The curiosity is all mine. So are most of the questions. Frankincense essential oil? Say what, Willis?
As for answers, I have few of those, but–even at this early date–those few are worth sharing. A few weeks ago, a writer friend happened to mention that his wife was experiencing considerable pain relief for her injured back by mixing three essential oils, placing a few drops of the mixture into a gelcap every two hours, and tossing the cap down the hatch. Fifty percent relief, he said. With Pam’s 24/7 pain problems, that’s the sort of anecdote we don’t blithely ignore. It might not work, but whether we understood the mechanics or not, it couldn’t hurt.
As it turned out, the mix was not for her. Even a couple of drops of the mixture (in a veggie cap, which my online research indicated might be a better way to go) produced unacceptable explosive trips to the toilet. Pam has IBS verging on Crohn’s disease. Anything that messes with her fragile innards is off the table as an option. It might be true that the restroom explosions would settle down over time and she’d end up leaping tall buildings in a single bound if she stayed on the stuff, but with her weight already a challenge at a mere eighty-something pounds, we’re not taking any chances.
End of experimentation with essential oils, right?
Not quite. While researching the subject, I uncovered numerous online articles touting the benefits of applying one of the three oils topically. In other words, rubbing the stuff on the skin. That particular essential oil was frankincense.
Whoa, I thought. Isn’t that one of the Gifts of the Magi? Didn’t the Three Wise Kings bring gifts to baby Jesus of gold, frankincense, and myrrh? Maybe I should pay attention here!
Most of the bottles of essential oils found on Amazon come in teeny tiny little bottles, ten or fifteen ml being the most common sizes. If I intended to apply frankincense topically–using a bit of it mixed with a larger volume of a carrier oil–a larger size would be needed…so I added a big ol’ four ounce bottle to the order.
But what had I ordered? First of all, what is frankincense, really? Part of the answer was found at gotquestions dot org:
Frankincense is a white resin or gum. It is obtained from a tree by making incisions in the bark and allowing the gum to flow out. It is highly fragrant when burned and was therefore used in worship, where it was burned as a pleasant offering to God (Exodus 30:34). Frankincense is a symbol of holiness and righteousness. The gift of frankincense to the Christ child was symbolic of His willingness to become a sacrifice, wholly giving Himself up, analogous to a burnt offering.
Very interesting. Next up, let’s go the ye olde classic repository of all wit and wisdom known as Wikipedia, which explains the source. Most frankincense is taken from the Boswellia sacra tree, so apparently you can’t just go out and tap a pine or maple or mesquite tree to get the stuff. Who knew? Sure, it’s been traded for more than five thousand years, considered both sacred (in some cultures) and medically beneficial (in many cultures), but so what? I loudly proclaim the right to stoutly defend my ignorance! Whoo. Ranting like that is exhausting.
Farther down that same Wikipedia page, the following entry appears:
In a study published in 2009, it was reported that “Frankincense oil appears to distinguish cancerous from normal bladder cells and suppress cancer cell viability.”
Some online writers describe using frankincense oil to successfully remove skin tags and sun damaged brown spots on the skin. Yeah, let’s give this Magi Approved product a definite try. But first, what did the term “essential oil” mean? Essential to what? Oh, wait. Essential as in “of the essence”? That might make more sense. Frankincense, even.
It turns out I was close, although “essence” is really a shorter form of “quintessence”. Looks like a bit of steaming and distilling leaves an expert with the quintessence of the original plant product. So that’s how we get the oil…but how does it work in (or on) the body? Specifically, what makes frankincense essential oil so magical that a member of the Magi selected it as a gift to Jesus more than two thousand years ago and I decided to order a bottle of it as a gift to myself a mere two weeks ago?
Hah! Thought I might toss in a few more quotation selections here, did you? Nope. Not happening. There’s just too much out there. Tell you what: Google search “how do essential oils work”. You’ll see millions of Google results pop right up, a total of 18,500,000 of ’em when I did it. Don’t believe I’ll try to summarize what all those other folks already summarized.
But I will share my personal experience to date as follows:
1. Reduction in the size of swollen lymph nodes. It’s far too soon to be certain of the effect, mostly because I began applying frankincense essential oil (in coconut oil as a carrier oil) to the affected areas during the middle of a ten day brown rice fast. The nodes have been a challenge for the past three years. I did a brown rice fast two years ago and the node sizes were reduced dramatically by the end of the fast, but the improvement was temporary. If the nodes get “totally fixed” over time, I’ll post an update with photos in a month or two.
2. Comfort. Wow. I only apply the oil once (or sometimes twice) per day, but the process is so soothing that I find myself looking forward to it with pleasure. Being a Caucasian male, 72 years of age, who has almost never done anything to take care of his skin…this is a new experience.
3. Scent. I barely notice the aroma, though online sources describe frankincense has a super nice smell when burned. Hey, why would I burn it?! But my wife describes it as light and pleasant, and–on me at least, though she fortunately does not have this reaction when it’s on her–“I need to stay away from you or I’m going to jump your bones!” (Since her bone-jumping apparatus is not in good health and any such activity would put her at risk, this could be seen as a “downside” to the oil.)
4. Pre-shave and after shave lotion. The first morning I applied the oil, I happened to put some on my neck but not on my face. The razor practically flowed over the skin where the oil had been applied. Of course, any oil might have done that. However, by the next time I shaved (a couple of days later), I was applying the mixture from the top of my head down onto my upper chest. Forget the Mennen’s Skin Bracer (which I started using 57 years ago at the age of 15); frankincense/coconut is the way to go. Not only that, but I’d had a skin irritation problem, right below my nose–especially on the right side–ever since having my teeth extracted in 1992. Red patches, always…until now. Twenty-four years of splotchy B.S., gone just like that. Smooth as a baby’s backside.
5. Bumps in the skin next to either side of the nose, running all the way up to the lower eyelid, had developed just this year. A couple dozen of them at least. All gone after just one application of frankincense essential oil.
6. Skin tags, tiny but irritating and unsightly, at least a dozen of them…gone after three or four applications.
7. Sun-damaged brown spots on face and backs of hands…going. Not gone yet, but clearly fading already.
8. Crusty skin patches on the top of the skull, primarily in the bald area…going. It used to gross even me out, running my fingers over those Cruddy Crusts, which is one reason few other than Pam ever see me without a hat or cap. After one application reduced the crud by more than half, I went to Fred’s Barber Shop in Sierra Vista (on Fry Blvd., not far from the Ft. Huachuca Army base) and had him shave my head. Oiling the old billiard ball now!
Not a bad starter list for a mere week or so of frankincense essential oil application. It seems likely there will be an update or two along the way.