Frankincense is one of the most highly coveted essential oils in the world, with its oldest known use dating back to the 16th century BC. It is still widely used and being tested for its health effects today. Namely, its effect on the immune system, joints, the stomach, and even the brain. If you suffer from stomach ulcers, arthritis or poor memory, frankincense water could be a viable treatment option if consumed safely.
The Ebers Papyrus, dating back to 1550 BC, as well as many other scripts of the ancient Egyptians, listed frankincense on many health remedies. Much of the research that we are going to cite has tested different forms of Indian frankincense. Boswellia resin refers to the pure sap from the Boswellia Sacra tree. The sap is taken from the tree when it is cut down and dried. Frankincense oils comprise of chemical compositions that usually undergo human manufacturing.
A study conducted by Dr. Oliver Werz, a professor at the Friedrich Schiller University in Germany found that boswellic acids interact with proteins that are part of an inflammatory response, blocking enzymes efficiently which will reduce inflammation. Prostaglandin E2 is one of those enzymes, it acts as a mediator of the immune response and plays a crucial role in the process of inflammation, as well as the development of fever and pain. Werz found the active substances can interfere in the process of inflammation and potentially be beneficial in therapies against asthma, rheumatoid arthritis or atopic dermatitis. (1)
A 2015 study found that Boswellia had antiseptic and antifungal properties that could prevent the chance of infection of an open wound. (2) Although there is no scientific backing to claim that frankincense oil will improve the function of your immune system, it has been used to treat wounds and scars to prevent infection and inflammation in various cases.
To use it safely, apply a few drops of frankincense oil to a wound, and when two or three drops are mixed with a carrier or oil or lotion such as coconut or olive oil, can be used to reduce the appearance of scars and lesions.
In 2011, a team of researchers found significant symptomatic improvement in patients with arthritis. They tested two groups of 56 osteoarthritis patients with Shallaki, a blend of herbs which contains Boswellia resin. One group was given a capsule of the herb, and the second group was given a topical treatment of the extract to the affected joints. The most promising results in symptom reduction were found in the group that was given the oral capsules of Boswellia resin. (3)
In another experiment conducted by researchers at Cardiff University, findings indicated that frankincense inhibits the production of inflammatory molecules which can potentially prevent the breakdown of the cartilage tissue that causes arthritis and joint conditions. (4)
Patients suffering from arthritis can try applying Boswellia resin along with a carrier lotion or oil for relief of joint pain, but any treatment for a medical condition should be done so only under the supervision of a doctor.
Learning or Memory Difficulties
An in-vivo study done in March 2016 provided a neuro-anatomical basis for memory improvement with the chronic treatment of Boswellia (Indian frankincense). The experiment was conducted on rats using the Morris water maze task. This task is given to rats to measure spatial recognition and memory. When the rats were given Boswellia serrata, the spatial learning of the young rats was drastically improved over the space of three days. (5)
Human trials remain to be conducted, but when the frankincense water is consumed, there is potential for Boswellia to help with memory function. In the Middle East, where frankincense water is consumed, four to five pieces of resin are left to sit in water overnight before the water is consumed.
In 2008, a study was conducted to assess the anti-ulcer efficacy of boswellic acids on different animals. Researchers hypothesized that the boswellic acids inhibited ulcer production by helping the mucosal lining of the stomach fight against inflammation. (6)
The methods by which frankincense was able to protect the stomach were inconclusive, but the research is certainly promising for patients suffering from chronic ulcers or peptic ulcer disease.
Side Effects of Frankincense Water
Although there are no severe reported side effects of frankincense resin or oil, on some rare occasions, frankincense oil caused skin rashes, gastrointestinal distress, such as nausea, stomach pain, and hyperacidity. (7) This usually occurs when the oil is overapplied or consumed too much. It should not be consumed during pregnancy, because of its astringent qualities.
Recipe for Frankincense Water
As with any essential oil, it is very important that treatment with ingestion is prepared and consumed safely. Our method is very similar to the way people in India and the Middle East prepare frankincense water. You should avoid ingesting this in large quantities.
You can find frankincense resin in many holistic health stores and herb shops. Although frankincense water will not be as potent as the Boswellia extracts and supplements used in the studies above, this drink could still show effective benefits.
- One bag frankincense resin
- Purified water
- A glass jar
- Place frankincense resin in the bottom of the jar.
- Boil the water and pour over resin until the jar is full.
- Cover with a glass plate or towel. Let the water sit overnight.
- Drink a few ounces throughout the day.
- If it’s your first time drinking the water, make sure to introduce this drink to your body slowly.
Frankincense oil can be used in a myriad of ways; it can be inhaled, applied topically, or imbibed in water. Although this research shows lots of promise, it is important to remember this information when considering frankincense water for treatment, and to consume this infusion safely.
- Werz, O. (2012, July 09). Frankincense as a Medicine. Friedrich Schiller University Jena, 42(10).
- Elfadil, H., Fahal, A., Kloezen, W., Ahmed, E. M., & Sande, W. V. (2015). The In Vitro Antifungal Activity of Sudanese Medicinal Plants against Madurella mycetocytes, the Eumycetoma Major Causative Agent. PLoS Negl Trop Dis PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases, 9(3). doi:10.1371/journal.pntd.0003488
- Gupta, P., Chandola, H., Samarakoon, S. M., & Ravishankar, B. (2011, October). Clinical evaluation of Boswellia serrata (Shallaki) resin in the management of Sandhivata (osteoarthritis). AYU (An International Quarterly Journal of Research in Ayurveda), 32(4), 478. doi:10.4103/0974-8520.96119
- Cardiff University. (2011, August 4). A wise man’s treatment for arthritis: Frankincense?. ScienceDaily. Retrieved November 25, 2016, from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/06/110621121316.htm
- Hosseini-Sharifabad, M., Kamali-Ardakani, R., & Sharifabad, A. (2-16, March/April). The beneficial effect of Boswellia serrata gum resin on spatial learning and the dendritic tree of dentate gyrus granule cells in aged rats. Avicenna J PhytoMed, 6(2), 97-189.
- Singh, S., Khajuria, A., Taneja, S., Khajuria, R., Singh, J., Johri, R., & Qazi, G. (2008, June 15). The gastric ulcer protective effect of boswellic acids, a leukotriene inhibitor from Boswellia serrata, in rats. Phytomedicine, 15(6-7), 408-415. doi:10.1016/j.phymed.2008.02.017
- Hoernlein, R. F., Orlikowsky, T., Zehrer, C., Niethammer, D., Sailer, E. R., Simmet, T., . . . Ammon, H. (1999, February). Acetyl-11-Keto-β-Boswellic Acid Induces Apoptosis in HL-60 and CCRF-CEM Cells and Inhibits Topoisomerase I. The Journal of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics, 288(2), 613-619.
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