Frankincense – history, application and effect of natural remedies – naturopathy – natural healing specialist portal

Frankincense – history, application and effects of natural remedies

This text complies with the specifications of medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been reviewed by medical doctors and physicians.

For example, in traditional Indian medicine, frankincense is used against arthritis and rheumatism. (Image: amy_lv /

Frankincense as a natural remedy

incense Above all we know about religious celebrations, but at the same time he is an old medicinal plant. The tree grows originally in the Horn of Africa, ie in Somalia, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Yemen and Oman. These are low trees with gnarled bark, which peels like paper; the trees form about 25 cm long inflorescences. Wild incense needs a desert climate.

Frankincense as a medicinal plant

Frankincense was probably considered divine because our ancestors used it to heal diseases; Sanctity and healing can hardly be separated in antiquity. Hippocrates, the forefather of our medicine, saw frankincense as a means to cleanse wounds, respiratory diseases, and indigestion. In the Middle Ages, he also served as medicine, we learn from Hildegard von Bingen.

Frankincense effect

The Persian doctor Abu Sina recommended the resin to strengthen the mind and mind. The people of northeastern Africa used it against

The Indian natural medicine Ayurveda opposes the resin

  • arthritis,
  • rheumatism,
  • joint pain.

For example, in traditional Indian medicine, frankincense is used against arthritis and rheumatism. (Image: amy_lv /

Modern medicine

Whether it has a sufficient effect on drugs has not been adequately studied in scientific medicine. Currently, studies on incense in the treatment of inflammatory bowel disease such as Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis are ongoing.

As a medicine is currently listed only the resin of the Indian frankincense tree, which may be administered as an alcoholic dry extract as a drug for osteoarthritis and chronic inflammatory diseases of the intestine.

Medical active substance

The plant contains acetyl-11-keto-ß-boswellic acid, a substance that slows down inflammatory processes. Boswellia papyrifera from Ethiopia, Somalia and Eritrea as well as Yemen and Oman were particularly efficient. However, studies yielded contradictory results.

An endangered medicinal plant

However, it is not suitable as a drug for the masses: boswellic acids can hardly be produced synthetically, and all types of frankincense are threatened.

incense harvest

Already in ancient times, the people of southern Arabia harvested the incense resin (also called “Olibanum”). For this they scratched the branches in the spring, waited a few weeks and removed the spilled resin. In summer it is best. A tree provides between 3 and 10 liters of resin. The first harvest is considered inferior, the last one with nearly white olibanum, as the best. It is about 15 times more expensive, and the scent has a heavy lemon flavor.

Frankincense is the resin of the frankincense tree. It is obtained by scoring the bark. (Image: cbasting /

The incense country

The biblical Saba was the most important city in South Arabia, and at its core it was Yemen. Saba’s wealth had a name: frankincense. The south of Arabia had a monopoly on incense resin (and myrrh), and the cultures of the Middle East and the Mediterranean desired it. As an incense, the resin was central to religious rituals and healings.

The incense made Saba a center of long-distance trade with the Yemeni port of Aden. Over these ran the trade with the coveted resin by the Arabian sea and the Indian ocean to India. Camel caravans transported it through the Arabian desert to the Mediterranean Sea. There, Greek merchants organized resale.

Saba’s capital Marib was already in the 3rd millennium BC, and Saba was the most important civilization of ancient Arabia: the irrigation systems of the capital made 10 000 hectares of land fertile.

Assyrian texts tell of caravans from modern-day Yemen who brought Olibanum, and the Bible tells that the Queen of Sheba sent gifts to King Solomon, including incense.

Which resins are there?

Frankincense resin can be obtained from four tree species: Boswellia sacra, Boswellia papyrifera, Boswellia serrate and Boswellia frereana. Connoisseurs distinguish the different types of hard as bitter and softer in the fragrance, better or worse combustible, light and dark. The “typical” fragrance they send out when burning all. However, the quality not only differs in terms of incense, but also the location plays a role.

Indian frankincense

Early on, the Indians introduced him not only from Arabia, but also built him himself. This Indian incense played an important role in Ayurveda medicine. Basis is Boswellia serrata. It contains up to 9% essential oils, about 16% resin acids and about 20% mucic acids.

