Essential Oil Recipe Journal
The Amazing History of Frankincense Essential Oil

The Amazing History Frankincense Essential Oil

The Amazing History of Frankincense Essential Oil. www.paintedteacup.comI am so excited to bring you an amazing guest post from Charleen from Black Elk Originals! Charleen runs and Etsy store (currently under re-branding & re-ordering) and sells all-natural, essential oil-based products for the home and body. Their best sellers have been the disinfectant spray and fabric spray, though the deodorant was catching on. Future products are beard oil, lip balm, antiperspirants and soaps. Re-Launch is expected to be some time in March 2016. Be sure to check out Charleen’s blog at Black Elk Originals!

The history of frankincense essential oil is incredible! Let’s turn it over to Charleen for this truly amazing post!

The Amazing History Frankincense Essential Oil

Frankincense! Some of you may know it from your use of it in your home, others may have only heard of it from Sunday school, or reference in religious studies. I admit that before my submersion into the world of essential oils, my only real knowledge of it was that some wise men offered it to baby Jesus as a gift. So I figured it was pretty special, maybe even rare or nowadays non-existent!

Thankfully, Frankincense is alive and well, and used pretty regularly today in many different countries for many different reasons. The most talked-about and perhaps practiced use today in the western world is likely aroma, in incense and oil-diffusing, as it’s scent is beautiful, calming, soft and cleansing.

Frankincense is a hardened resin from a tree, three species of plant bear the sap which creates frankincense, B. frereana, B. bhaw-dajiana, and B. carteri. The trees are specially tapped and the juice let to bleed, collected, and hardened into the resin which is burned, or distilled into essential oils and used for perfumes, incense, historically medicines as well. *

There appears to be quite a bit of surmising and conclusions based on indicators as to where it originated from. Most people may know of frankincense and a bit of it’s history from Christian Scripture, where spices were strongly relied on for healing, religious anointings, and spiritual ceremonies. The strongest and most historical evidence and documentation appears to have been China, dating back to the 5th Century, B.C. on the Arabian Peninsula.

Documentation of the use of frankincense appeared at that early time by a Greek writer & traveler known as Herodotus (485 B.C.-425 B.C.)

Herodotus was known for his documentation of wars, specifically and mainly Grecco- Persian War ( a bit of an obsession for our Greek friend) and in his travels, encountered the luxury of aromas of many spices used as perfumes, and wrote the following in regard to them:

“107. Arabia is the last of inhabited lands towards the south, and it is the only country which produces frankincense, myrrh, cassia, cinnamon, and ladanum.[1] The Arabians[2] do not get any of these, except the myrrh,[3] without trouble. The frankincense they procure by means of the gum styrax,[4] which the Greeks obtain from the Phoenicians; this they burn, and thereby obtain the spice. For the trees which bear the frankincense are guarded by winged serpents, small in size, and of varied colours, whereof vast numbers hang about every tree. They are of the same kind as the serpents that invade Egypt;[5] and there is nothing but the smoke of the styrax which will drive them from the trees.” **

Spices have had perhaps one of the longest histories documented of being of a trade value, or used as barter or bargaining. It has been one of the only classifications of trade connecting medicinal & health values with the refined and extravagant.(luxury) Because of the high value, seeming rarity and also powerful qualities of frankincense, it’s high demand and subsequent trade value sparked and then fueled one of the greatest economic movements in history, becoming part of the Spice Trade.

Although frankincense and similar herbs and spices were considered a luxury, and made quite expensive in other parts of the world, where they originated, places in Arabia and around it were given the reputation of being of great wealth and prominence, even though in and around those areas, frankincense was as basic and mundane as shampoo is to modern day people in developed countries today.

