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Frankincense: A powerful natural healer
Frankincense is commonly used in fragrances, including oils and candles, but it has more purposes than that. Going back to biblical days - after all it was one of the gifts of the magi - frankincense has been known for its healing abilities as it works as a powerful, natural anti-inflammatory.
This fantastic healing product is actually a resin that is taken from trees within the Boswellia family, which includes around 20 different species. These trees are most commonly found in regions of West Africa, although they also grow in Tanzania and Arabia, as well as Madagascar and India.
Often called 'pearls of the desert', the frankincense can be collected as a resin that has hardened naturally or can be forced from the tree by cutting into it, which lets the resin flow out and harden. Once collected in this solid form, it can be burned to release a beautiful fragrance or used as a medicine.
Frankincense has been found to contain a number of different elements that have anti-inflammatory properties. It has over 300 different active ingredients but a certain substance - boswellic acids - have been the subject of the most studies.
It has been found that these acids interact with a number of proteins that are involved in reactions that create inflammation, according to Dr Oliver Werz, from the Friedrich Schiller University Jena in Germany.
By interacting with these proteins they are able to block their activity and effectively reduce inflammation. This can help to reduce swelling and pain and could be helpful for the treatment of a number of different illnesses, including atopic dermatitis and rheumatoid arthritis.
The natural anti-inflammatory effects of frankincense have also been found to create fewer side effects than many modern alternatives. While some medicines can cause problems such as kidney damage and ulcers, frankincense helps reduce inflammation without any adverse effects.
Dr Werz performed a study that tested the anti-inflammatory effects of various species of frankincense to see whether the different varieties of trees affected the resin's healing properties.
The most widely used species of frankincense is derived from the Boswellia serrata, which is commonly grown in northern and central India. The study found that although this type of frankincense is the one most widely used, it is actually the resin from the Boswellia papyrifera that is the most effective.
This suggests that current research has only just scratched the surface when it comes to the numerous benefits that frankincense and its different varieties has to offer.
You can take the resin in capsule form, which has been found to be beneficial for those that suffer from arthritis.
It is also available in essential oils that can be added to carrier oils for use as a massage lubricant or body moisturiser. As well as helping to relax muscles through massage, the oil has a deep and distinctive fragrance that can also serve to relax the mind.
Frankincense is also incredibly moisturising and so could be useful for those that suffer from very dry skin or complaints such as eczema and psoriasis.