Herbal Remedies

How to prepare an antifungal nail Lacquer with Somali Myrrh

Commiphora Myrrha, or Myrrh, well known for thousands of years for its value in perfume, incense, and medicine, has a wide range of medicinal applications in healing traditions around the world and throughout history. It is still well used in modern Western medicine, Arabian, African, European and oriental traditions.

One finds Myrrh trees growing mainly in Arabia, India and in Africa. Oddly enough,  not too far from any area that bears Frankincense trees. There is a little known, but very significant relationship between these two cousins of the Burseraceae family.

To clarify some terms from the start, even though I will call both Frankincense and Myrrh-“Oleoresins”,  they are, in reality, oleo gum resins. Myrrh contains a whopping 65% water soluble gum along with its resins and essential oils, while Frankincense species average 20%-30% water soluble gum content.

With a broad range of therapeutic  applications, Myrrh is best known for its astringent, toning, and an anti-fungal properties, and has been used traditionally for many applications where fungi have skirted our body’s natural defenses and taken root.

Though the Arabian and African Myrrh species are biologically identical, they differ from each other visually and to a small degree in their fragrance. To the best of my knowledge, they both serve equally well, and share the same medicinal qualities. Arabian Myrrh is darker and often coarser visually, collected in larger lumps than African material, while African Myrrh has a slightly less pungent, more delicate fragrance than Arabian Myrrh.

Arabian Myrrh-Commiphora Myrrha

Fresh dark Arabian Myrrh. A powerful anti-fungal, astringent and traditional medicine for thousands of years.

Since mushrooms, fungi and most molds require a moist environment to flourish, it is no surprise that Moon-Ruled Myrrh, with its natural affinity with our body’s fluid systems and ability to regulate, balance and tone them, would be an excellent choice to restore the body’s natural balance and eliminate moisture loving Fungi.

Hesiod derives Aphrodite from aphrós

An ancient Roman fresco-Hesiod derives Aphrodite from aphrós “foam,” interpreting the name as “risen from the foam”

The root of the name Myrrh, Mor/Mar/מר, comes to us from ancient Aramaic and means “Bitter. This root word is thought to be the source of the name Mary, in Hebrew and Arabic,  Miryam, Maryam, מרים, which translates into “bitterness” or froth of the sea with strong and ancient associations with the universal feminine principle, ancient Goddesses such as Ashtoreth, Astarte, Aphrodite,and of course the Moon and its influence on the ebb, flow and tide of waters both within and without us.  As a point of interest, Frankincense and all its species are ruled Astrologically by the Sun. These astrological assignments are no coincidence, but an indication of how this healing duo works within our bodies.

When it comes to fungi, Myrrh is used to address a variety of conditions. In a saline mouthwash, the tincture of Myrrh is used  for thrush, (oral candidiasis), in a tea, via infusion or tincture it helps treat candida and other fungi in the digestive tract, as a 1:5-96% alcohol tincture it is a treatment for Tinea type fungal infections such as “Ringworm“, (not a worm, but a colony of Fungi),  Athletes foot and “Jock itch“, caused by various dermatophytes, fungi/molds that feed off dead skin cells on moist areas of the skin. Less known, but equally effective, Myrrh oleoresin is used in the preparation of a nail “Lacquer” which is applied to toe and fingernail fungal infections, or onychomycosis, (which means nail fungus growth, infestation or proliferation in Latin).

Interestingly, but not surprising, in the “Doctrine of  Signatures“, an ancient technology and method of understanding the language of plants, their affinities and uses, one of the identifying visual markers of Commiphora Myrrha is the presence of layers that resemble fingernails when a piece is snapped into two. Though not all pieces of Myrrh respond this way, many larger pieces do.

Fragrant Ethiopian Myrrh. For oral care, perfume and incense.

Fragrant Somali Myrrh. For oral care, perfume and incense.

Somali and Ethiopian varieties of Commiphora Myrrha lend themselves well to this type of product since they are of a lighter and less obtrusive colour which will transfer to the nails with this treatment. Feeling self-conscious about the state and appearance of one’s nails can add stress when dealing with nail fungi and the accompanying infection that is usually present. These lighter coloured species will not compound the look of damage as a darker Myrrh does. Once applied the lacquer will harden as the solvent, in this case alcohol, which also acts as an antibacterial and drying agent, evaporates and leaves the Myrrh behind to address the fungi.

A similar remedy for nail Fungi is used traditionally in Northern Europe where Spruce sap is the active anti-fungal and anti-bacterial agent,  Though the resins are a key component, the essential oils of both Spruce and Myrrh are proven to have antibacterial and anti-microbial properties which make them ideal for addressing the infections that are often associated with the fungus as it develops and intrenches deeper into surrounding tissue.

