Medicinal Properties of Frankincense
“The name of God be on you and myrrh and frankincense and copal resin and juniper resin”
The above words were said as a form of blessing by women visiting a mother after childbirth. This was an Arabic custom still prevalent at the beginning of the century.
In the Dhofar region, women throw frankincense on the fire and swing their child in the smoke after first rubbing the child with oil. They also smooth the soft gum over their hair to keep it in place and give it a shiny appearance. Cones of the resin are burned as candles outdoors at night to keep away wild animals and evil spirits
Frankincense has also been investigated as a possible treatment for some cancers, ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease, anxiety and asthma, among other conditions.
A review of PubMed reports on clinical trials using boswellic acids or resin of Boswellia serrata reveals that these substances have been studied and found highly effective in such conditions as rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, low back pain, soft tissue rheumatism, myositis, fibrositis, chronic colitis, ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease, bronchial asthma, and peritumoral brain edemas. Besides its pronounced anti-inflammatory properties, it has been found to have a strong immuno-stimulant activity.
Until the early 1940s a potion was prepared with pounded frankincense and dispensed as a drug against inflammation of the urethra, against phthisis (T.B.) and shock paralysis.
Hippocrates mentions it promotes menstruation, cures ulcers, burns, chilblains and eruptions. It is an expectorant and good for asthma.
Avicenna, a Persian physician and the most influential medical writer in the Middle ages wrote frankincense (Boswellia serrata) was advised for treatment of abscess, wounds and malignant tumors, skin rashes, dermatitis, nausea and vomiting, gastrointestinal inflammation, and arthritis. Several experimental studies have shown that frankincense possesses anti-inflammatory, analgesic, antimicrobial, hepatoactive, and anti-proliferative effect (Abdel-Tawab et al., 2011).
The general functions of frankincense resin and essential oil can therefore be described as immune-enhancing; antibiotic, antifungal, antiviral, and antiseptic; and wound-healing, with pronounced anti-inflammatory properties.
Boswellia Serrata resin is described as having bitter and sweet flavors, with astringent, demulcent, expectorant, antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties. It is a powerful wound healer and very effective in the treatment of painful joint diseases with inflammation and reduced mobility. It improves blood supply to the affected areas, shrinks inflamed tissue, reduces pain, and enhances repair of local blood vessels damaged by proliferating inflammation. These effects are attributed to chemical compounds known as boswellic acids, which are now used in contemporary medicine as anti-arthritic and anti-inflammatory pharmacological agents. (Crow)
A Wise Man’s Cure: Frankincense and Myrrh by Jennie Cohen
Pliny the Elder, The Natural History
Avicenna’s Canon of Medicine: a review of analgesics and anti-inflammatory substances by Shahla Mahdizadeh
Frankincense and Myrrh: The Botany, Culture, and Therapeutic Uses of the World’s Two Most Important Resins by David Crow, L.Ac.