When it comes to Frankincense the array of options might seem overwhelming. However, it’s actually pretty simple. The Boswellia Frankincense oils are subtly different in chemistry and aroma but their effects are similar. This means that you can confidently choose any of these Frankincense essential oils to enjoy their benefits.
That said, other species are also referred to as ‘Frankincense’. We’ll explore these oils and their uses alongside the more well-known Boswellia oils.
Oshadhi’s range of Frankincense essential oils
Let’s start with the Boswellia genus. This is ‘true Frankincense’ – known and loved throughout history. It is perhaps best known for its role in the Christmas tradition where it is presented to the baby Jesus by the three wise men along with gold and Myrrh. The association of Frankincense with gold, one of the most precious metals on the planet, vividly illustrates its value. Even within this group there are different species so let’s see what they have to offer.
Boswellia carterii essential oils
Boswellia carterii is probably the best known and most researched type of Frankincense. Its essential oil is generally produced in arid areas of East Africa such as Somalia. In this environment the trees have evolved to survive the hot, dry conditions.
Interestingly, Boswellia carterii is considered to be synonymous with Boswellia sacra (see below). However, the distinction lies in the origin of the two species. The trees known as Boswellia carterii come from the Horn of Africa. Boswellia sacra, whilst considered to be the same species, refers to trees that grow in the Arabian Peninsula.
By far the most beloved oil in this group is the wild-grown Frankincense carterii which we have supplied for almost 20 years. Popular with therapists and enthusiasts alike and revered for its grounding, calming effects. It is used in blends to combat everyday stresses and strains as well as on its own to deepen the meditation experience.
For many years it was difficult to obtain certified organic Frankincense oils but they are now more widely available. Organic certification offers a robust traceability and auditing procedure. This gives an added layer of confidence and these oils are also suitable for use in organic skincare production. Certificates are available for all of our organic oils.
CO2 extracted Boswellia carterii
Traditionally, steam distillation has been used to produce essential oils. Carbon dioxide extraction is a new method that has become popular in recent years. CO2-extracted oils are still quite rare but are becoming more widely available.
CO2 extraction uses pressurized carbon dioxide to extract essential oils from plant material. In this process, CO2 is used in both its supercritical and subcritical phases. This process yields a broader range of compounds, making it suitable for a wider variety of plant materials.
Essential oils extracted using Co2 often have a cleaner and more true-to-plant aroma profile. This is because they retain a wider spectrum of volatile compounds. The resulting oils has a fragrance that is typically closer to the natural scent of the base material. Our Frankincense carterii CO2 organic has all the aroma characteristics of regular Frankincense but with a freshness and clarity.
Frankincense serrata hails from India where it has a long history of traditional use. This essential oil is steam distilled from the resin of wild grown trees using traditional methods. It was known for its anti-inflammatory effects and was often used to soothe everyday aches and pains in the joints and muscles.
This oil is often less costly than the other types so is a good way to start your Frankincense journey.
Frankincense sacra comes from the Arabian Peninsula, and most commonly from Oman. It grows on steep slopes in this mountainous region. To improve the stability of the trees it develops ‘buttress roots’ that adhere to the rocks.
This type of Frankincense is particularly prized for its exquisite aroma. It is also a favourite for spiritual use and meditation. Its grounding effect helps to still a racing mind and provide an ideal environment for reflection.
Other essential oils known as ‘Frankincense’
There are several other species of oil known as Frankincense but which are not members of the Boswellia family.
In some cases, oils that share a common name but are from a different species can be very different in their composition. Take Amyris for example. Also known as West Indian Sandalwood, it is often sold as an alternative to true Sandalwood (Santalum album). Amyris has therapeutic value but comes from an entirely different plant family. The essential oil has substantially different chemistry and properties so its use is not the same as that of true Sandalwood.
However, this is not so much the case for oils ‘known as Frankincense’. Here are some unique oils which you might like to try if you enjoy using Frankincense:
Brazilian Frankincense (Breu Branco) – Protium heptaphyllum
The majestic Brazilian Frankincense is a towering Amazonian tree that can reach up to 20 meters in height. It secretes a beautifully aromatic white resin from its bark. After the resin is harvested the essential oil is produced by a slow hydro-distillation process. Known locally as Breu Branco, this species belongs to the fragrant Burseraceae family, along with Boswellia oils.
This ‘Frankincense of Amazonia’ has an aroma that evokes Frankincense but with a fresher quality and a subtle citrus fragrance. It shares a similar chemical composition and some of its properties with Frankincense. However, unlike the dry, dusty aroma associated with the Somalian oil, its Brazilian counterpart has a fresh, clean, and vital character. This is understandable and represents the lush rainforest in which these trees grow.
Taiwanese Frankincense – Calocedrus formosana
The essential oil of Calocedrus formosana (Taiwanese Frankincense) is less well known. It is mainly used in perfumery for its tenacious aroma. This oil is however high in sequiterpenes which are known for their calming and soothing properties. These effects are shared with the more well-known Boswellia Frankincense oils.
Mexican Frankincense (Copal Santo) – Bursera copallifera
The scent of Mexican Frankincense is reminiscent of the Boswellia oils but with an enticing freshness. It is also subtly tinged with sweetness and a suggestion of ‘marzipan’ (almond). It undeniably shares a connection with Frankincense but its effects are more like those of Palo Santo.
The chemical composition of this oil implies its support for the respiratory system. Historically it is renowned for its anti-inflammatory effects. Inhaling the oil appears to reach deep within the heart for many , imparting a sense of protection. It’s an ideal choice for meditation and spiritual practice.
Click the link to learn all about Frankincense, its resin and its essential oil.