Here are intructions for a “Lacquer” to address and help eliminate nail fungus. It needs to be applied at least once daily for as long as it takes to completely free the area of fungus. Steps should be taken to correct the contributing factors that ushered in the fungus and made the area susceptible to it.  These contributing factors can include, boosting the immune system through proper diet and nourishment, keeping the affected areas well-ventilated and dry. Results will take time so give it a couple of weeks at least to see if the treatment is working for you. Before and after photos can help discern improvement when the results may often be slow to manifest in a well established fungal infection.

Myrrh has been used as a liquid application to address ringworm and”Jock itch”. For these applications, one would make a thinner and less concentrated tincture, such as 1 part Myrrh to 5 parts 96% alcohol. To make a product that would address these skin related fungi, follow the instructions below and change the ratio of Myrrh to alcohol to 50 grams Myrrh, and 250 grams 96% alcohol.

Myrrh oleo-gum-resin

Myrrh oleo-gum-resin

How to make a Myrrh Lacquer for fungal infections of the toe or fingernails and a treatment for Ringworm and other Tinea.

  •  Take 50 Grams of Fresh Somali or Ethiopian Myrrh, (darker Arabian Myrrh will work just as well, but will leave a darker stain on the nails and cuticles).
  • 150 grams of 96% grain alcohol.
  •  Grind the Myrrh as fine as you can using a mortar and pestle, a coffee/herb grinder or a combination of both. See the post How to grind Frankincense and Myrrh for instructions and tips.
  • Put the finely ground Myrrh in a resealable 1/2 to1-liter, wide-mouthed jar and add to it all the alcohol.
  •  Oleoresin tinctures such as this tend to get a thin layer of alcohol/oleoresin mix in the thread of the jar. When the alcohol evaporates it leaves behind a tenacious glue and can make opening the jar a challenge for the strongest of us. Even a drop of tincture will quickly spread along the thread through capillary action and form a permanent bond. Applying a very small amount of vegetable oil with one’s finger, to the thread of the glass jar while avoiding the lip, counters this problem elegantly.
  • Stir, shake, (when jar is closed and well sealed!), till the alcohol and the oleoresin powder are completely and evenly mixed and none of the Myrrh is floating on top of the alcohol.
  •  Place in a relatively warm place such as on top of a fridge, water heater or furnace.
  •  Leave to macerate for 6 to 10 weeks stirring or shaking daily in such a way that all the resin breaks up and there are no clumps, and no sediment accumulating or sticking to the bottom of the jar.
  •  I most often start my tinctures at the New Moon and filter them 6 or 10 weeks later at the full Moon if they seem done. I find working with the natural cycles, the ebb and flow of Nature and its rhythms improves the quality of my products. Since Myrrh is “Ruled” by the Moon and the sign of Cancer in traditional astrology, initiating the  tincturing process at a time when the Moon or Sun are in the sign of Cancer or in a water sign, harmonizes, compounds and potentises the tincture with its own inherent characteristic energies….  Though this Astrological approach is not absolutely necessary, and your lacquer will likely work quite well without it, it is an ideal opportunity to explore the energetic and esoteric side of plants and herbalism and expand your plant wisdom, which is gained through personal study,  experience, and exploration.  If you would like to learn more about the Astrological approach to plant medicine, you will find some information on Medical Astrology and working with the rhythms of the stars and planets here in my section on Astrodynamics).
  • When the colour of this tincture is no longer changing, (6 weeks or so), pour it through a fine filter such as the corner of a pillowcase, a piece of cotton sheet or a paper filter. Paper coffee filters can often work well for alcohol tinctures. You can do this through a funnel into a clean and resealable jar.
  • Your product will likely sediment a bit while it is standing undisturbed. The clear liquid can be poured or siphoned off and separated if you like. This will eliminate any grittiness to your lacquer when it is dry.
  •  Mark your final jar with the date and any other information pertinent to this product..
  • If you like, you can pour your lacquer into a smaller closable bottle that is easy to access and has a neck wide enough to insert a paintbrush. Remember the trick of applying a little oil, (or vaseline), to the thread of your bottle to avoid future frustration and difficulties. A clean, empty nail-polish bottle with brush in cap can offer a functional and pleasing container for your lacquer.
  •   Otherwise, take a small clean and dry paintbrush, 1/2 to 1 centimeter in width or so, dip it into the liquid and proceed to apply it liberally to the nails and any area that is affected by the fungus or infection. Overpainting the area a bit is OK. Disposable cotton swabs can be used if they do not catch on rough spots and leave fibers behind, the same goes for using the corner of a sponge, you can improvise with disposable applicators.
  • If you choose to reuse a paint brush, dip it in clean alcohol afterward and dry it well with a piece of paper towel to avoid your brush solidifying with dry lacquer.
  • Keep the bottle closed tight and apply the lacquer at least once a day if not twice a day.
  • If no results are evident after 2 weeks, seek another course of action.
Assorted tinctures, digesting

