Frankincense Essential Oil Benefits and Uses

Can this sweet, woodsy scent help to soothe stress?

Female business owner with essential oil products
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An essential oil commonly used in aromatherapy, frankincense oil is typically sourced from the resin of the Boswellia carterii or Boswellia sacra tree. Also called olibanum, frankincense oil has a sweet, woody scent and is sometimes used to ease stress.

In aromatherapy, inhaling the scent of an essential oil (or absorbing it through the skin) is thought to send messages to the limbic system, a brain region that influences our emotions and nervous systems.

Proponents suggest that essential oils may affect a number of biological factors, such as heart rate, stress levels, blood pressure, breathing, and immune function.

Frankincense essential oil is also used as an ingredient in perfume, incense, and skin care products.

Why Do People Use Frankincense Oil?

In aromatherapy, frankincense oil is typically used for the following conditions:

Frankincense essential oil is also used to alleviate stress and relieve pain.

When used as an ingredient in skin care products, frankincense essential oil is said to treat dry skin and reduce the appearance of wrinkles, age spots, scars, and stretch marks.

The Benefits of Frankincense Oil: Can It Help?

While preliminary research suggests that frankincense essential oil may offer certain health benefits, there is currently a lack of research testing the health effects of frankincense oil.

For instance, laboratory research on human cells indicates that frankincense essential oil may possess immune-stimulating and cancer-fighting properties that could aid in the protection against breast cancer and pancreatic cancer. However, it's important to note that these studies were conducted in a lab (and not in people) and didn't test the aromatherapeutic use of frankincense oil.

More research is needed.

A combination of essential oils including frankincense oil may help sleep in people with cancer, according to a study published in Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice in 2016. For the study, people with cancer were given personal inhaler devices containing essential oils.

Of those who used the device, 64 percent had an improvement of at least one point on the sleep scale. The essential oil blend that included frankincense (Boswellia carterii) also had mandarin (Citrus reticulata) and lavender (Lavandula angustifolia). 

Possible Side Effects

Research is needed to assess the potential benefits and risks. Ingesting frankincense essential oil may have toxic effects and isn't recommended.

In addition, some individuals may experience irritation or an allergic reaction when applying frankincense essential oil to the skin. A skin patch test should be done before using any new essential oil. Additionally, essential oils shouldn't be applied to skin undiluted.

Pregnant or nursing women and children should consult their health care providers before using essential oils.

It's also important to note that self-treating a condition with frankincense essential oil and avoiding or delaying standard care may have serious consequences.

Get more tips on using essential oils.

Where To Find It

Here are some tips on purchasing essential oils.

Frankincense essential oil is widely available for purchase online and is sold in many natural-foods stores and in stores specializing in self-care products.

How to Use Frankincense Oil

Frankincense shouldn't be ingested. When a drop or two is combined with a carrier oil (such as jojoba, sweet almond, or avocado oil), frankincense essential oil can be applied to the skin or added to baths in small amounts.

Frankincense essential oil can also be inhaled after sprinkling a drop or two of the oil onto a cloth or tissue, or by using an aromatherapy diffuser or vaporizer.

In aromatherapy, several other essential oils are often used in combination with frankincense. For example, lavender essential oil may help alleviate anxiety and relieve insomnia, while rose essential oil may ease menstrual cramps and reduce stress. In addition, both orange essential oil and lemon essential oil may help enhance mood

Sources:

Dyer J, Cleary L, Ragsdale-Lowe M, McNeill S, Osland C. The use of aromasticks at a cancer centre: a retrospective audit. Complement Ther Clin Pract. 2014 Nov;20(4):203-6.

Dyer J, Cleary L, McNeill S, Ragsdale-Lowe M, Osland C. The use of aromasticks to help with sleep problems: A patient experience survey. Complement Ther Clin Pract. 2016 Feb;22:51-8.

Suhail MM, Wu W, Cao A, et al. Boswellia sacra essential oil induces tumor cell-specific apoptosis and suppresses tumor aggressiveness in cultured human breast cancer cells. BMC Complement Altern Med. 2011 Dec 15;11:129.

Disclaimer: The information contained on this site is intended for educational purposes only and is not a substitute for advice, diagnosis or treatment by a licensed physician. It is not meant to cover all possible precautions, drug interactions, circumstances or adverse effects. You should seek prompt medical care for any health issues and consult your doctor before using alternative medicine or making a change to your regimen.

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