From earliest history until today, fragrant, alluring smells have been regarded as essential elements of civilized relationships. Exotic plant odors and the scents that could be utilized for body application have inspired explorers, aristocrats, writers, poets, merchants and priests, and they have been of fundamental relevance to religious practices and to courtship. Many societies have felt that the burning of fragrant woods provides an ideal, ethereal token of appreciation to their gods. The liberation of incense smoke was a source of perfume: this word comes from the Latin per fumum, “by smoke”. Incense is a word that means “that which is lit”. The main incense fragrances were frankincense and myrrh.
Frankincense – Oman’s Gift to the World
Frankincense, also known as olibanum, comes from trees in the Boswellia genus. These small trees or shrubs are native to the Red Sea area and grow wild throughout north east Africa. This tree has a number of feather-like leaves with white or pale pink flowers.
This plant produces a natural oleo gum resin which is collected through a rather time consuming process of making an incision in the bark. As a result of their incision, the tree ‘bleeds’ a milky white substance that heals the tree and prevents infection. After ten days the resin has hardened and is scraped from the tree. The highest quality frankincense comes from wounding the tree three times.
Frankincense was traditionally used as incense and was also ground into a powder and used as eyeliner by Egyptian women. Today, the essential oil, acquired by steam distillation of the resin, is widely used and holds great therapeutic value.
This oil has a potent aroma that is a combination of woody, earthy, spicy and slightly fruity. Some people actually think that smells like licorice.
Frankincense is traditionally carefully harvested from organic mature trees in the Salalah region of Dhofar, Oman. This is a region where the frankincense grade is considered so high, it was specially set aside for royalty.
Carefully hand sorted for colour. The rarest and most potent of all frankincense, this translucent green resin overflows with fresh hints of lime and menthol. A very light and airy resin, perfect for relaxation, meditation and gently scenting your home.
Long used in aromatherapy as a mood enhancer, a recent study carried out by researchers at Johns Hopkins University found that, when inhaled, pure frankincense smoke activates poorly understood ion channels in the brain. These are closely associated with emotion. This activity stimulates the production and release of a protein which helps reduce anxiety and symptoms of depression.
In the ancient world frankincense was valued more than gold and in our time it is a rare and unique gift. The scent is historically connected with healing and spirituality in almost every culture and religion.
In Oman where the finest Frankincense in the world comes from, it is considered a gift of God. The trees are not intentionally planted or watered, they are nurtured only by nature. The people whose land contains a frankincense tree are considered to be blessed.
Boswellia sacra comes from the Dhofar region of southern Oman Covering about 100,000 square kilometers, the Dhofar region borders Yemen to the west and Saudi Arabia to the north. The trees do not like moisture and thrive in barren areas cooled by sea winds.The ancient twisted trees with crinkly leaves spring unexpectedly to life every September with an explosion of white star flowers. An incision is made into the silvery bark, from which drips the fragrant “pearls”, white globules of resin called luban. Left to dry, this will turn transparent after about two weeks.
Frankincense can be found in souks (market places) throughout the middle east, but you’ll get the premium resin directly from Oman. The quality, scent and body can be identified by frankincense connoisseurs and, like a fine wine, varies greatly by each season and every year. If you ask the experts most will tell you that hojari is the finest.
The highest quality has various tints of green as well. It comes only from Dhofar region of Oman, whose arid growing conditions are ideal for fine quality frankincense resin. Superior Hojari frankincense resins produce beautiful light, bright, citrus aromas with slight underlying woody and balsamic tones. Of the frankincense resins from Oman, Green Hojari is the most sought after of all.
“The Tree of Life”
Frankincense because of its non-perishability its resistance to bacteria and because it is an evergreen tree, it is a symbol of immortality. The tree can live for at least 100 years. It seems that the power and beauty Frankincense is a reflection of its intense tenacity for life. In the driest areas, it condenses the solar heat and chill night winds into a rare essence. The gnarled exterior is in great contrast with its inner spirit.
Healing with Frankincense:
-The gum was used in the treatment of almost every imaginable disease by Greek and Roman physicians, and remedies employing frankincense also appear in the Syriac Book of Medicine, in the text of Muslim practitioners of the Middle Ages, and in Indian and Chinese medical writings.
– Recent research has revealed that the principle ingredient of gums such as frankincense and myrrh are very similar in chemical structure to the human steroid molecule, testosterone, the hormone which drives both male and female libido.
– The fresh gum is chewed for strengthening the teeth and gums, to stimulate digestion and to combat halitosis.
– The smoke from the burning gum is considered to have powerful curative and protective properties. Sick humans or domesticated animals are customarily fumigated with incense.
– Frankincense was and still is very far from being just a lovely fragrance; not is its extraordinary symbolic value confined to its healing powers, which range from treatment of psychological conditions such as depression and claustrophobia to physical ones such as eczema and abscesses.
– Smoke of gum is inhaled by people suffering from headache.
– Frankincense acts upon the the nervous system. and has the ability to relax yet revitalize. It smoothes the flow of stagnant Chi or Qi (the vital force of the human body).
– It is the great purifier of body and mind.
– Tattoos: areas of skin were pierced with two needles held close together and the perforations were then rubbed with soot from frankincense gum to make a permanent mark.
– In Dhofar, the soot of the gum was collected in a pot held inverted over the burning gum and then scraped off and used to make eye antimony. (kohl)
– In all the Middle East, frankincense is one of the most prominent fragrances. Wooden fumigating tripods are used to perfume and fumigate clothing. A special incense burner is placed at the base and clothes are layered above.
– Distilled and extracted to yield essential oil, resinoid, and absolute. Valued for its distinct oriental notes as well as fixative qualities. In Oman a very costly perfume is now prepared using these aromatic oils. It is called Amourage and enjoys and international reputation.
– Used to prepare a hair oil which helped fix the hair tight against the head and give it a gleaming appearance.
– A special talcum powder is prepared using frankincense, spices and ammonium salts to perfume and soften the skin.
– Visitors are often offered bowls of burning frankincense in Dhofar. The men waft the smoke about their beard, head and chest, while women perfume their headshawls and in less formal gatherings, stand over the bowl holding their dress closed at the neck to trap the fragrant smoke inside
No reductionist theories or research or pharma comes close to what can be acccomplished by allowing the plants themselves, or their oils, to help us heal. Take for example the information that there are almost no cancer cases in countries like Oman where resin is chewed daily. The resin of the Boswellia tree has demonstrated many benefits for human health, from arthritis to cancer.