Freshly harvested Incense Resin from Ethiopia
- As those who keep an eye on my Facebook page know, I received a surprisingly fresh shipment of resins and oils from Ethiopia. Surprising, because I have never seen such freshly harvested resins of Frankincense. Even when I was in Ethiopia last winter, looking at hundreds of samples, nothing I saw compared to the freshness of this stock. This may be due in part, to timing. I believe traditional Frankincense harvesting time starts in the early summer, which means I may have received one of the first shipments from the outlying extremities of Ethiopia. A shipment of Frankincense Rivae that was direct from the collector co-op in the Ogaden region of South Eastern Ethiopia. Frankincense Papyrifera, Neglecta and Myrrh oleo resins that are all fresh fragrant and pristine specimens. A harvest that had just arrived in the big city, not gone through any secondary processes such as sorting, warehousing and distribution.
- Whatever the underlying reasons are, or whether it was just luck and goodwill on my supplier’s end, I have a beautiful and very fresh collection of Ethiopian oleo resins and essential oils to share with you
- I have started calling Boswellia Rivae the “Sweet Frankincense”. This little known Frankincense really is a gem. As a resin for burning or making cremes and salves, as an exquisite essential oil for perfumery and aromatherapy, I am simply in love. In the vast world of fragrant tree saps, the sweet and subtle complexities of fresh Frankincense Rivae are an unforgettable experience..
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. Only in the last decade or so has it been possible to acquire the rarer types of Ethiopian Frankincense such as Frankincense Rivae, Papyrifera or Neglecta in North America.
Though Frankincense has been a valuable commodity and a very important part of our global cultures, religions and trade for thousands of years, we have only just begun to properly identify the chemical markers belonging to each Frankincense species and to study the medicinal effects of the chemicals we are discovering in them.
When one examines the research done on the phytochemicals and therapeutic activities of the 5 or 6 types of Frankincense that are commercially available, (Over 340 different phytochemicals discovered in the essential oils of Frankincense Spp.), one finds that beyond their defining and distinguishing chemical markers, ( How we can tell one from the other in the laboratory), the different types of Frankincense share many of the same therapeutic properties.
These common therapeutic effects include: Pain management, wound healing, reduction of scarring and anti-inflammatory actions on the body’s various systems. Most, if not all types, help treat arthritis and rheumatism, help protect and heal the liver, reduce wrinkles, crow’s-feet and help tone aging skin. All species of Frankincense, through the smoke of the incense alone, are thought to elevate feelings of heightened spirituality and well-being, aid with meditation, study, concentration and calm, and help reduce feelings of anxiety. It is also safe to say that most available types of Frankincense resin contain, in varying degrees, the much studied and greatly valued Phytochemicals –“Boswellic Acids”, which studies have shown aid the body in battling different types of cancer and cancerous tumours.
It is important to note, that Boswellic acid, to which many wonderful healing properties have been attributed, does not normally “come over” when distilling the essential oils from Frankincense oleo resin. This means it is not usually a part of the essential oil of Frankincense. It is present though, in its entirety, in the Frankincense resin, and can be isolated from the resin via solvent extraction.
Sometimes, when distilling the essential oils, a lengthier or “hotter distillation can force the Boswellic acid to vaporize and condense with the essential oils, though this is not normally the case. How much Boswellic acid can one force over in this way, and whether this reduces the overall quality of the essential oil, (or the Boswellic acid), is, as yet, an unanswered question.
There are many therapeutic compounds found in the resins from different sap producing plants. Compounds we overlook and discard in favour of the extractable volatile, or essential oils. Essential oils, are, of course, wonderful, and profitable, but let’s not throw out the baby with the bathwater and discount the value of the “Resin” part of our “Oleo Resins“. Whether we are talking about Pine, Spruce and Fir, or Myrrh, Mastic and Frankincense, after extracting the essential oils from them, we are left with hundreds of valuable “phyto-therapeutics”, or healing plant compounds, that remain unused in the resins of these trees.
For this reason, I choose to make my salves, cremes and Balms with the oleo-resins, and do not simply add essential oils to a carrier oil or base. I believe there exists a natural synergy between the resins and the essential oils, (the oleo part of oleo-resin), in the whole product as exuded from the trees.
Boswellia, or Frankincense Rivae, as all types of Frankincense, is under the rulership of the Sun, ruler of the heart from a spiritual point of view. All the types of Frankincense are warming and protective in nature, calming and strengthening to the mind and the heart, excellent for meditation, focus, and study, for promoting a positive self-image and confidence, the type of self centeredness that takes care of others to benefit self.
Frankincense Rivae, does all this with the extra special sweetness of a unique scent on top of it’s expected Frankincense notes. This is due in part, to a high content of Limonene, Alpha Pinene, Octanol and traces of other unique chemical constituents. The high Limonene content of Frankincense Rivae also makes it an excellent anti-fungal, proven effective when treating Candida Albicans in particular.
- Boswellia Rivae Resin- SO fragrant, fresh and surprisingly still sticky. Even when in Ethiopia, I did not come across any Frankincense this fresh! Wow!!
Considered warming to cold joints and a sluggish metabolism, Frankincense has been used for centuries in traditional Chinese, Ayurvedic and Arabian medicine for healing wounds, reducing scarring, addressing congestions and colds and treating arthritis and rheumatism and many other age related symptoms and discomforts. Frankincense is spoken of in the old testament as part of the sacred Temple incense of the Jews, and is a traditional ingredient in Arabian Bakhour incense mixes. Frankincense has been purchased in vast quantities, yearly, for hundreds and in some cases, thousands of years, by Churches around the world. Frankincense is often incorporated in skin care products for its anti-aging and skin toning properties.
I call Frankincense Rivae, the “Sweet Frankincense”. It is the only type I have met that has such a delightful sweet soft note to it. It is a particularly aromatic Frankincense. On top of the expected scent of Frankincense, B. Rivae possesses a candy like note, a lovely spicy balsamic scent reminiscent of Cinnamon, Palo Santo and Vanilla. Boswellia, Frankincense Rivae, is truly an unmistakable and unforgettable Frankincense.