Assorted tinctures, digesting

A cheat and shortcut to making your own lacquer is to dissolve essential oil of Myrrh in alcohol and use this on your nails. I don’t recommend this approach unless you absolutely can’t make the whole tincture. Though it may contribute and help eliminate the fungus, it does not contain Myrrh’s full spectrum of therapeutic compounds without including the resin portion which is absent in the essential oil. It is this resin of the Myrrh that forms the harder and less permeable “Lacquer” on the nails. Using the essential oil without the resin will leave a stickier and less resilient layer, though it will no doubt bring some of the healing and antifungal properties of Myrrh to the area.

For those who choose to not use alcohol in their practices, the following recipe may be effective. I have not tried it personally, but it should work equally well when alcohol is not an option.

Use the following instructions for extracting the resin and essential oils of Frankincense using water.“Tapping into Frankincense and its Boswellic acids, an easy extraction method” . Replace Frankincense in the instructions with Myrrh. Keep in mind that since Myrrh contains 65% water soluble gum, you will be left with only 30% to 35% of the material you started with after removing the gum and extraneous material such as bark and stones.

Once the water soluble gum is removed, the resulting pure oleoresin can be dissolved easily in a vegetable oil of your choice at a ratio of 1:3 resin to oil, it can then be applied to the nails as described above.

For instructions and important tips to dissolve your pure oleoresin in oil, please see the post-“Make a Frankincense resin oil with Boswellic acids”. Again, simply replace Frankincense with Myrrh in the instructions.

Any feedback in the comments section would be greatly appreciated and add to the knowledge base of all those who will read this post and try this recipe for their own issues with nail fungus.

And,,,,remember to always take clear notes of your work.

Your future self will thank you!


Frankincense Neglecta. Don't let appearances fool you.

Boswellia Neglecta- The surprising effects of an oleo infusion

I have not written anything specific for this blog in a long time, but focused my efforts on writing for Apothecarysgarden.com and re-posting here when the topic is oleoresins.

However, I am collating all the research I have collected over the years on Boswellia, Commiphora and other resin bearing trees, and hope to set up reference pages here in the very near future.

A visual comparison of 5 types of Frankincense-Boswellia- Papyrifera, Neglecta, Frereana, Rivae, Carterii/Sacra Apothecarysgarden.com

A visual comparison of 5 types of Frankincense-Boswellia

In the meantime, the copy I wrote for my Frankincense Neglecta infused oil or extract in the shop has some good content and should have more exposure, so I will share it here for those who’s interest lies in all facets of Frankincense.

Frankincense Neglecta oil for anxiety and stress.

Frankincense Neglecta heart and chest balm.

I originally made this oil over two years ago as a cough/cold and decongestant chest rub, but experience has taught me it has other unexpected and powerful effects on our bodies and minds. Though Frankincense Neglecta oil does work as a decongestant when rubbed on the chest, it has shown consistent and striking results when used to address the symptoms of anxiety, panic, heaviness and tightness of the chest due to stress. All this through external application of the oil.
   Like the Frankincense Sacra/Carterii we are accustomed to, Frankincense Neglecta from Ethiopia is historically used as incense, medicine and a source of fragrant essential oil for perfume and aromatherapy.
In common with the rest of the Frankincense family, Frankincense, or Boswellia Neglecta is ruled astrologically by the Sun and has a strong affinity with the heart and chest, physically, emotionally and on an energetic level. Like the Sun, all types of frankincense are warming, anti-inflammatory, expand and brighten the perspective, and promote heightened feelings of spirituality and wellbeing.

Frankincense Neglecta. Don't let appearances fool you.

Frankincense Neglecta. Don’t let appearances fool you.

Aromatically, B. Neglecta has the warm, sweet amber notes of Frankincense, and the uplifting bronchia dilating freshness of sweet Balsam Fir trees.

As the other Frankincense types, it helps calm the mind and is conducive to meditation, clarity of thought and spiritual pursuits. After more than a year of using an oil extract of this oleoresin and sharing it with friends and customers, I can say with certainty that for those who have used it as a chest rub, it has the following effects.

  • It dramatically reduces the feelings of anxiety and panic, the emotional distress, mental anguish and confusion and the physical knife-sharp pangs in the heart area one can experience with anxiety.
  • It eases the breath physically and emotionally, lifting feelings of heaviness and tightness from the chest.
  • Some, who suffer from Asthma, have found it alleviates the tightness, shortness of breath and the sense of panic that accompanies an asthma attack.
  • I find it brings a feeling of deep calm, to mind, body and heart, and supports a deep and restful sleep.

Will it have the same effect on everyone? So far the results are consistent, but further input is needed.

