Medicinal Frankincense for Skin Care

Medicinal Frankincense for Skin Care

Published by Marissa Masterson on Jan 16th 2023

Whole Frankincense, has been used in the Traditional Medicine systems of Asia, Europe, Arabia and Africa for thousands of years.


First, All frankincense is medicinal. Frankincense is an aromatic oleo gum resin from the Boswellia genus of trees, members of the Burseacae, a plant family that includes aromatic trees such as Palo Santo, Ylang Ylang, Proteus and others. 

Boswellia trees are tapped at around 8-10 years and the valuable medicinal frankincense resin is harvested by indigenous people of the region. There are certain species of trees that offer their resins without the need for tapping, making them an excellent sustainable source of resin. We'll get deeper into the sustainability later on. 

Frankincense and Myrrh have been used for thousands of years as incense, perfume and medicine in Asia, Europe, Arabia and Africa. Traditional applications associated with Frankincense include the treatment of arthritis, ulcers, asthma, bronchitis, tumors, cancer, mood, memory, brain function, aging skin, infertility, rheumatism, gastrointestinal issues, and libido.


  • Frankincense Serrata (India) - Used in Hindu ceremonies and also Ayurvedic medicine. It has a sweet, spicy fragrance with notes of anise and mint.
  • Frankincense Papyrifera (Ethiopia) - Often called Church Frankincense for it's use in churches across the world. Frankincense Papyrifera has a robust middle note a soft lingering heart note with hints of orange peel.
  • Frankincense Carterii (Somalia) -  carterii is the most commonly circulated type of Frankincense. The largest frankicense forest in the world is populated by carterii trees in Somalia. It provides most of our Frankincense and the main yearly income for many Somali families and communities.  Frankincense Carterii has a deep soft amber note with highlights of honey, vanilla, and black pepper.
  • Frankincense Sacra (Southern part of the Arabian peninsula) & Royal Hojari (Southern Oman) - botanists agree these two are one and the same species, however the fragrance indicates they are quite different and distinct types of Frankincense resin. Hojari has a sweeter and stronger fragrance than the regular sacra with clear amber and powerful citrus notes. The term “Royal” is added to the larger better-formed tears. The main Hojari types are silver, red and green Hojari which is usually called “Royal Green Hojari”. The Royal Green Hojari is considered the premier Omani Frankincense and often reserved in Arabian culture for medicinal applications such as the traditional tea

Black Frankincense - lesser known

  • Frankincense Dalzielii (Nigeria & West Africa) - The main difference between Sacra/Hojari and Dalzielii is in their fragrance. They share citrus notes, but Boswellia dalzielii also has well defined notes of mint and camphor. Research indicates that Boswellia dalzielii contains the highest % of therapeutic Boswellic acids and AKBA compared to all the other types.
  • Frankincense Frereana (Maydi) - "The pride of Somali culture."  It has a very different chemical composition from the other types of Frankincense, contains no boswellic acids, but is just as powerful a healing and anti-inflammatory resin as the others.
  • Frankincense Rivae (Somali Region of Ethiopia) - a sustainable variety.  It has a spicy sweet fragrance. The tree yields 2-3 different types/colours of resin but the black is most commonly available. 
  • Frankincense Neglecta (Kenya/western Ethiopia) -  It has less sweetness than Frankincense Rivae and notes of Fir.

There are several other rare and exotic types of frakincense which are not widely available in the market. Most are sourced from the island of Socotra. They are Boswellia Ameero, B. Socratana and B. Elongata.


All types of Frankincense are composed of:

  1. Water-soluble Gum
  2. Resin (where the boswellic acid lies)
  3. Essential Oil or volatile oils in varying proportions. 

Boswellic acids are only present in the resin portion of these oleo-gum-resins, not their essential oils unless in trace amounts. Frankincense Hydrosols and Essential Oils do not contain boswellic acids, as so many essential oil companies would lead us to believe. However, essential oils and hydrosols have their own therapeutic benefits.

"Recent studies have indicated that the Boswellic acids in Frankincense possess anti-inflammatory and anti-Cancer properties. Some of the cancer cells they have shown promise and effectiveness in treating are prostate, late stage ovarian, bladder, colorectal, brain tumors and many more." - Apothecary's Garden

  • "Boswellic acids have been found to inhibit leukotriene synthesis and act as anti-inflammatories. They modulate/regulate the behavior of Leucocytes which are one of the body’s responses to trauma which create inflammation and subsequent pain."
  • "Boswellic acids have been shown in studies to be anti-prolific and may also cause apoptosis(death), in a wide variety of cancer cells in the laboratory. There is, however, little “In vivo” research at this point. They need to be tested on people."

- Quoted directly from an article by Apothecary's Garden

As we believe with many plants in nature, the compounds in Frankincense likely work better synergistically than separately. We feel using the whole oleo gum resin is more therapeutically beneficial than isolating compounds. Though we do find it necessary to isolate the resin in order to access the boswellic acid for cosmetic use, we use the whole resin, hydrosol and essential oils in many of our skin care formulations. 


