Frankincense is considered
the holy anointing oil in the Middle East and has been part of religious and cultural ceremonies dating back to ancient times. Also known as "oliganum" or "Oil from Lebanon" the name frankincense is derived from the Medieval French word for "real incense". It was well known during the time of Christ for its anointing and healing powers and was one of the gifts given to Christ at his birth. "Used to treat every concievable ill known to man", frankincense was valued more than gold during ancient times, and only those with great wealth and abundance posessed it. Frankincense is mentioned in one of the oldest known medical records, Ebers Papyrus (dating from sixteenth century BC), an ancient Egyptian list of 877 prescriptions and recipes. Anciently, the Chinese used frankincense as a treatment for a range of ailments.
Frankincense was anciently associated with longevity. For instance: in the tales of Alexander's adventures in India at the oracle of the sun and the moon, the Indian guardians of the oracle lived in a bower of sacred trees, which wafted the aroma of frankincense and balsam. They lived on pure water, balsam, and frankincense; a diet on which they had thrived for 300 years.
As early as 2800 BC, frankincense was carried either north to Mesopotamia or west to the Red Sea. There it was loaded on boats bound for Egypt where it was valued as an offering worthy of the gods. The Egyptian Book of the Dead considered incense far more than a ceremonial trapping. Frankincense was believed to enhance the afterlife journey of the deceased using the words of the ritual pyramid text: "A stairway to the sky is set up for me that I may ascend on it to the sky. And I ascend on the sense of the great sensing, frankincense."
In ancient Egypt, the priests and priestesses at the healing Temple of Hathor at Dendera both taught and administered the Sacred Science of essential oils. This knowledge, which was handed down by the priest/initiates for over 5,000 years is recorded on the walls of Dendera Temple. Some people believe that Jesus and Mary Magdalene participated in the Mystery School as taught at Dendera and learned the magic of the esoteric anointing oils. The Egyptian Blue Lotus, Frankincense and Myrrh, as well as spikenard, galbanum, and rose were all treasured for their healing and spiritual properties. They were kept in treasuries and guarded as fiercely as gold. There is an outer building at Dendera called the Sanatorium, where the initiates were anointed with oils by the priests in order to experience prophetic and oracular dreams. The Sanatorium was later used as a healing center, where holy water was mixed with essential oils, amulets and crystals and used for bathing to relieve physical, mental and emotional distress. The Greeks, and later the Romans, adopted this practice and carried it into Celtic Britain and Gaul, and the idea of the "spa" was born. (Information courtesy of Mary Lomando)
One of the reasons for the popular use of Frankincense may be its ability to affect emotions and spiritual connection. Researchers today have discovered that the sesquiterpenes in frankincense help stimulate the limbic system of the brain (the center of emotions) as well as the hypothalamus, pineal and pituitary glands. The hypothalamus is the master gland of the human body, controlling the release of many hormones including thyroid and growth hormone.
An important constituent discovered within Frankincense is called incensole acetate which has an anti-anxiety effect and acts on a pathway in the brain that regulates emotion, TRPV3 channels. Incensole acetate only shows up after 11 hours of distilling with agitation and 15 hours without agitation. Incensole acetate is considered a major constituent, which is sought after to support many body functions. It works well as a companion to the boswellic acids in its medicinal attributes.
Not all frankincense is the same — in fact, most of the frankincense essential oil that is sold in the world today is Boswellia fereana which smells quite similar to other varieties, but it contains no boswellic acid. All the research Gary Young has uncovered in his lifetime quest for the truth of frankincense reveals that the frankincense taken out of King Tutankhamun's tomb resembled the frankincense species of sacra or carterii, not frereana. And all the legends from ancient prophets indicate that sacra or carterii were the only species used to anoint and heal. Frereana was never used.