Fresh Frankincense oil extracted from Boswellia Neglecta.

Fresh Frankincense oil extracted from Boswellia Neglecta.

All these effects are experienced through rubbing this oil on the chest. A good half minute spent in this type of self-massage seems most effective. Whether this is due to a conscious act of self-care, or because the rubbing motion stimulates blood flow and carries the active phytochemicals more quickly through the body, or both, I can’t say. What I can say with certainty is that it works for me and those who have tried it. In my experience, within 5-20 minutes, it dramatically reduces the sharp chest pain that anxiety and emotional trauma can cause. I call it my heartbreak medicine.

I hypothesize the effect is caused by the action of Incensole and Incensole acetate carried through the bloodstream and crossing the blood-brain barrier. Research to date on the chemical composition of Boswellia Neglecta is conflicted. Some studies show it has no Incensole content, other studies show it has a very high content of these compounds. Further research and testing is needed. If it really does work consistently for the issues above, then it could be a very valuable medicine to many of us.

Since the chemical compounds in this oil seem to have such a direct effect on our physiology, we need to assume these chemicals may also interact with medication and other chemical compounds present in our bodies. There is a dearth of research on the Frankincense compounds, their effects on us and their interaction with other chemicals, I suggest using it with caution. Start small and see how you body feels about it. Ideally, if you are on medication, I suggest you work with a qualified alternative health care provider. Do not take it internally, there is no need since it works just fine applied externally.

This extract/infusion is produced using extra virgin cold pressed olive oil, whole fresh Frankincense Neglecta oleoresin from Ethiopia and Vitamin E. as a preservative. 1% distilled essential oil of Boswellia Neglecta is added after extraction to compensate for volatile oil evaporation during the process and nothing else.
It is an “Astrodynamic” preparation, processed in accordance with traditions and tenets of medical astrology and traditional Plant Alchemy. Ancient wisdom and methods of preparation that we are just starting to reclaim from our common cultural pasts.

I believe that each herb, if properly processed, should be expected to perform and excel on its own. These ancient techniques help each herb shine its brightest.

This is an extract of the whole oleoresin and not only the essential oil. The resin of these saps contain their own set of therapeutic phytochemicals which are lost during the distillation of their essential oils. I believe using the resin and essential oil in their naturally occurring proportions maintains a synergy, wholeness and efficacy we lose when we use only the isolated essential oils.

We have become shortsighted, assuming the essential oils of all plant products offer us the complete therapeutic spectrum of each plant. This is especially obvious when we  find the whole sap contains only a minute percent of volatile, or essential oils and a much greater proportion of phytochemicals and healing compounds in the resin portion. Even the water-soluble gum portion of many oleoresins has traditional healing applications, but has had much less investigative research directed to it.

If you would like to make your own extract/infusion of Frankincense Neglecta you will find a simple and easy recipe on my blog at http://apothecarysgarden.com/2013/10/09/frankincense-oil-cough-cold-chest-rub-recipe/

You will also find a supply of fresh, fair trade, co-op harvested Frankincense Neglecta and other Boswellia types for sale in the shop.

Whether you make your own or buy my special preparation, I believe Frankincense Neglecta is something many of us could benefit from.

Conscious Consumerism

creativesolblog is one of my favourite blogs to follow. Sometimes the information he collects stre-e-e-e-etches my mind, other times his posts say exactly what’s on my mind and express my deepest convictions much more eloquently than I ever could.
This is a case of the latter. As a community we are just starting to grasp the power we have to change the world, as individual consumers, each spending our few dollars conscientiously, while sharing a common vision. A simple vision of a better world. A fair and peaceful world. We have the power, together, to create a total transformation of life on our planet. How cool is that.



Fresh Frankincense oil extracted from Boswellia Neglecta.

Frankincense Oil, a Cough,Cold and Chest Rub

I have, over the past few days, slowly succumbed to a head/chest cold. Stuffed up, scratchy rough throat, and a cough. Yuch!! On the bright side, it motivated me to finally make a Frankincense Oil, or rather a Frankincense Neglecta Cough and Chest Rub.

Frankincense-Boswellia Neglecta

Frankincense oil-Boswellia Neglecta

Since My first whiff of the rare and unusual Frankincense Neglecta last winter in the Mercado market of Addis Ababa Ethiopia, I have been itching to work with it and explore its therapeutic properties.

Local transport in the narrow allies of Addis Mercado.

Local transport in the narrow allies of Addis Mercado.Large trucks fit through narrow allies teeming with people. The resin vendors are on the other side of the vehicle. Ethiopian photophobia left me with very few shots of the bustling Mercado

The Mercado is considered Africa‘s largest outdoor market and covers hundreds of  square kilometers. It is like a sub-city of Addis and takes days to even scratch the surface of it. After spending the best part of a day hunting,  feet sore from unpaved, rock strewn paths, exhausted, discouraged and ready to go home, I finally came upon  a “quarter” in the market, that specialized in local resins, barks and dried herbs. Jackpot! Frankincense, Myrrh, Opoponax and everything else I had hoped to find.