This seeming value opened the gates for Arabian countries to have exposure to other currencies, actual luxuries of other countries, and a newfound means of continued prosperity for their economy. Frankincense & myrrh have been historically paired and used primarily as an embalming agent in ancient Egypt, use to preserve the bodies of pharaohs and other royal figures. Also, around the ceremonies following a death, the resins had been used for spiritual purposes, medicinal and of course, aromatic solutions to cover the odors of a decomposing corpse. An indispensable element!***

Frankincense seems to have come from 3 main geographic sources. The main and perhaps original source being Oman, on the Eastern Coast side of the Arabian Peninsula (now Saudi Arabia), Egypt, and Somalia, Africa. Many sources record other origins, but these 3 seem to be of the most noted and documented.

The appeal and value of frankincense differed substantially per geographic area. Arabian countries valued it as an aromatic tool, and some spiritual ceremonies, while Chinese utilized it as a medicinal tool, almost exclusively, in treating swelling, stomach issues and many blood-related ailments, claiming it had pain-relieving qualities.

Whether used for aromatic, spiritual, or medical purposes, frankincense has had a very long and intriguing history, and much more is written about it’s journey through the times. This small window into the history of this spicy and soothing element may hopefully awaken a curiosity to learn a bit more, and how it relates historically with other essential oils and herbs. It is a diverse and wonderful scent at the very least, pairing well in diffusers with oils such as myrrh, cinnamon, thyme, rosemary, pepper and vanilla, for aromatic purposes.

Frankincense remains to be one of the most coveted elements or aromatic quality, and also one of the leading in value and high price. In western countries, it seems the distilled oil is the go-to for oil-burning, often diluted with a carrier oil such as almond or coconut oil, but a lot of other countries still burn the resin itself.

Either way, Frankincense is one of the most popular aromas today, and most likely will continue to be. It’s rich history is considerably well-documented and thorough, and obviously has had an immense impact on economics, culture and medicine (non-western), and can easily be regarded as one of the most impactful, consequential elements in history.

Guest Bio:

My name is Charleen, and I run an Etsy store (currently on hiatus for re-branding and re-ordering, upgrades on products materials) called Black Elk originals, all-natural, essential oil-based products for the home and body. Our best sellers have been the disinfectant spray and fabric spray, though the deodorant was catching on. Future products are beard oil, lip balm, antiperspirants and soaps. Re-Launch is expected to be some time in March 2016. You can check out my Etsy Shop here. Be sure to check out my blog where I write about essential oils and natural care at Black Elk Originals. You can also follow me on Facebook

*Subhuti Dharmananda, Ph.D., Director, Institute for Traditional Medicine;
**[Excerpted from Book 3, Chapters 107-82, in The History of Herodotus, George Rawlinson, ed. and tr., vol. 2 (New York: D. Appleton and Company, 1885)]
*** (author not cited)
Miscellaneous source of information: Britannica Library Reference Center & The Spice Route A History by John Kay

10 thoughts on “The Amazing History Frankincense Essential Oil”

  1. I wish I had discovered the power of essential oils so much sooner in life. It is amazing how much better they can make life for yourself. I had not heard the history of essential oils before its really interesting!

  2. I remember seeing Frankincense in the Chicago museum. It’s crazy how far back this goes. I’ve never had the pleasure of trying this particular oil but I can see there’s a lot of great uses for it. Maybe it’s time I add this one to my next essential oils order.

  3. The only time I have ever heard the word Frankincense was in a Christmas carole. But from the way you describe how it has a calming effect, I know I could definitely use it right now. I am getting ready to move across country and the stress is difficult to deal with.

  4. That’s such fascinating information! I knew that frankincense was used for incense, but I certainly didn’t know all of this history. Thanks for an information and entertaining post.

  5. I didn’t know the story behind Frankincense. As a matter of fact, I had never heard of it. Thanks for sharing, I am a newbie when it comes to essential oils, I am just barely getting on the idea of using it in my home and with my family.

  6. I do love using Essential Oils every time. So glad to know about the History of products that you are what using for. This is really amazing history that I’ve read about essential oils.

  7. Thanks for sharing your post on The Amazing History Frankincense Essential Oil. I remember using the term ‘Frankincense’ whenever I hear the story of baby Jesus born in manger and Frankincense was one of the gifts of the 3 kings. But now at least I know a bit of its history.


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