Frankincense (Boswellia serrata)

frankincense resin and oil

Frankincense Overview:

Frankincense has been a valuable herb for a long time. It was so valuable at the time, it was one of the three precious gifts given to Jesus at his birth along with Myrhh, and gold. The value of frankincense comes from its powerful medicinal actions, which we now understand to be through antiseptic and antinflammatory actions. In the past, however, these medicinal actions were not well understood, but the wide range of conditions antinflammatories can treat made it a bit of a panaceae of its time. On top of this, the rich volatile oil content made frankincense an excellent source of incense for celebrations and ceremonies.

Frankincense is incredibly hardy, growing out of rock faces in the scortching Somali sun, often going months without water.


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+ Indications

  • Asthma
  • Cancer
  • Crohn's disease
  • Diverticulitis
  • General inflammation
  • Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)
  • Inflammatory Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
  • Lymphoma
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE)
  • Ulcerative colitis

+ Contraindications

None noted.

+ Mechanisms

  • 5-LOX inhibitor
  • Mild COX inhibitor

Main Herbal Actions:

  • Antioxidant
  • Antinflammatory
  • Antiseptic
  • Carminative
  • Vulnerary
  • Emmenagogue

Main Uses:

The main use for frankincense internally is for its potent antinflammatory effects. It works mainly as a 5-LOX inhibitor, which differentiates it from COX inhibitors like Aspirin, Salix alba, or Curcuma longa. Frankincense is best used for conditions like osteoarthritis and vascular/neural inflammation, and in combination with COX inhibitors for inflammatory bowel disease or hyperpermeability of the gastrointestinal lining.

Topically frankincense is used in salves or as a linement for wounds and infection. The essential oil is inhaled for asthma, lung infeciton, or as a mild sedative.


Weekly Dose

Weekly Dose

(Powdered Extract)

  • 2100-3500 mg

Part Used

  • Resin

Family Name

  • Burseraceae


  • Middle East

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Constituents of Interest

  • Acetyl-11-keto-beta-boswellic acid (AKBA):
  • Alpha-boswellic acid
  • 3-acetyl-ß-boswellic acid
  • Pinene

Common Names

  • Frankincense
  • Olibanum
  • Boswellia
  • Sallaki (Sanskrit)


  • CYP3A4
  • CYP1A2
  • CYP2C9


  • Unknown


  • Unknown


  • Slightly minty, bitter

Duration of Use

  • Suitable for long term use.

Botanical Info:

Frankincense is a member of the Burseraceae family of plants, which includes 17-19 different genera and 540 species. This family is characterised by a nonallergenic resin produced in nearly all plant tissue as well as flaking bark patterns.

The Boswellia genus contains roughly 30 different species. The main species used today is Boswellia serrata, although Boswellia carteri is also used in some parts of the world. Biblical frankincense is believed to have been Boswellia sacra.


Research Overview:

Still compiling research.

Level Of Research:


Clinical Applications Of Frankincense:

Frankincense is useful for most forms of inflammation, including inflammatory bowel conditions, oasteoarthritis, and vascular inflammation. It's aromatic component makes it reliable for relieving flatulence, bloating, and indigestion.



Some allergies have been reported.


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