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Boswellia carterii

Boswellia carterii

[span class=alert]In regards to the Traditional Use and Therapeutic Action sections of Essential Oils, the oils are rated as is standard practice in the French school of aromatherapy and others. The ratings ranked from one (+) to four (++++) with four indicating the highest value, indicate the oil’s therapeutic value from a practicing clinician’s point of view. The French rating system mentioned are obtained from this book reference entitle ‘Les Cahiers Pratiques D'Aromatherapie Selon L'Ecole Francaise’ (Authors: Francine Baudry, Pascal Debauche & Dominique Baudoux). However, further clarification might be required and will be updated once additional information of the rating system is obtained.[/span]

Family Name


Genus Name


Vernacular Name

Frankincense, olibanum, mogar, sheehaz, mohor, beyo

Original Habitat

Frankincense trees are found in the Middle East and Africa. Most commercial oils are collected from India, Yemen, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya and some from Somalia. The trees have white or pale pink flowers and a gum resin that oozes from the bark and hardens by the sun. Frankincense has an ovoid tear shape and usually a pale yellow colour, sometimes with green, red or blue tinges.[1] Frankincense has been used since ancient times, even being worth more than gold at some points in history. Some historians believe that the Egyptians traveled by land and sea to collect the frankincense resin as early as 3000 BC.[2]

Plant Part Used



B. carterii oil is used alone and combined into products used for topical application. It is also used in the food and beverage industry and in perfumes.


Oleoresin is collected from cuts made in the bark of the tree. The essential oil is steam distilled from the resin, while the absolute is solvent distilled using benzene. The essential oil is a yellow-green color with a sweet, woody aroma and is thick in consistency. It has a warm or low note.

Chemical Constituents

The chemical constituents vary depending upon the source, extraction methods used and manner/time of harvesting of the oleoresin. The oil consists primarily of terpene hydrocarbons. In general, the following represent the constituents identified in oils from the Middle East:

α-Pinene Camphene
Octyl acetate
Incensol [3][4]

Medicinal Uses

Respiratory antiseptic, anticatarrhal, expectorant ++
Vulnerary ++
Energizer stimulates the immune system ++++
Uplifter (antidepressant) +++
Anti-inflammatory [5][6][7][8][9]

Traditional Use

Catarrhal and asthmatic bronchitis ++
Immune deficiency, mental weakness +++
Wounds, ulcers ++
Nervous break-down ++

In its resin form, frankincense has been used to treat wounds and rheumatoid arthritis for centuries.[7][9] This is mostly due to its anti-inflammatory action.[7] Inhalation and topical application are appropriate for stimulating a weakened immune system. Inhalation may also be used for depression.[3]

Frankincense has been used throughout the world, mostly in the Middle East and Africa, for religious purposes and as a beauty treatment. It has been used to treat asthmatic bronchitis, depression, mental fatigue, stress, respiratory and bronchial infections. There is little scientific evidence for these traditional uses, however since the oil has been used and valued so highly for thousands of years, it is likely that the fragrance is suitable for relaxation and/or meditation and possibly a central nervous system stimuli.[4]

Contraindications and Precautions

There are not any documented adverse reactions to Frankincense, and it is considered to be safe for various uses. However it should be used with caution in those with sensitive skin as should all essential oils.[10]

The use of burnt oil is not recommended.

Frankincense should not be used in children, pregnant or breastfeeding mothers.

There are no reports of drug interactions with the use of Boswellia carterii either applied topically or inhaled.



[span class=alert]Keep out of reach of children as oils are highly concentrated.Essential oils are irritating to the eyes.  Avoid contact with eye area.Always dilute essential oils with carrier oil, lotion, cream or gel even when using in diffuser or bath.Essential oils are sometimes prescribed to be used internally, but should only be used internally under professional supervision.[/span]


1.     Greene DA. Gold, frankincense, myrrh and medicine. J N C Med. Dec 1993;54(12):620-622.

2.     Michie CA, Cooper E. Frankincense and myrrh as remedies in children. J R Soc Med. Oct 1991;84(10):602-605.

3.     Schnaubelt K. Advanced aromatherapy: the science of essential oil therapy. Healing Arts Press; 1995.

4.     Lis-Balchin M. Aromatherapy science. London: Pharmaceutical Press; 2006.

5.     Schillaci D. In vitro anti-biofilm activity of Boswellia spp. oleogum resin essential oils. Lett Appl Microbiol. Nov 2008;47(5):433-438.

6.     Camarda L. Chemical composition and antimicrobial activity of some oleogum resin essential oils from Boswellia spp. (Burseraceae). Ann Chim. Sep 2007;97(9):837-844.

7.     Moussaieff A. Incensole acetate: a novel neuroprotective agent isolated from Boswellia carterii. J Cereb Blood Flow Metab. Jul 2008;28(7):1341-1352.

8.     Mikhaeil BR. Chemistry and immunomodulatory activity of frankincense oil. Z Naturforsch [C]. Mar-Apr 2003;58(3-4):230-238.

9.     Banno N. Anti-inflammatory activities of the triterpene acids from the resin of Boswellia carterii. J Ethnopharmacol. 19 Sep 2006;107(2):249-253.

10.  McGuffin M, Hobbs C, Upton R, Goldberg A. Botanical safety handbook. Boca Raton: CRC Press; 1997.

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