Boswellia

DIY Distillation-Boswellia Dalzielii

Another home-made still

(Since WordPress has been acting up lately I can’t repost the following article from Apothecary’s Garden. Instead, I have copied and pasted it with fingers crossed that Google won’t penalize me for duplicating my own content.)

Continuing with the theme of DIY and home distillation, this is my latest easy-to-make distillation unit showcasing today’s distillation of Frankincense Dalzielii from Nigeria. A gorgeous looking resin that yielded a superb essential oil.

It is important to note that this distillation yields 3 valuable products.

  • The essential oil.
  • A hydrosol that can be used on its own or incorporated in the water phase of cosmetic cremes.
  • A pure resin extract which is a perfect base for medicated oils salves, (moustache waxes), and the oil phase of cremes. This part contains all the resin acids of Frankincense including the Boswellic acids which studies show are anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer in the laboratory.

If you don’t have a distillation unit and want to utilize the medicinal properties of Frankincense in cremes, oils and salves, you will find easy instructions for working with the fresh resin here.

And here are instructions for making your own resin extract without the need for distillation.

Easy to find materials

 

Frankincense dalzielii, DIY distillation, Frankincense essential oil

A distillation of Frankincense Dalzielii from Nigeria.
A home-made pot still with an air-cooled condenser.

The distillation is performed with a 70-litre high-end kitchen pot, 40-litres of water, 4 Kilograms of fresh Frankincense Dalzielii and an air-cooled condenser.

Thick high-quality stainless steel, a particularly thick bottom and a snug fitting lid are what differentiate it from a low-quality pot and make it worth the extra couple of hundred dollars.

The gasket I used is taken from a much smaller diameter pressure cooker. I trimmed 1/8 ” off the spine which allowed it to easily stretch around a much larger circumference.

The pipes leading from the lid to the condenser are 1 1/2 inch copper plumbing pipes. The nut used to affix the copper pipe to the lid is from a standard North American bathtub drain assembly. Only the first 2 sections are soldered, the rest are hand fitted.

Frankincense dalzielii, DIY distillation, Frankincense essential oil

A distillation of Frankincense Dalzielii from Nigeria.
A home-made pot still with an air-cooled condenser.

Atmospheric pressure only

The beauty of using a wide gauge pipe is that it creates no back pressure or pressure in the pot. This is important because

  • Pressure=higher temperatures and I believe the quality of the essential oil is degraded when the temperature goes above 100 degrees Centigrade. I think it is a magical number in nature and more important in Apothecary/distillation work than we realize.
  • No pressure means there was no need for a clamping system to seal the lid to the pot. The weight of the condenser assembly was more than enough to keep all the vapours in the system.
  • Most of the external copper joints were sufficiently sealed with only a twist and a push. Without pressure, steam and volatiles were gently conducted to the condenser. Not forced.

Frankincense Dalzielii-Nigeria

I have been very fortunate to find spectacular materials like this Boswellia Dalzielii to work with. There is no doubt that the high quality of the material contributes directly to the brilliance of the essential oil.

 Frankincense dalzielii, Boswellia Dalzielii Nigeria

Boswellia Dalzielii Nigeria

Boswellia Dalzielii is known as Janawhi and Cricognimun and in Nigeria, the Hausa speaking people refer to it as Hano or Harrabi. (Reminiscent of the Haramy of Madagascar, Canarium madagascariensis/Madagascar elemi.)

The locals use it as chewing gum and as incense. Though I can’t find much on traditional uses of the resin, there is extensive research on the medicinal value of the tree’s bark and roots.

Frankincense Dalzielii has the expected Frankincense oleo-gum-resin composition and likely contains the Boswellic and other resin acids in proportions similar to B. Sacra and B. Carterii. Both the fresh and the spent resin are perfect for use in incense, oils, salves, tinctures and cremes.

It bears an eerie resemblance to the Royal Hojari Frankincense of Oman but distinguishes itself from the Hojari with a trademark fragrance of Orange/Citrus and Mint with earthy undertones.

The essential oil and hydrosol are gorgeous.

Field distillation in resource-poor and remote areas.

A decade or so ago I found 4-foot long 1-inch aluminum finned copper pipes in a surplus shop. I could only afford 2 at the time and have gotten a lot of use out of them. They have taken a beating over the years but still work like a charm.

Though the condenser is unique and requires a bit of scrounging or googling to find, anyone can acquire one or two of these air-cooled units which create an elegant and economical solution, especially in cooler climates.

Frankincense dalzielii, DIY distillation, Frankincense essential oil

A distillation of Frankincense Dalzielii from Nigeria.
A home-made pot still with an air-cooled condenser.

This type of heat dispersion unit is used in HVAC heating and cooling systems and could be an important element in the design of distillation units for remote, hot, and resource-poor areas where many of our aromatic resins grow. Places where water, electricity and gas are difficult to come by.

Passive cooling systems

Designing a passive field distillation unit has been on my mind for over a decade. The distillation/condensing systems we use in the West are not only resource hungry, needing huge amounts of electricity/gas and water which are not available in the bushland and mountains of Africa and Arabia, but they are technologically sophisticated and require specialized parts and repairs that make them impractical in these remote areas.

What we need is a hardy, simple still design that utilizes the resources that are abundant in these areas. heat, sunshine and air. Something that can be operated independently by anyone with some basic training, easily repaired with a minimum of tools and technical know-how, will produce essential oils of a consistent quality and ultimately benefit the communities that steward these trees and collect their resin for us.