My inspiration for working with Frankincense Neglecta, is its similarity in fragrance and substance to our local conifer saps, from which I make a wonderful winter chest “balm”, and a muscle and joint rub. Products which draw their healing powers from the use of  their wholes saps, (Oleoresins), not just the essential oils of the trees.

I call my sap based respiratory product, the “Great Northern Cough and Chest Rub”. Anyone who knows me, knows I have been making it since my son Nathan was a toddler. At the time I had to come up with something that a child would, (willingly), allow one to administer, so it had to be pleasant, effective and smell nothing at all like Vicks!

Great Northern Cough& Chest Balm

Great Northern Cough& Chest Balm

The great northern “C&CR” or “Cough Balm” as we call it, has been a great success for over 15 years. It not only helps to break up phlegm, open and clear breathing passages, reduce coughing in young and old alike, but  it also has the effect of calming and grounding, soothing those cranky sick kid nerves and promoting a sound sleep. Parents know how important it is for everyone to get a good nights sleep when there is a sick kid in the house. All in all, The Great northern Cough & Chest Rub has been one of my most successful formulas. Beyond minor tweaks, I haven’t changed the recipe or method of making it in over a decade and a half.

While Boswellia Neglecta is obviously a Frankincense, and has the distinguished warm, rich, fragrance that we associate with Frankincense, Neglecta has an extra “set” of terpene notes, reminiscent of our own temperate evergreens. It has a penetrating sweet Fir like scent. A scent that implies it likely shares similar phytochemical compounds and healing effects to our conifers, which are excellent decongestants and respiratory medicines.  From what I can gather, Boswellia, or Frankincense Neglecta, has been used medicinally much more than the other types of Frankincense native to the region. Since all the species of Frankincense share anti aging, anti wrinkle and skin rejuvenating  properties, I also look forward to seeing what B. Neglecta can do for the skin.

Spring Spruce 2013

Spring Spruce 2013

Two days ago, I prepared an oleus extraction of the whole oleo-resin, separating the volatile oils and resin, from the water-soluble gum. (All types of Frankincense and many other fragrant saps are oleo-gum-resins, with varying proportions of water-soluble gum, resins and essential oils, (see photo below)). I have since, been applying this fragrant medicated oil to my chest and neck areas regularly. The effect is an immediate opening up and easing of my breathing passages. A lightening and relaxing of a heavy and tight chest, with a loosening of phlegm which in turn creates productive coughs. The effect consistently lasts 4-5 hours before I feel the need to apply more, and it does not diminish with use. It works every time. My nose is still a little runny, but not as stuffed up as it was 2 days ago. I  have a lingering headache, but the scratchiness in my throat is gone, and I am experiencing no accompanying soreness after 2 days of use.

Frankincense Papyrifera-Separated into its 3 basic components. Gum, Resin and essential oils.

Frankincense Papyrifera-Separated into its 3 basic components. Gum, Resin and essential oils.

The fragrance of this oil is calming and relaxing,  grounding and elevating, comforting too, like Spruce. The fragrance on its own, has obvious benefits from an aromatherapeutic perspective, promoting a sense of peace and calm without diminishing mental acuity. I was experiencing some distress from feeling ill and under physical duress, (That Yuchi sick feeling). Whether it was absorbed through my skin or lungs, its calming effect on my nervous system was direct and immediate.

I think most of us realize on some level, that our emotional, physical and mental states are all tied together, affected by, and affecting each other. I can always feel an emotional and mental shift before I experience the physical symptoms of a cold or virus. For a medication to address and alleviate the emotional discord that comes with being ill, while it helps heal the body physically, is a great added benefit! I think it qualifies as a sign of a more holistic remedy and indicates a synergy to the product.

  When it comes to sharing formulas, There are those who counsel not to reveal recipes or methods. They caution against giving away trade secrets that unscrupulous others may use to mass produce competing products and cut into my “Market share”.   I understand their concerns, but,,,I don’t make millions from my salves and cremes, or hundreds of thousands, or even tens of thousands of dollars from them. I doubt I ever will. I make small amounts, for a local, small community that appreciates and need them.  ( And with a small online community of like minded individuals)                                                                                                                                                                            More to the point, I don’t want to set up a factory and produce  thousands of  jars of healing salves a month. Way too stressful. I would rather see thousands of people around the world, nurturing personal relationships with Nature, using these methods to produce small quantities of finely crafted, high quality remedies for their own families and local communities. So, the more, the merrier!  That being said, I also have to point out , that methods are only a small part of what makes these or any natural products exceptional. If you read through my blog you will see that there is much more to producing a fine or sublimated natural medicine, than just a formula or knowing how to physically process plant material. Much, much more. Anyone can do that.

