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Boswellia spp.

Common name: Frankincense, boswellia
Arabic name: اللبان
TCM name: Ru Xiang
Ayurvedic name: Shallaki, Semul, Simul.
Family: Burseraceae
Parts Used: Resin
Actions: Analgesic, Anti-inflammatory, Stimulant, Cardiotonic, Carminative, Stomachic, Parasiticide, Diuretic, Antiseptic, Hemostatic, Anti-fungal, Hypoglycemic, Hypolipidemic, Antibacterial, Antimicrobial.
Taste: Spicy, pungent, bitter
Energy: Warming
Native To: India, Southern Arabia, Africa.

Geographic Distribution: India, Burma, and Shri Lanka and many other Eastern Himalayan Countries. It has naturalized to many tropical parts of Asia, Africa, and the Arabian peninsula. Most of the world’s supply comes from Somalia, Eritrea and Yemen – countries plagued by conflict in recent years, which has negatively affected their frankincense production. But peaceful Oman produces the world’s finest – and most expensive – frankincense.

Botanical Description: Leaves of this tree are deciduous and alternate towards the end of branches. Grows up to 18 metres in height. Leaflets are paired in about 10 sets with one terminal leaflet. They are oblong, obtuse, serrated, and pubescent. Flowers have 5 white to pale pink colored petals.

History and folklore: Used for 6,000 years as a perfume and panacea, frankincense is a very well-known Biblical herb. From the Hellenistic period onward, these resins and their lucrative westward trade became the principal reference point for Arabia in the Mediterranean world. Historically, frankincense use as an incense was far reaching. It was used in many ceremonies with other resins and is included in the Jewish compound of the four ‘sweet scents.’ It was an offering used in Babylon during the feast of Bel as well as in ancient Persia and Assyria. Traditions such as this continue today in Western India. Romans did not confine their use of this incense to ritual but also used it in the home as well. The burned remnants of this resin have also been used for makeup, being used by Egyptian women, who painted their eyelids with various resins mixed with charred frankincense.

Uses: In the Ayurvedic tradition, the resin of frankincense has anti-inflammatory effects believed to support rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, gout, joint pain, skeletal muscle pain, and back pain. The resin supports the lungs, for bronchitis and asthma, and the digestion, for diarrhoea and dysentery. Flowers have also been used for haemorrhoids and the roots contain stimulant, tonic, and aphrodisiac properties. In the nervous system the resin acts as an analgesic, mental tonic, stimulator, cardiotonic, and eye tonic. It regulates stool colour, improves digestion, is an anti-diarrhoeal, a stomachic, carminative, and anthelmintic. In the urogenital system it is a diuretic and improves menstruation. It is antipyretic and increases perspiration. Olibanum is antiseptic, wound cleaning and supports connective tissue growth and the essential oil has antifungal properties. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, Boswellia is considered to have four main energies. It is pungent for dispersing, bitter for purging, warm for promoting circulation of qi, and aromatic for moving. Frankincense supports traumatic injury by alleviating pain from stagnant blood and qi through increased circulation and removing the blood stagnation. Externally, frankincense will alleviate pain and promote wound healing. With myrrh it is commonly a gum disease mouthwash.

Safety: Should not be used by pregnant women.