Boswellia Carterii trees in the mountains of Somalia. Water and fuel are scarce.

If, (as is the case), all the processing of these natural resources takes place in other and richer countries, little of the monetary benefits reach these communities and countries.

Easy to build, easy to repair, easy to operate and clean, sturdy and durable. With a little basic training, remote communities could operate these stills and raise the bar on ethics, quality, sustainability and fair trade in the industry.

A growing demand for Frankincense essential oil

The demand for Frankincense essential oil is growing by the day while in many areas the Frankincense trees are in sharp decline and estimates indicate we will lose them within the next 50 years. Now is the time to address these issues,  to acknowledge and empower those who are best positioned to steward these precious resources.

We have developed a nasty self-serving approach to the resources of the world and those of poorer countries. Not only do the communities in these countries not share in our Western abundance, the resources we take from them are dwindling due to our shortsightedness and unwillingness to think beyond the immediate profit margin.

I think its time for a change. Before it’s too late.

For more information on building your own essential oil still see my posts in the Distillation drop-down menu on http://apothecarysgarden.com or use the following links.

If you have any information on the traditional uses of Boswellia Dalzielii resin in Western Africa or want to contribute in some way to the design/creation of a novel new field still for Frankincense harvesters, leave me a comment below. I would love to hear from you.

Dan

Boswellia Sacra/Carterii resin extract beneath B. Papyrifera resin extrac

Extracting the resin and Boswellic acids from Frankincense. A visual walkthrough.

 

Many of you have asked for clearer instructions on the method I use for separating the resin with its Boswellic acids from Frankincense in the post “Tapping into Frankincense and its Boswellic acids. An easy extraction method”.  I realize written descriptions leave a lot of room for interpretation and a video would be the best method of demonstration.

Since shooting some videos is still on my todo list, here is a photo progression of the process.  I hope it offers the needed clarity until I get around to making a video.

I also want to add here, though I name it “An easy extraction method”, easy is relative. It is also a messy and time consuming process. Be prepared to dedicate sieves, pots, pans and wooden spoons to Frankincense before you start, since cleanup is inevitable.

Gird yourself with the knowledge that metal scouring pads and Olive oil followed by warm soap and water will eventually remove both sticky and brittle resins from most kitchen utensils and appliances. (And floors). Is it worth all the work?  You betcha! You will be able to make beautiful and efficacious oils, salves and cremes for medicinal and cosmetic applications. Products that deliver the full range of therapeutic compounds found in Frankincense including AKBA and the rest of the Boswellic acids. Products that deliver much more than the essential oil of Frankincense.

I am sure there will be more questions, so feel free to leave them in the comments section below. Questions are good.

Please note, this product is not meant to be taken internally. When I feel the need to take Frankincense internally, I take 1/2 to 1 level teaspoon 2-5 times a day of powdered fresh, whole Frankincense chased with water. Powdered Frankincense in gel-caps serves a similar purpose. remember everyone is different, what works for me might not work as well for you. If you want to try this, start small and listen to your body. This is a good opportunity to mention that the essential oil of Frankincense contains little to no Boswellic acids and is not suited for internal consumption.

Here is a post showing you how to powder Frankincense-https://apothecarysgarden.com/2013/03/22/how-to-grind-frankincense-myrrh-and-other-oleo-resins/.

Making a resin extract of Frankincense with Boswellic acids

 

20160925_064800

Colander or sieve partially immersed in the water. The boiling water will dissolve the water-soluble gum and melt the resin from the bottom up. The gum will disperse in the water making it cloudy and the resin will float and pool on the water.

20160925_080903

Whole resin chunks of Boswellia Serrata in the sieve. No need to grind the resin or prep it in any way. The resin portion of Boswellia Serrata, B. carterii, B. Sacra and B. Papyrifera is mostly  Boswellic acids. As many of you know, Boswellic acids have proven to be anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer in laboratory studies and are likely the main compounds that led to Frankincense’s long traditional use as medicine. There are no Boswellic acids in the essential oil of frankincense.

20160925_085410

Mid process, resin is floating on the water, Gum is clouding it and the fresh resin is on its way through the sieve.

20160925_091733

Stirring and pressing with a wooden spoon helps move the melted resin through the sieve.

20160925_091913

After processing, the debris in this case is mostly bark which I like to use as an incense material. Fresh Frankincense Serrata on the lower right.

20160925_091809

Resin frothing and floating on the boiling water.

20160925_192623

Set outside to cool, the resin begins to harden.

20160926_065110

The morning after, the resin has hardened. Some has fallen to the bottom since its specific gravity is close to that of water. It will sink in cold water and float in hot water.

20160926_100353

Running it through the oven at 220 degrees C. This releases and evaporates any water that is trapped in the resin as it cooled. Though the moisture will not interfere with the making of oils, salves and cremes, I prefer to remove as much of it as I can before storing it.

 

Raw Frankincense and Resin extract of Frankincense Sacra-Both heated

Raw Frankincense on the left and Resin extract of Frankincense Sacra-Both heated to the same temperature. The lack of water-soluble gum in the extract means it will melt with heat and dissolve easily in warm oils and alcohol, while the raw resin will not.

 

Boswellia Sacra/Carterii resin extract beneath B. Papyrifera resin extrac

Solid at room temperature, the resin portions of Boswellia Thurifera beneath B. Papyrifera. Each species of Frankincense will yield a resin extract of different colour. Even variations in place  or time of harvest can influence the colour of the finished product.