According to the American Botanical Council and the National Library of Medicine, Frankincense and it's primary pharmacology constituent, "Boswellic acid" has been successfully used medicinally in traditional Chinese medicine and modern clinical trials for:

  • Reduction in the appearance of Fine Lines
  • Promotes Collagen & Elastin production
  • Reduces inflammation symptoms such as redness, scales and itching associated with psoriasis & eczema. 
  • Anti-septic, Anti-viral, Anti-inflammatory, Anti-bacterial
  • Invigorate Blood Circulation
  • Relax Muscles
  • Pain Relief
  • Reduce Swelling
  • Promote Regeneration of Tissues
  • Healing of Sores

Research indicates potential of Boswellic acid against chronic disease, including cancer

Frankincense has powerful astringent qualities which speeds up the resolution of acne, protects skin from bacteria and appears to lift & tighten skin. Frankincense may fade the appearance of scars, regulate sebum production, tone uneven skin, promote renewal, minimalizes fine lines/wrinkles and moisturizes dry skin.

In traditional Chinese medicine, frankincense is thought to invigorate blood, have a cleansing effect on the body, moving qi (vital life force), opening channels & pathways, and relieving pain.

Researchers have analyzed the cytotoxic and anti-inflammatory mechanisms of boswellic acids along with the antibacterial, antifungal, anti-inflammatory, and other medicinal properties of different frankincense resins.

A randomized, double-blind clinical trial examined the effect of a cream containing Indian frankincense BAs in the treatment of skin photodamage.  This trial used 15 female subjects who used a Boswellic Acid face cream. The authors conclude that the 0.5% boswellic acid cream is "effective and well-tolerated in the treatment of selected clinical features of photodamaged skin." They state that the reduction of fine lines, increase in pixel counts, and increase in skin thickness suggest that "a reshaping and a new deposition of collagen and elastic fibers took place." The decrease in SLEB thickness was not statistically significant, but the authors comment that a longer study period may be necessary to detect changes. -


Sustainable Frankincense Rivae Fresh Resin Powder - Frankincense Rivae is from the Boswellia Tree in the somali region of ethiopia. It is ethically harvested without needing to tap the trees, making it sustainable - and a better option than other trees. This type of frankincense provides income to women of the semi-nomadic tribes of this region.  We use the whole resin, slow infused. 

Frankincense Dalzielli Fresh Resin Powder - Frankincense dalzielli contains the highest percentage of therapeutic boswellic acids out of all other frankincense resins. Because boswellic acid is not present in essential oil, we choose to use the complete powdered resin to retain it's beautiful benefits.


Wilder North Botanicals seem to be one of the few holistic skin brands harnessing the FULL therapeutic power of Frankincense by using more than just the essential oil. 

Slow Extraction - gently warming whole powdered resin or resin extract into powerful marula & argan oils to preserve its important healing boswellic acid - a constituent that's lost through the conventional distillation process. The result is a beautifully fragrant non-comedogenic full-spectrum oil which can be used in a multitude of skin-wellness ways. 

Whole - We also use the whole powdered resin in our collection of Professional Apothecary products for estheticians. The resin is combined with purifying glacial clay, to work in harmony at treating skin ailments. 

Distillation - Lastly, we distill the fresh resin using our traditional copper alembic still, producing fragrant frankincense Hydrosol and Essential oil. This product is an aromatherapy dream, with bright resinous notes of citrus, amber woody undertones and a honey. The remaining resin leftover from distillation can be saved and used for therapeutic purposes - that's where the boswellic acid lies. 


Some species of frankincense trees will become extinct due to over-harvesting and tapping. With the growing demand for frankincense, compounded with natural environmental factors, we need sustainable alternatives if we want to continue to use this precious medicinal resin.

Enter the Black Frankincense: Rivae, Neglecta and Kenyan Frankincense are 3 sustainable trees. If we can use these types of Frankincense more often, it will benefit the collector tribes and relieve the pressure from the over-harvested and stressed tree populations.

We are comitted to working with Frankincense Rivae is from the Boswellia Tree in the somali region of ethiopia. It is ethically harvested without needing to tap the trees, making it sustainable - and a better option than other trees. This type of frankincense provides income to women of the semi-nomadic tribes of this region. We source our Rivae from a passionate frankincense expert in Canada, whom carefully sources, visits tribes, and educate the public. 

"Wasteful and shortsighted...  Our enormous, (and growing), demand for essential oils is stressing the trees beyond their ability to regenerate and contributing to the decline and immanent extinction of Frankincense species. Frankincense resin offers us so much more than just an essential oil. All the resin acids including the Boswellic acids, the active therapeutic compounds that are anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer, are discarded since the big money nowadays is in essential oils. It is no wonder that our Frankincense trees are quickly reaching the brink of extinction!!" - Dan Rieglar of Apothecary's Garden

Read more about Black Frankincense and Sustainability over at the Apothecary's Garden website:



Wilder North cannot be held responsible for any actions made, implied or expressed by anyone as a result of this guidance.

The above statements have not been evaluated by the FDA. They are in no way intended to heal, prevent or treat any illness. Please consult your doctor if you are seeking medical advice.

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