    So here is my recipe for making a simple extraction of  the resins and essential oils of Frankincense Neglecta.  It is applicable to other saps and oleoresins. This is a medicinal or medicated oil that can be used for respiratory problems and muscle / joint pain.  It can be used as is, with added essential oils, or as the base for a salve.

    I am very happy with the healing effects of this oil. It works extremely well. I hope that if you try to make some for yourself, or for those  in your family and community, you will all experience equally gratifying results.


A Recipe for Frankincense oil, a cough and chest rub.

  • 500 grams of fresh Boswellia Neglecta oleoresin. The fresher and more pliable it is, the better your extraction will be.
  • 600 milliliters of Cold Pressed Extra Virgin Olive oil. You can use any oil of your choice. You can use a different amount of Frankincense, but,  in general a ratio of 1:1 by weight is what I aim for.
  • In a water bath,(See “A Solid Mustache Wax Recipe” for instructions on making and using a water-bath), combine oil and oleoresins in a container that holds double the volume of the products.
  • Clamp container to the wall of the water-bath.
  • Bring water bath to a boil.
  • Stir, press, agitate oleoresins with a clean wooden spoon or other clean utensil , break up any chunks or lumps as best you can.
  • Leave in simmering water bath for an hour at least, longer if using old, dry or hard material. Stir and break down the Frankincense periodically. Using a large mason jar works well. This way you can keep a lid on it when you are not stirring, I believe this will help retain more of the essential oils since the heat will make the volatile oils fly out of the oleo resin.
  • After an hour or so, when you feel the Frankincense has broken up as much as it will, and when it seems the oil and resin are homogeneously mixed. Put the lid on tight, turn off the heat and let cool to room temperature.
  • Take a clean, washed pillowcase, you may have to rinse it well with hot water and re-dry it so there is no residual odor of laundry detergent or any other aroma. Lay the open pillowcase in a bowl, corner at the bottom, and pour the contents of the jar into the corner of the pillowcase. Scrape out as much of the jar contents as you can.
  • Collect the sides of the pillowcase, (keeping unneeded parts of the pillowcase from being saturated with oil), and twist it so the mixture starts filtering out of the pillowcase corner into the bowl. Squeeze as much as you can by hand, twist it as if wringing out a towel to dry, then if you have one, cram the pillowcase into an herb press and press out the rest of the liquid.
  • Pour all your liquid into another jar or vessel you can close. Let it settle for a day or two, then very carefully pour off, or siphon off the clearer liquid, leaving the sediment on the bottom.
  • A small Herb press. Handy for  making extracts and tinctures.

    A small Herb press. Handy for making extracts and tinctures.

 You now have a potent,  fragrant, whole oleo-resin, medicated oil that works effectively “as is” ,or, if you like,  you can use it as a base for a salve. It will probably settle further so be prepared to separate it from more sediment. You could let it sit in a glass separatory funnel and drain off the sediment again later, or if you have a vacuum filtering system, you can use it to remove all resin particles. Then again, you could just leave some of the sediment in your oil.

If you like, you can add some essential oil of Frankincense Neglecta to make up for what may have been lost due to the age of your Frankincense, or through the extraction process. Also, if you like, you can add essential oils that compliment the application you are using it for, such as Rosemary, Eucalyptus and Peppermint essential oils for respiratory issues, Chamomile for sleep,  Wintergreen, Birch etc. for use as a muscle rub. Plan to add about 2% essential oils at the most. Some people are sensitive to different essential oils, and keeping the percentage of essential oils to around 2% , reduces the chances of skin irritations.
It will keep for years, as oleo resins, (saps), do, and the oleo resins will help keep the vegetable oils from going rancid.                              If you like you can add 400 IU, (one gel cap), of vitamin E. to each cup or 250 ml. of medicated oil as an extra precaution against rancidity down the road, or add a small amount of Benzoin essential oil. Both these additives have skin healing properties.

