Frankincense was once the ancient world’s most prized and beloved commodity. It is the resin that comes from the Boswellia Sacra tree that grows almost exclusively in present day Oman’s southern Dhofar region. Frankincense has been used for thousands of centuries for rituals and health benefits. It’s believed that frankincense was the first substance to be traded worldwide. Frankincense traveled both land and sea from ports like Al Baleed and settlements like Ubar along Oman’s Frankincense Trail to Egypt, ancient Mesopotamia, Rome, Greece, India and beyond.
Frankincense has many uses. Once more valuable than gold, the ancients used it in their embalming process, chewed it like gum for its medicinal properties and to treat stomach ailments, and the Ancient Egyptians even burned it to a char before grinding the blackened frankincense in to a powder they used for their black eyeliner.
The frankincense resin bleeds from the bark of the Boswellia Sacra tree, an unusual tree that has ability to grow in some of the most unforgiving environments on earth. Frankincense bleeds when the tree is cut. Frankincense is obtained in a very similar way by tapping a maple tree for maple syrup and letting the sap flow out.
The trees start producing sap when they are between 8-10 years old. The trees are typically tapped twice each year and the last tapping produces the best quality frankincense that results in our boswellia grade A products.
The sap is left to harden on the Boswellia Sacra trees into “tears” and then scraped off in its hardened state. The Frankincense can be used as resins and can also be ground into a powder or steamed to create an essential oil.
Just like maple syrup, frankincense has different “grades”. The grades are determined by the four geographic regions where the Boswellia Sacra trees grow. Hojari, from the eastern Dhofar, is considered the highest quality. But it’s not only the region that determines the grade; the color is also important and the best frankincense is an opaque or translucent white in color.
Still used today, frankincense is more than a pretty scent or a souvenir from a trip to Oman. It’s actually very good for the skin, is an excellent bug repellent, and the ancients weren’t wrong about its antibacterial and medicinal properties.