s Disease
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4967843/
  20. Effect of Frankincense (Boswellia Thurifera) on Reproductive System in Adult Male Rat
    https://www.jstage.jst.go.jp/article/jhs/53/4/53_4_365/_pdf
  21. Oral Administration of a Lecithin-based Delivery Form of Boswellic Acids (Casperome®) for the Prevention of Symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome: a Randomized Clinical Study
    https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30676012/
  22. Effects of Boswellia Serrata Gum Resin in Patients with Ulcerative Colitis
    https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/9049593/
  23. The Effect of Frankincense (Boswellia Serrata, Oleoresin) and Ginger (Zingiber Officinale, Rhizoma) on Heavy Menstrual Bleeding: A Randomized, Placebo-controlled, Clinical Trial
    https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30670277/
  24. Warfarin Interactions with Medicinal Herbs
    https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/1934578X1400900835
  25. Frankincense, Pine Needle and Geranium Essential Oils Suppress Tumor Progression Through the Regulation of the AMPK/mTOR Pathway in Breast Cancer
    https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29115548/
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