To Make A Salve

To turn your oil into a salve,

  • Pour the Frankincense oil you made into a vessel that  holds at least twice the volume of the oil.
  • clamp it in to the water bath wall.
  • In a separate jar, break, scrape, grind or shave, raw Beeswax. About 1/4 – 1/3 of the volume of oil you are working with.
  • Bring the water bath to a boil.
  • When the beeswax is completely melted and both materials are at the same temperature, pour a little beeswax into the oil and mix well. (Or use a bulb type baster to transfer the hot liquids).
  • Put a drop or two of the hot, well mixed, oil and wax, on a cold plate.
  • When it cools to room temperature, test the consistency. If it is too soft or liquid, add a little more beeswax.
  • Test again and repeat until your salve is exactly the consistency you desire. If  by chance you add too much wax and your salve is too hard you can add a small amount of room temperature oil to your salve, test and adjust it.
  • If you are adding essential oils to your salve, do so during the cooling down point, after removing the salve from the water bath. It is easier to measure and pre-mix the essential oils before you make the salve, just put them aside and add them at the end.
A water-bath, Bain Marie, or double boiler at work regulating the temperature of all the ingredients

A water-bath, Bain Marie, or double boiler at work regulating the temperature of all the ingredients

Separatory funnel with essential oil of Frankincense Papyrifera-2013

Separatory funnel with essential oil of Frankincense Papyrifera distilled in the lab 2013

Remember to keep clear notes, especially on the quantities of essential oils you are adding. If it is a success you will want to reproduce it as precisely as possible in the future and avoid disappointments .

Make sure you have closeable containers ready to receive your salve. Pour it in carefully. When it is cool and solid, put your caps or lids on.
That’s it. Your salve will keep for years. Hopefully it will not last that long, and it will get used quickly for its wonderful healing properties.
It will make a great gift, providing comfort through the worst parts of colds and flus, to family and friends.

Remember to always keep notes.
Your future self will than you.


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Frankincense-Boswellia Papyrifera


Until recently, in our North American market, there was little choice as far as the type of Frankincense resin or essential oil one could buy. Religious, occult, and “new age” stores, aromatherapy and natural perfume shops offered only Frankincense Sacra or Carterii. (These 2 types are often synonymous with each other and whether they are the same or different species is still a popular topic for researchers and other experts in the field). As recent as the last decade or so there has there been an increase in the types of Frankincense one could easily acquire here. I assume this is in part to the increase in interest in aromatherapy and natural perfumes, the “Global Village” phenomenon and the integration and growth of African, Asian and Mediterranean communities in North America.


Frankincense (Photo credit: Wikipedia). Likely Boswellia Sacra/Carterii.

Though the Boswellia family contains over 20 different species of Frankincense, there are only 6 or 7 types that are readily available commercially.


A visual comparison of 5 types of Frankincense-Boswellia- Papyrifera, Neglecta, Frereana, Rivae, Carterii/Sacra Apothecarysgarden.com

A visual comparison of 5 types of Frankincense-Boswellia

Frankincense has been a valuable commodity and a very important part of our global cultures, religions and trade for thousands of years, highly valued for its medicinal ceremonial and esthetic uses, it is only recently that the different types of Frankincense have been examined closely and their unique chemical compositions studied. Until a short time ago there had been much confusion as to which chemical compounds were attributed to the individual species of Frankincense. Samples purchased from merchants for study were not directly taken from identified trees, and some research results were associated with the wrong species. This has been corrected and now one can look back on earlier valuable research and with an understanding of the proper chemical markers associated with each species, identify the correct oleo-resin on which the studies were based.


” Although the gum resin of B. Papyrifera coming from Ethiopia, Sudan and E. Africa is believed to be the main source of frankincense of antiquity (Tucker, 1986), there was until recently a great deal of confusion in the literature regarding the chemical analysis of its resin as well as of the essential oil derived from it by steam or hydro distillation. This was mainly due to the fact that analyses were done on commercial samples without establishing the proper botanical identity of the true source of the resin.”, on Boswellia Papyrifera, Aritiherbal.com.


Boswellia Papyrifera, Frankincense Tigray type

Boswellia Papyrifera, Frankincense Tigray type
Ethiopia 2013

Some sound and exiting research studies conducted over the past few decades had reached the right conclusions, but for the wrong trees and oleo-resins, which compounded the confusion. Now that correct chemical markers are assigned to the different species of Frankincense, we find among other critical identifying markers, that Boswellia Papyrifera has the unique chemical markers Incensole and Incensole Acetate that distinguish it from the other types of Frankincense.

Frankincense Boswellia Serrata is well known in India for its healing medicinal properties in Ayurvedic medicine. Boswellia Serrata resin extract shows great promise in the treatment of inflammatory diseases such as inflammatory bowel disease, rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis and asthma. Among other characteristic chemicals it contains Boswellic acid which has been linked to anti-tumour and anti-cancer activity. I hope to elaborate on the chemical composition and medicinal applications of Boswellia Serrata in a future post.