There are four different types of frankincense trees from which valuable resin can be extracted. (Image: cbasting /

Divine smoke

The ancient Egyptians used the medicinal plant for physical and spiritual cleansing, especially mummification, calling the resin drops the “sweat of the gods”. The rich smoked with Boswellia in everyday life. Later, it was one of the ritual acts of the Roman Catholic and Orthodox churches, which in turn took over smoking from pre-Christian religions such as the Mithras faith, which used incense, fire and candles in invocation ceremonies.

Cults and private individuals usually mixed it with other smelters, especially myrrh, but also laurel or galbanum.

The Canaanites operated a smoking cult that entered the Jewish Temple of Jerusalem. Mornings and evenings, the Jewish priests held a smoke offering at the altar. The Babylonians allegedly burned up to 20 tons of resin annually in their Baaltempel.

Smoke instead of animals

In the Roman Republic, the (more symbolic) smoke victim supplanted the animal sacrifices to the gods. There were special vessels (accerra) in which the faithful burned incense and thanked the gods. In triumphal trains, slaves who wielded censers ran ahead of the train. The emperors of Rome ordered that the subjects made smoking sacrifices before their image.

Frankincense had, in addition to the religious significance in Rome, a pragmatic one: the smoke dispelled the stench of excrement, urine and garbage that wafted through the city, which was swirling at the seams.

The early Christians had still rejected the incense swirling as pagan; When, however, Christianity became the state religion under Constantine, the bishops, like the Roman dignitaries, had the swivels run ahead of them.

Among the gifts of the three kings was the resin of the frankincense tree from southern Arabia.

The incense street

There was not one Silk Road, but many, and they connected the Mediterranean with China, Baghdad with the Caucasus, and Afghanistan with Lebanon. These trade routes extended over thousands of kilometers, through mountains and sandy deserts, through swamps and wilderness.

The desert nomads, like the Bedouins, lurked in the desert, and raids on the caravans were their daily bread. The dangers and strains made this trade only attractive for luxury goods, which achieved a high profit margin. These included Chinese silk, which included Indian spices and gems from Pakistan – and included frankincense and myrrh.

the Vikings moved to Scandinavia. The South Arabian kingdoms kept the origin of the incense secret and supervised the cultivation areas with military.

According to the archaeologist Barry Cunliffe, the masters of the Red Sea knew as early as the 2nd century BCE. the monsoon winds that enabled them to return to India from October to April and from April to October. The Indian demand for Olibanum made the long journey lucrative.

Important stops for merchants from the Red Sea were the South Arabian ports of Muza near the seaway of Bab el-Mandeb and Qana on the Gulf of Aden. Here the ships took supplies for the journey and frankincense, myrrh and date wine. Archaeologists found in Quana on a depot in which smoke was stored in ancient times.

Indian cooking vessels found in Quana indicate that Indian sailors were also staying in this South Arab port – and they were probably due to the gum resin of the frankincense tree.

Winged snakes guard the sacred tree

Neither the ancient Greeks nor today’s historians therefore know exactly where the trees grew whose resin was traded from Spain to India. Herodotus even believed that winged serpents guarded the incense trees. But there is an indication: on the border of the Yemen, in the region Dhofar in today’s Oman, the incense road began, and therefore probably the emphasis of the cultivation lay here.

The use of frankincense is an integral part of the Catholic Church. (Image: mitifoto /

Frankincense in the Roman Catholic Church

In Christianity, the plant stands for purification and the worship of God. The smoke symbolizes the prayer rising to God. For Catholics, frankincense stands for the unity of man from body and soul; He is a sign of the Holy Spirit like Jesus in bread and wine.

The incense belongs to the Catholic Mass and the Liturgy, as well as to processions and devotions. It is pivoted to the Eucharistic gifts, as well as the altar, the priests, the altar cross, the Easter candle and the nativity scene.

When an altar is consecrated, the sacred incense must be burnt at five places on the altar. (Dr. Utz Anhalt)


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