These notes were originally prepared for two short CPD (Continuing Professional Development) "essential oils refresher" sessions which I led for Professional Aromatherapy Network in South Yorkshire. I would be glad to lead such sessions for other groups, e.g. local/regional IFPA or IFA branches.

For list of other essential oil profiles see USES page. There is also a separate page on the use of frankincense for arthritic conditions in FRANKINCENSE & MYRRH CREAM. To buy frankincense oil visit the ONLINE SHOP.


Boswellia Carteri

Also known as Olibanum. There is much confusion over the botanical naming of different species. B. Carteri (not carterii as often stated) is now classified as synonymous with B. sacra. (1). B. serrata is Indian frankincense. It is difficult to be sure which species oil has been distilled from, and it is possible that resins from different species may get mixed together (2). 

Origin N.E. Tropical Africa (including Somalia) and the Arabian Peninsula. Grows on limestone rocks. (3).

Extraction The bark of the tree is cut to release a white gum resin which congeals into “tear” shapes, coloured amber to orange-brown to reddish to white. Steam distillation usually takes place in Europe. (4)

History The name is derived from Old French and means “true incense” (3). Widely burnt e.g. in India, China and the Catholic church. Used in large amounts in ancient Egypt in ritual, in embalming, and in cosmetics and perfumes (4). Gift to baby Jesus in the Christian Bible -signifying holiness (3). Wide traditional medical use.

Contra-indications Tisserand & Balacs (5) give no contraindications.

Chemistry Shirley & Len Price (6) list major constituents as monoterpenes (alpha-pinene, alpha-thujene, limonene, cymene, sabinene) with some sesquiterpenes, alcohols, a ketone (verbenone) and an ester (octyl acetate). But many identifications and chemical analyses in the literature are “invalid, as the resin was bought from a market and not necessarily collected in the country of purchase” (2).

Blending Suggestions Usually listed as a base note, but not so persistent as sandalwood or vetiver. Base to middle? Goes particularly well with the orange oils – orange, petitgrain, neroli. Benzoin, black pepper, camomile Roman, caraway, cardomom, cedarwood Atlas, Cedarwood Virginian, cypress, elemi, ginger, grapefruit, ho wood, jasmine, lavender, lemongrass, mandarin, melissa, myrrh, myrtle, rockrose (aka cistus), rose, rosewood, sandalwood, tea-tree, ylang ylang. 

Major Properties 

Anticatarrhal, antidepressive, antiseptic (esp. pulmonary), astringent, cicatrisant, expectorant, immunostimulant, sedative, uterine, vulnerary.

Paul Boizot. Information revised 15.3.04. Page updated 28.10.14.

All content on this site COPYRIGHT Paul Boizot 2002-2014 unless otherwise stated, either on the visible webpage or in HTML.

My address from 30.04.12 is 14 Holly Bank Grove, York YO24 4EA, U.K.

contact me on: 01904 621510
This website is best viewed at a screen resolution of 800 x 600 pixels - at 640 x 480 everything will look bigger, at 1024 x 768 you may need a magnifying glass. I have tested it on Opera 7.11, Netscape 6.2 and Internet Explorer 6. It may not display properly in older browsers that do not support CSS (Cascading Style Sheets) -  it will lack text formatting, background colours, etc.