Aromatherapy With Frankincense Essential Oil

Can this sweet, woodsy scent help to soothe stress?

Female business owner with essential oil products
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Frankincense essential oil is a type of essential oil commonly used in aromatherapy. Typically sourced from the resin of the Boswellia carterii or Boswellia sacra tree, frankincense essential oil (sometimes referred to as olibanum) is sometimes used to ease stress and is said to offer a variety of health benefits.

In aromatherapy, inhaling the aroma of frankincense essential oil (or absorbing frankincense essential oil through the skin) is thought to transmit messages to a brain region involved in controlling emotions.

Known as the limbic system, this brain region also influences the nervous system. Aromatherapy proponents suggest that essential oils may affect a number of biological factors, including 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 Essential Oil?

In aromatherapy, frankincense essential 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, reverse signs of aging, and reduce the appearance of scars and stretch marks.

The Benefits of Frankincense Essential 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 aromatherapeutic use of frankincense essential 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 protection against breast cancer and pancreatic cancer. However, it's important to note that these studies did not test the aromatherapeutic use of frankincense essential oil, and that more research is needed before frankincense essential oil can be recommended as a treatment of any health condition.

Possible Side Effects

Internal use of frankincense essential oil may have serious 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.

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 chronic 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 It

When combined with a carrier oil (such as jojoba, sweet almond, or avocado), frankincense essential oil can be applied to the skin or added to baths in small amounts.

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

Several other essential oils have been found to offer certain health benefits and may be 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


De Rapper S, Van Vuuren SF, Kamatou GP, Viljoen AM, Dagne E. The additive and synergistic antimicrobial effects of select frankincense and myrrh oils--a combination from the pharaonic pharmacopoeia. Lett Appl Microbiol. 2012 Apr;54(4):352-8.

Frank MB, Yang Q, Osban J, et al. Frankincense oil derived from Boswellia carteri induces tumor cell specific cytotoxicity. BMC Complement Altern Med. 2009 Mar 18;9:6.

Mikhaeil BR, Maatooq GT, Badria FA, Amer MM. Chemistry and immunomodulatory activity of frankincense oil. Z Naturforsch C. 2003 Mar-Apr;58(3-4):230-8.

Ni X, Suhail MM, Yang Q, et al. Frankincense essential oil prepared from hydrodistillation of Boswellia sacra gum resins induces human pancreatic cancer cell death in cultures and in a xenograft murine model. BMC Complement Altern Med. 2012 Dec 13;12:253.

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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