Frankincense (or Olibanum) is a gum resin that is air-dried and comes from the incense tree. It is used both as an incense and for therapeutic purposes. The smoke that arises when burning is also called incense.

Occurrence & cultivation of frankincense

The resin of frankincense contains a substance that has a very good effect on various chronic inflammations. This substance is called boswellic acid.

Frankincense is extracted from the incense tree. The tree is about four to six feet high and thrives only on very dry, barren soils, which must have a certain mineral content. Main growing areas are the hinterland of the coast of East Africa, the south of Arabia and India. The tree contains a milky liquid, which is dried in the air and from which the so-called incense resin is produced. Incense is produced from late March to early April. The trees are cut at the branches, whereby the quality of the resin is initially inferior and then improves over the weeks.

By cutting the resin exits, is dried in air and subsequently harvested as so-called resin tears. The yield depends on the size, the age or the condition of the respective tree and is about three to ten kilograms. Frankincense consists of resins, essential oils, proteins and mucus and was already used in ancient Egypt for various cults. For example, mummification was used as a disinfectant healing and fumigant.

When burnt, it produces an aromatic smoke that is still used today in different religions. In ancient times, frankincense was a very high paid commodity traded on the incense road. More than ten different types of frankincense are found worldwide, the most common being Boswellia serrata, which is native to northern and central India.

Effect & application

The Egyptians used frankincense for wound treatment and ointments. The incense was already mentioned in the oldest Egyptian script, the Ebers Papyrus. Mashed frankincense with honey as a remedy has been described here, a recipe that has been preserved in Egypt to this day. Hippocrates used the remedy for respiratory diseases or problems with digestion.

In East Africa, frankincense is used to combat diseases such as schistosomiasis, syphilis and stomach ailments. Indian Ayurveda medicine has been used for more than 5, 000 years in joint and muscle disorders, rheumatic diseases, sciatica and arthritis. As an ointment, it is also applied externally to ulcers, glandular swellings or bone fractures.

Internally, frankincense is used in the natural healing of Ayurveda in addition to hemorrhoids and inflammation of the oral cavity. In classical natural medicine, frankincense is used to relieve rheumatic complaints. In addition, it has been shown that frankincense helps with chronic diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, but the symptoms of multiple sclerosis and atopic dermatitis can also be alleviated by incense supplements.

The resin of frankincense contains a substance that has a very good effect on various chronic inflammations. This substance is called boswellic acid and it has the ability to block leukotriene synthesis, reducing inflammation. Inflammation in the body is caused by the enzyme 5-lipoxygenase. With the help of this enzyme leukotrienes are formed, the body's own metabolites that sustain chronic inflammation.

In inflammatory diseases, the formation of leukotrienes in the body is therefore always increased. However, if leukotriene production can be stopped, the inflammations will go down. This is exactly what boswellic acids perform: they inactivate the enzyme 5-lipoxygenase so that leukotrienes are no longer formed. Boswellic acids have fewer side effects than, for example, anti-inflammatories such as indomethacin or diclofenac.

Increased leukotriene levels are found, for example, in the following diseases such as pulmonary fibrosis and asthma, allergic nasal mucosal inflammation and allergic conjunctivitis. Also, gout, hives, psoriasis, Crohn's disease can be found as well as liver cirrhosis and nicotine addiction.

In addition, frankincense should also have an effect on brain tumors, since the boswellic acids are able to suppress the accumulation of water around the tumor. This makes better surgical treatment possible. In addition, incense has a balancing effect and can support the body in stressful situations. Since sesquiterpenes can also be found in the remedy, frankincense influences the limbic system. It works against depression and can stimulate the immune system.

Importance for Health, Treatment & Prevention

Frankincense preparations are used in tablet form or as powdered frankincense resin. So far, only one drug, the so-called H15 is available, but that has to be imported from India after medical prescription. For chronic complaints, a dose of 3 x 800 mg per day is recommended at the beginning of therapy, provided the symptoms are very severe. Otherwise a dose of 3 x 400 mg dry extract is sufficient. Incense pills, however, only work after about four weeks and are therefore not acutely painkillers, making accompanying medication are recommended.

Ingestion causes joint swelling, general well-being or morning stiffness to improve, and inflammation levels decline. Possible side effects may be skin rashes and itching, as well as gastrointestinal complaints, which disappear during treatment.

Homeopathic incense drops or frankincense balm can also help with venous disease, as the boswellic acids prevent water retention and prevent pain. Externally, frankincense can also be used in the form of envelopes or ointments, for the inner treatment are in addition to tablets and capsules or distillates available.

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