Botanical Name :Boswellia thurifera
Species: B. serrata
Common Names: Boswellia (Frankincense) , Olibanum, Indian Frankincense, Arabic Frankincense, and Salai guggal
Habitat: Boswellia thurifera is native to Arabia, East Africa (particularly Oman, Socotra, Somalia)
Frankincense is tapped from the small drought-hardy Boswellia trees by slashing the bark, which is called striping, and allowing the exuded resin to bleed out and harden. These hardened resins are called tears. There are several species and varieties of frankincense trees, each producing a slightly different type of resin. Differences in soil and climate create even more diversity of the resin, even within the same species.
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Boswellia Sacra trees are considered unusual for their ability to grow in environments so unforgiving that they sometimes grow out of almost solid rock. Attachment to the rock is accomplished by a bulbous disk-like swelling of the trunk. This feature is slight or absent in trees grown in rocky soil or gravel. The tears from trees growing on rock are considered superior for their more fragrant aroma.
The trees start producing resin when they are about eight to 10 years old. Tapping is done two to three times a year with the final taps producing the best tears due to their higher aromatic terpene, sesquiterpene and diterpene content. Generally speaking, the more opaque resins are the best quality. Fine resin is produced in Yemen and along the northern coast of Somalia, from which the Roman Catholic Church draws its supplies.
Recent studies have indicated that frankincense tree populations are declining, partly due to over-exploitation. Heavily tapped trees produce seeds that germinate at only 16% while seeds of trees that had not been tapped germinate at more than 80%. In addition, burning, grazing, and attacks by the longhorn beetle have reduced the tree population. Conversion (clearing) of frankincense woodlands to agriculture is also a major threat
Frankincense comes in many types, and its quality is based on color, purity, aroma, age, and shape. Silver and Hojari are generally considered the highest grades of frankincense. The Omanis themselves generally consider Silver to be a better grade than Hojari, though most Western connoisseurs think that it should be the other way round. This may be due to climatic conditions with the Hojari smelling best in the relatively cold, damp climate of Europe and North America, whereas Silver may well be more suited to the hot dry conditions of Arabia.
click to see Frankincense
Local market information in Oman suggests that the term Hojari encompasses a broad range of high-end frankincense including Silver. Resin value is determined not only by fragrance but also by color and clump size, with lighter color and larger clumps being more highly prized. The most valuable Hojari frankincense locally available in Oman is even more expensive than Somalia’s Maydi frankincense derived from B. frereana (see below). The vast majority of this ultra-high-end B. sacra frankincense is purchased by His Majesty Sultan Qaboos bin Said the ruler of Oman, and is notoriously difficult for western buyers to correctly identify and purchase.
Currently, there are two dissertations which may enable the identification of a few Olibanum species according to their specific secondary metabolism products
These are some of the chemical compounds present in frankincense:
*”acid resin (56 per cent), soluble in alcohol and having the formula C20H32O4″
*gum (similar to gum arabic) 30–36%
*3-acetyl-beta-boswellic acid (Boswellia sacra)
*alpha-boswellic acid (Boswellia sacra)
*4-O-methyl-glucuronic acid (Boswellia sacra)
Frankincense is used in perfumery and aromatherapy. The essential oil is obtained by steam distillation of the dry resin. Some of the smell of the frankincense smoke are products of pyrolysis.
Frankincense is used in many Christian churches including the Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox and Catholic churches. According to the gospel of Matthew 2:11, gold, frankincense, and myrrh were among the gifts to Jesus by the biblical magi “from out of the East.” The Judaic, Christian and Islamic faiths have used frankincense mixed with oils to anoint newborn infants and individuals.
Conversely, the growth of Christianity depressed the market for frankincense during the 4th century AD. Desertification made the caravan routes across the Rub’ al Khali or “Empty Quarter” of the Arabian Peninsula more difficult. Additionally, increased raiding by the nomadic Parthians in the Near East caused the frankincense trade to dry up after A.D. 300.
click to see Boswellia sacra tree, from which frankincense is derived, growing inside Biosphere 2
Frankincense resin is edible and is used in traditional medicines in Asia for digestion and healthy skin. For internal consumption, it is recommended that frankincense be translucent, with no black or brown impurities. It is often light yellow with a (very) slight greenish tint. It is often chewed like gum, but it is stickier.
In Ayurvedic medicine Indian frankincense (Boswellia serrata), commonly referred to as “dhoop,” has been used for hundreds of years for treating arthritis, healing wounds, strengthening the female hormone system and purifying the air. The use of frankincense in Ayurveda is called “dhoopan”. In Indian culture, it is suggested that burning frankincense daily in the house brings good health
Frankincense essential oil:
The essential oil of frankincense is produced by steam distillation of the tree resin. The oil’s chemical components are 75% monoterpenes, sesquiterpenes, monoterpenoles, sesquiterpenols, and ketones. It has a good balsamic sweet fragrance, while the Indian frankincense oil has a very fresh smell. Contrary to recent claims, steam or hydro distilled frankincense oil does not contain any boswellic acid as these components (triterpenoids) are non-volatile and too large to come over in the steam distillation process. The chemistry of the essential oil is mainly monoterpenes and sesquiterpenes with small amounts of diterpenoid components being the upper limit in terms of molecular weight.
click to see Olibanum resin.
Olibanum is characterized by a balsamic-spicy, slightly lemon, fragrance of incense, with a conifer-like undertone. It is used in the perfume, cosmetic and pharmaceutical industries.
For therapy trials in ulcerative colitis, asthma and rheumatoid arthritis there are only isolated reports and pilot studies from which there is not yet sufficient evidence of safety and efficacy. Similarly, the long-term effects and side effects of taking frankincense has not yet been scientifically investigated. Nonetheless, several preliminary studies have been published.
click to see the picture of FrankinsenceEssOil
A 2008 study reported that frankincense smoke was a psychoactive drug that relieves depression and anxiety in mice. The researchers found that the chemical compound incensole acetate was responsible for the effects.
In a different study, an enriched extract of “Indian Frankincense” (usually Boswellia serrata) was used in a randomized, double-blinded, placebo-controlled study of patients with osteoarthritis. Patients receiving the extract showed significant improvement in their arthritis in as little as seven days. The compound caused no major adverse effects and, according to the study authors, is safe for human consumption and long-term use.
In a study published in 2009, it was reported that “Frankincense oil appears to distinguish cancerous from normal bladder cells and suppress cancer cell viability.”
A 2012 study in healthy volunteers determined that exposure to 11-keto-?-boswellic acid (KBA), a lead boswellic acid in the novel solubilized frankincense extract Boswelan, is increased when taken with food. However, simulations based on a two-compartment pharmacokinetic model with single first-order absorption phase proposed that the observed food interaction loses its relevance for the simulated repeated-dose scenario.
In a 2012 study, researchers found that the “behavioral effect [of insensole actetate] was concomitant to reduced serum corticosterone levels, dose-dependent down-regulation of corticotropin releasing factor and up-regulation of brain derived neurotrophic factor transcripts IV and VI expression in the hippocampus. These data suggest that IA modulates the hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal (HPA) axis and influences hippocampal gene expression, leading to beneficial behavioral effects supporting its potential as a novel treatment of depressive-like disorders
Disclaimer : The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplement, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider