Frankincense (also known as olibanum) can find its traces as far back as 6,000 years ago. It is also mentioned in the bible in Matthew 2: 1-12 as one of the 3 gifts (the others 2 being Myrrh and Gold) mentioned in the bible to be given to Jesus son of Mary (Peace and Blessings be Upon him) by the Magi on the night he was born. But what is it? Where does it come from? Who uses it? And what do you do with it?
As one can guess by reading the name Frank-INCENSE is a type of incense. The name itself is derived from an Old French expression “franc encens” translated as “High-Quality Incense”. In the Middle East, Frankincense is associated with the name Lebanon. This is derived from the word “white” which is the main color of this Bakhoor. It was traveled through the old spice route via Mount Lebanon. The Arabs, particularly Yemenis, later came to call it “Luban”. Luban is also a rough translation in Arabic meaning “the result of milking” which is associated to the process of procuring the resin of the tree it comes from. Hence the name Yemeni Bakhoor Luban.
Frankincense is naturally found or grown in nature organically and is harvested for use in many ways, for example, in incense, oils and perfumes to name a few. It can be found throughout Asia, India and the Middle East. It comes from a particular type of “species” of tree called the “Boswellia Sacra Tree”. The way to harvest Frankincense it is by breaking away the bark of the tree and “bleeding out” the resin which then later hardens. These “tears” as they are called are then broken apart to make the Frankincense.
There are different species of trees that produce different varieties of Frankincense. Some are white, some are red and others are multicolored. These trees are unique for their strong nature to survive in harsh environments. They can grow in the toughest soil, sometimes even protruding through rock! This is why it can be found in the rugged climates of the Middle East, because of the tenacity it has to grow in those dessert like and rocky terrain.
It takes approximately 10 years for a given tree to eventually produce the resin necessary to form the Frankincense. And on top of all that, the resin from any one particular tree can only be harvested 2 to 3 times a year. The end product is always hand-picked and sorted to guarantee quality.
Frankincense is used as a type of Bakhoor (mentioned in the previous blog “What is the Best Smelling Bakhoor”) that can be burned as its own scent. In Yemen, it is the main Bakhoor choice of the people. Not only do the Yemenis burn it as an incense, but they also chew it as a gum. The Arabs have also been known to burn the resin from the Styrax tree using the resulted smoke (hence the incense) to drive away venomous snakes.
Other Bakhoor manufacturers use Frankincense as one of their ingredient to enhance the “flavor” of their Bakhoor. Other “flavors” for enhancing are Myrrh, Benzoin, Lavender and many others. But to many, Frankincense is the main ingredient that is sought after for its earthy tones. It can also be a type of Aromatherapy to help relax and ease tensions. It can be used in some forms of perfumes and skin care products. Frankincense can also be produced into essential oils which can later be added into teas, body creams and other cosmetic uses.
Frankincense is one of the oldest and still, the most reliable and trusted incense used to this very day. It is sought after by all religious factions and connoisseurs alike. It is the go to incense chosen through all the ages of all of time.