Frankincense

Frankincense

Boswellia spp.

Being gut-friendly, frankincense helps with flatulence, colic, ulcerative colitis, and irritable bowel syndrome. It also helps with asthma, fights gum diseases, limits cancer growth, reduces anxiety and depression, and improves memory.

  • Plant type: Annual
  • Other names: Boswellia
  • Medicinal: Yes
  • Culinary: No
  • Ceremonial: Yes
  • Parts Used: Resin
  • Side Effects: Should not be used by pregnant women.
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About Frankincense

Frankincense is hailed as one of the most multipurpose species in central and eastern Africa. Perched firmly in the tropical family, it is recognized by the resinous ducts in the barks. 

Frankincense can reach up to a height of 40 feet, portraying a rounded crown over a straight regular trunk. Its bark is white to pale brownish, slicing off in large flakes. Its large leaves are arranged on a long stalk with wavy and toothed leaflets that occur in the range of 10 to 29. It also gives out sweetly scented white to pink blooms, assembled on red stalks.

Historically, the natural oils extracted from frankincense were used as a base in perfumery, incense in temple rituals, and in making medicines. Its bark was chewed by our ancestors to treat stomach disturbances and quench thirst during hot, sultry days. It works magnificently at reducing inflammatory irregularities, especially rheumatoid and osteoarthritis. Being gut-friendly, frankincense helps with flatulence, colic, ulcerative colitis, and irritable bowel syndrome. It also helps with asthma, fights gum diseases, limits cancer growth, reduces anxiety and depression, and improves memory.

 

Growing

Frankincense is notorious for being difficult to grow. Only in 10% of cases, the frankincense seeds germinate. Most of the time, people end up buying a live plant as they are easier to manage. It is even more difficult to start frankincense with seeds outdoors, so it is preferred to start with the project indoors.

Just as the spring begins, frankincense seeds are soaked overnight in 9 parts of water and 1 part hydrogen peroxide to wipe out fungi and anchorage germination. Drain the seeds then sow them in a potting mix composed of 1 part seed-starting mix and 1 part sand. Lightly mask them with sand and cover the pot with plastic to preserve humidity and moisture. Place the pot on the germination mat to maintain the temperature between 90 to 95 degrees Fahrenheit. This way, the seeds are likely to germinate within a week or so.

As the seeds sprout, the plastic wrap is withdrawn and the pot is placed in a sunny spot or under a grow light. Transplant them as the seedlings develop 2 leaves in individual pots containing 1 part bonsai potting soil and 1 part miniature marble chips. During spring and summer, water the plant twice a week and only once a week during winters.

After sprouting, the seedlings establish and grow at a moderate pace. During winters, the plant enters its flowering phase that continues till April. These flowers are largely visited by different pollinators, such as butterflies, little flies, ants, wasps, and bees. The flowers then develop into small fruits and the petals fall off. 

The fruits begin to ripe in March. These fruits contain seeds that are collected and saved domestically to perpetuate their life cycle.

 

Harvesting

Frankincense can be harvested twice a year, once in spring (March to May) and further in fall (September to October).

With an ax, frankincense barks are peeled to get hold of resin. The resin crystals are then chopped.

Frankincense resin is stored in a cool, dry, and dark place, preferably in an airtight container.

 

Usage

Frankincense resin is procured in traditional medicinal systems to make herbal preparations that tend to different maladies.

  • Tincture - 1 part resin is macerated in 5 parts menstruum (alcohol) for 4 to 6 weeks to formulate a tincture.
  • Tea - Frankincense resin is ground into a coarse powder. 1 tsp. of this powder is steeped in a cup of hot boiling water to make tea.
  • Decoction - Frankincense resinous crystals are decocted in hot boiling water for around 2 hours to yield a decoction.
  • Salve - Frankincense infused olive oil and melted beeswax are combined together and left to congeal in flat tin containers to formulate frankincense salve.
  • Syrup - Frankincense resin is simmered in sugar solution for a while to form frankincense syrup.
  • Infused oil - Frankincense resins are infused in olive for 2 to 3 weeks in a glass bottle on a sunny windowsill to yield frankincense-infused oil.