 Indian frankincense  Boswellia Serrata


Boswellia Frereana is another unique type of Frankincense now more readily available commercially in North American markets. It grows mostly in Somalia, Yemen and Kenya and is widely used locally for ritual and medicine. In Somalia it is called “Meydi” and is burned daily in the home after meals and used to odorize ones clothing. It is sometimes called “Yemenite Chewing Gum”. Boswellia Frereana is composed mostly of resins and essential oils and contains very little water-soluble gum, this makes it especially suited to the purpose of chewing gum, because the resin and oils are not water soluble it does not dissolve or break down in the mouth, it softens when chewed, and can be masticated for long periods of time, cleaning teeth, massaging gums and freshening the breath with its essential oils. Its unusually low gum content, relative to other types of Frankincense can be seen in this chart of solubility courtesy of Ariti Herbal in Addis Ababa. Another way this high ratio of oleo-resins to gums can be verified is noting the way Frankincense Frereana melts and is absorbed into a hot incense charcoal, leaving nearly no carbon residue and emitting very little of the traditional burnt odor other types of Frankincense do. This charred remnant is a result of the water soluble gums burning and some historic references cite this charred portion of Frankincense as an ingredient in traditional middle eastern Kohl, eye liner, along with Antimony and other ingredients.


Boswellia, Frankincense Frereana. Called Yeminite chewing gum.

Containing almost no water-soluble gum, Frankincense Frereana does not dissolve when masticated, for this reason is used as an all natural chewing gum. It is composed mainly of resin and essential oils.

Ethiopia is home to three commercially important types of Frankincense, none of which had been easily available in North America till recently. Boswellia Papyrifera, or Tigray type from the north, Boswellia Rivae also called the Ogaden type from the south east Ogaden area and Boswellia Neglecta from the Borena area of Ethiopia. All are used locally and are commercially important resources. Their wood is used for fuel, construction and furniture, the bark for incense and medicine and the oleo-resins are used among other things, to produce bases for varnishes and adhesives, essential oils, absolutes for perfume, and as incense and medicine. Boswellia Papyrifera is by far the most extensively used oleo-resin locally and abroad. It is used in Ethiopian households daily as incense and in their traditional coffee ceremonies, it is the choice incense of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church and is also used locally as an insect repellent and for medicine. It has been the Frankincense of choice by Churches and religious institutions all over the world for hundreds if not thousands of years. Both Boswellia Rivae and Boswellia Neglecta deserve their own segment here, so I will leave their detailed descriptions for another day and focus on Boswellia Papyrifera .


Boswellia Papyrifera is distinguished from other types of Frankincense by the presence of large amounts of Octyl Acetate and Octanol and two other unusual and unique chemical markers, Incensole and Incensole Acetate. Studies have shown that Incensole Acetate affects our central nervous system and posesses psychoactive properties. According to studies, Incensole Acetate can generate heightened feelings of well being and spirituality, reduce feelings of anxiety and depression and improve memory function. Other research has indicated that Incensole Acetate shows neuroprotective and anti-inflammatory properties and indicates it may be of use in cases of stroke and head trauma. It is presumed that Incensole and Incensole Acetate are absorbed by the body through the smoke released during the burning of Frankincense as an incense. One can see how this might be an ideal incense for spiritual/religious purposes in churches and temples.


The discovery of Incensole and Incensole Acetate as identifying chemical markers of Boswellia Papyrifera goes a long way to bolster the theory that Frankincense Papyrifera is indeed the true Olibanum and “Frank”(True) Incense of ancient times and scripture. Employing an incense that has psychoactive properties and elicits altered states of mind during ritual and ceremony, would make this incense a very valuable commodity to churches and other religious establishments, and would require a special knowledge to discern between regular non psychoactive incense and the true, or Frank-incense. This would be a valuable skill when one purchased such an exotic and expensive imported item for church use. Oleo resins such as Frankincense and Myrrh were at times worth their weight in gold, they were hard to come by, growing only in Ethiopia they would travel by caravan, ship, boat, donkey, horse or camel, or all the above often for many months. They would exchange hands many times before they reached their final destination which could often be thousands of miles away. One can safely assume, because of their value and scarcity in most parts of the world, they would run a real risk of being adulterated or replaced along the way with other less expensive materials for the profit of those that traded in such items. This would lend even more weight to the need to be able to identify the “true” incense from other types. The Frank-incense.


Boswellia Rivae, has a distinct haunting, rich and deep fragrance. The resin stands out in its aroma, fresh, as well as when burned as incense. The essential oil is a sweet, compelling, mysterious and complex mix that brings to mind mystery, magic and ancient sacred places. It has a surprising sweet note reminiscent of Palo Santo, unexpected in a Frankincense essential oil.
Frankincense. Boswellia Rivae
Frankincense. Boswellia Rivae
Boswellia Neglecta; Is another unusual Frankincense from Ethiopia. It is a delight burned as an incense, grounding and elevating. It has a pine like component which nicely rounds out an incense or Bakhoor mix. The essential oil of Frankincense Neglecta is also grounding, earthy & sweet. More stimulating than relaxing. The essential oil and oleo-resin have a boldness that makes them quite a different experience than the Boswellia Sacra/Carterii we have gotten used too.