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Where does Frankincense come from ?

Thursday 09 May 2024

Frankincense is the resin of the incense tree, Boswellia. It is the incense used in Catholic churches.

It is the resin produced by trees of the Boswellia genus, from the Burseraceae family. These trees are native to Africa, Arabia and India. There are many varieties.



Two incense trees in their natural environment and drops of resin that have dried, just before being harvested.


Origin of incense and Boswellia trees
Boswellia is believed to have originated in the Dhofar desert in the south of the Sultanate of Oman, which borders Yemen. This is the country that still produces the most prized incense, called Royal Hodjari, of the Boswellia sacra type, with beautiful white tears with green reflections (depending on the season and the harvest), a product exported mainly through the port of Salalah, in the south of the country. But many other Boswellia resins are harvested: carterii, neglecta, frereana, occulta, socotrana, serrata, etc.


Production and harvesting of gum resin
Incense is harvested by grating the bark from the trunk. The attacked tree produces gum resin to protect itself. This gum forms drops that grow and dry on the surface of the trunk. These dried drops of resin (sometimes called tears) are then harvested a fortnight later to be cleaned of bark residue and sorted according to quality and size.

Brief history of frankincense and its use
Frankincense was considered a sacred substance as early as the Egyptians, where it was burnt during religious ceremonies, offerings, enthronements of the Pharaohs, etc.
It is mentioned many times in the Bible. Incense arrived in Jerusalem from Arabia by the spice route, probably from present-day Yemen or the Sultanate of Oman. The Hebrews then used it to make Temple incense. Incense resin is still widely used today in Catholic and Orthodox ceremonies.

Other uses of Boswellia resin
Frankincense is also widely used in perfumery and by the pharmaceutical industry. Its essential oil is used in the composition of many perfumes. Its astringent and anti-inflammatory properties can help in the healing of sore throats, mouth ulcers, etc. Olibanum extracts seem to be beneficial in the fight against joint problems: rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis, etc.

The use of frankincense grains for fumigation
Frankincense is widely used in fumigation, as it is a powerful resin, for purification or protection sessions. But it is often burnt at home to spread its beautiful fragrance.
Frankincense increases spiritual power, intuition and clairvoyance. For this reason it is often burned before a meditation session. It is said to have anti-stress properties and to act as an anti-depressant.

It is most often burnt on hot coals, but can also be burnt in a candle burner, using a grid or a small metal saucer. With the candle, the perfume diffused will be more discreet and without smoke, on the charcoal, the smoke will be thicker and the diffusion of the perfume much more effective, but be careful not to use a charcoal tablet that is too hot. Indeed, frankincense is a resin that does not melt on charcoal (except Boswellia Frereana Maydi Mushaad). If the charcoal is too hot, you will get a scorched smell, whereas on a charcoal that has dropped in temperature, you will get the best out of this magnificent product of nature.

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