Frankincense (Ru Xiang)
Botanical Name: Western – Boswellia thurifera, B. caraterii. B. Serrata, B. sacra. Eastern – Gummi Olibanum.
Frankincense has long been used by many cultures to open the mind and soul to the eternal and to god. It has been used in cosmetics, perfumes, and to treat leprosy. The Chinese use it to help heal injuries and pain due to Blood or Qi stasis, including postpartum abdominal pain due to Blood stagnation. Frankincense is an endangered species due to population growth and climate change.
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Below is an overview of frankincense, combining the best of Western Science, Oriental Medicine, Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), Shamanism, Folklore, and a wide range of healing modalities. Gain a balanced and thorough understanding of the healing properties of frankincense.
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Also Known As: Olibanum, Incense
Organs/Systems: Digestive System, Pain, Mind, Skin
Key Actions: Antiseptic, Antibacterial, Antiviral, Anticancer, Anti-inflammatory, Antioxidant, Analgesic, Stimulant, Digestive, Aromatic, Antidepressant, Astringent, Purification
Medicinal Uses: Digestion, bloating, diarrhea, acne, anxiety, depression, laryngitis, bronchitis, joint pain, muscle aches, arthritis, ulcers, headaches, cancer, fungal infections, air cleanser, leprosy.
Also Known As: Fan Hun Xiang (meaning “calling back the soul fragrance”), Ru Xiang (meaning “nipple-shaped fragrance”)
Meridians: Heart, Liver, Spleen
Key Actions: Moves Qi, Invigorates Blood, Prevents Stagnation, Relaxes the Sinews, Reduces Swelling, Generates Flesh
Medicinal Uses: Amenorrhea, dysmenorrhea or postpartum abdominal pain due to blood stasis, blood stasis related to traumatic injuries, painful swellings, masses, chest or abdominal pain due to blood stagnation, cancer, asthma, wheezing, shortness of breath, headaches, promotes the free flow of Qi and Blood in the Meridians, relieves rigidity and spasms, used topically to reduce swelling, generate flesh, alleviate pain and promote healing of wounds and sores, includes acne, sore mouths and gums, leprosy.
Most of the world’s frankincense comes from the Arabian Peninsula (Oman and Yemen) and Somalia. It typically grows in the dry, mountainous regions of India, Africa, and the Middle East.
Parts Most Frequently Used: Dried Gum Resin, Oil
Flavors/Temps: Acrid, Bitter, Warm, Aromatic
Caution: Not recommended during pregnancy.
Key Constituents: 65% Resins, Volatile oil, B-phellandrene, A-pinene, Tetracyclic triterpenoids, Limonene, Gum, Bassorin, Boswellic acid, Alibanoresin
History/Folklore: Now mostly used externally even though it has a long history of being used internally as well. Pliny the Elder said it was an antidote for hemlock. Historically it has been used to treat tumors, ulcers, vomiting, dysentery and fevers. In ancient China, it has been used to treat leprosy. In ancient times it was considered more valuable than gold.
Used in Ayurvedic medicine for hundreds of years.
The Jews have used frankincense in their religious ceremonies as part of their “four sweet scents” which were pounded together. Frankincense has a woodsy and slightly sweet aroma.
In Catholic traditions, it is burned ceremonially and was one of the gifts given to the Christ Child by the Three Magi Wise Men at His birth. The Persians, the Babylonians and Assyrians all burned frankincense as part of their sacred ceremonies. It is also used in India as part of a Ritual of Incense. The Romans burned it for all kinds of ceremonies, civil and sacred.
It is said in Arabia, where the herb comes from, that the frankincense trees are guarded by winged serpents of various sizes and colors.
The Chinese used frankincense as incense in ceremonies to mourn the dead, hence the source of the name “calling back the soul fragrance.” They also used it medicinally to help treat any conditions or pain caused by stagnant blood. When used in decoctions, especially to move blood, the Chinese will typically stir-fry or bake frankincense that has been soaked in rice vinegar to enhance its blood moving properties.
Inhaling the steam from frankincense soothes bronchitis and laryngitis. Boswellic acid in the resin is reputed to have potent anti-inflammatory properties, especially effective for those suffering from chronic aches and pains as can be caused by the ongoing impact of arthritis. Studies indicate that boswellic acids may be as effective as NSAIDS but with fewer side effects.
Frankincense is high in B-phellandrene and A-pinene, essential oil compounds that are effective for treating bloating and expelling gas from the stomach and intestines. Alpha-pinene has
Frankincense and myrrh are often used together enhancing their anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties. They continue to be studied for their anticancer properties and ability to treat complex chronic diseases. They are both from two olive plants from different species and genera. Frankincense is from the Boswellia carterii tree, and is a hard, gelatinous resin. Myrrh is from the Commiphora myrrha tree is an oily, gelatinous substance. China is the world’s largest market for both frankincense and myrrh.
The synergistic effectiveness of these two herbs has been confirmed and continues to be studied. The formula, Qihuang Pill, is a famous Traditional Chinese Medicine prescription for treating cancer. It is known as the “first drug” for cancer effectively treating breast, gastric, liver, and other cancers. It contains both frankincense and myrrh.
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