I have seen many posts and comments on Facebook about purchasing Frankincense essential oils, so what is all this hype?
First let me tell you, most aromatherapists have no clue which species is which because we never really learn this in our certification courses. We skim the resin and learn more about the therapeutic properties of the essential oil.
It is so important to learn where the essential oil comes from. There are 43 species in the Boswellia family, about 18 of them are in the Frankincense species. Each Tree contains resin that is used for so many different therapeutic properties.
In the aromatherapy industry the “known” one that we learn something about is mainly Boswellia carteri (btw thee name used in Somaliland is carteri not carterri nor carterii), Boswellia is the Latin name, Frankincense is the common name. To type it Boswellia carteri is spelled “Boswellia” italicized and first letter is capitalized. “carteri” is lower case c and also italicized.
We learn that it balances the mind and can be used for certain inflammations. But in Somalia and Somaliland where it grows it is mostly used for skin conditions and to ward off sand flies and mosquitoes. It is also used to burn to get rid of icky smells from cooking fish. This part we do not learn. The same use is for the essential oil. The essential oil is the part that when the resin is distilled, the oil inside the resin comes out and is separated from the water which is then called the hydrosol.
While we are on Boswellia carteri, there are actually 3 grades of this resin. One with the bark but very small pieces 3rd grade) , One with the bark but bigger pieces (2nd grade) and one totally without the bark (1st grade).
People ask how come some companies sell this essential oil for so much money? A 10 ml bottle of the essential oil can go for $10 (this would probably be 3rd grade) , $25 (2nd grade) as high as $50 (first grade) or even higher if it is double distilled. Double distilled is taking the 1st distillation of the resin and putting it back into the still, adding more resin and doing another distillation. This is a long tedious process and you can wind up with a much stronger essential oil so of course the price tag is higher. I have seen a 10 ml bottle of Boswellia carteri double distilled go as high as $100. Many of the companies that sell this oil in will purchase it from a distiller who distills 2nd grade because unless you know about this resin, the consumer will have no idea which grade it is and the company can keep the price down lower. Let’s face it 1st grade Boswellia carteri resin is more expensive than 2nd grade especially if you are purchasing liters of it to sell.
Now a lot of companies are doing something which I feel is rather dumb. They are combining 4-5 Boswellia essential oil species together and calling it the “Miracle Frankincense” Umm NOT.
Some are mixing essential oils that have nothing to do with each other. We also do not know how many drops of each are going into the bottle.
One company is mixing Boswellia carteri, Boswellia sacra, Boswellia papyrifera and Boswellia frereana.
OK so Boswellia carteri is really for skin conditions as I mentioned earlier, Boswellia papyrifera is for meditation and can be used for anxiety issues. Boswellia frereana is for pain issues. And Boswellia sacra, umm which one? There are 4 grades of B.sacra but it can be used for pain issues. This is like mixing apples and oranges. If you are going to blend together at least blend the ones that complement each other. The other problem is we have no idea how many drops of each are in the 10 ml bottle so we have no idea if we are even getting the real deal of usage.
To really learn about these trees and the resins they produce I suggest you purchase my book, Frankincense Resins The Journey and Beyond. I take you through each resin and what it is used for. This way you have a way better understanding if you want to purchase the resins or the essential oils.
Robin B. Kessler, CCA
I am a Certified Clinical Aromatherapist who specializes in Seniors and Hospice. My passion is also these resins and support those who keep the sustainability of the all plants.