An important part of any practicing herbalist is to engage a direct conversation with the plants. By this I mean that when we look to any particular plant, there are a multitude of questions that we can ask, and for every question the plant has many answers. I was asked yesterday to engage in a conversation with one of my favorite plants, the famous Boswellia Serrata. You will likely recognize this plant medicine by the name commonly given to its treasured dried resin: frankincense. I have a deep and long appreciation for this plant ally, and I would like to take a moment to share with why.
As a budding herbalist I was called to ask a series of questions; ‘How do I identify the medicine that a particular plant carries?” “How do I determine the best ways to work with those medicines?” “How will I know who this medicine will be most useful for?”
A simple answer to begin is to look to history. The empirical evidence gathered from thousands and thousands of years of experience help us zoom in on what a plant can share with us. In the case of Frankincense, we see it historically used as a base medium for many medicines, a key ingredient in many cosmetics, and a favorite choice for burning incense or extracting the oil. The Egyptians used it in the embalming of the entombed and in the process of making Khol which we see lining the eyes of royalty in Antiquity. The famous Roman naturalist and Philosopher Pliny notes that it can successfully treat tumors and protect against Poison Hemlock. In Ayurveda it is noted for being balancing to both Kafa and Vata Doshas, stimulating movement and energy while at the same time calming and relaxing the nervous system; it is used as a treatment for pains from inflammation coupled with deterioration, such as osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. It has been used to treat any number of nervous disorders. It was frequently used cross culturally to bring on menstruation, aid in child birthing, and would be burned to improve general well being, clean the air, and fight and prevent infections.
Today the largest purchaser of Frankincense in the world is in fact the Roman Catholic Church, keeping it as an essential ingredient for ritual incense. Clearly burning it releases many of magical healing properties, both measurable and otherwise, but with the current cultural trends in herbal medicine, I was curious what would be the effects of a tincture? Would the benefits be different than that of burning it?
I tried to find a tincture by a reputable company that I felt I could trust, and intended to ask them, but found the only one was Herb Pharm and they had stopped making it. When I asked them why, they simply told me that it was not selling because people did not understand its value, and it was not worth the cost in production.
So I set to acquire a large amount of Frankincense and experiment in making an extract myself, holding myself to the strict standards of production that I would expect of anyone making tinctures to share or sell; Use only ethically wild-crafted or organic ingredients including a solvent that is clean and has never been stored in anything other than stainless steal or glass. After much prayer, processing, and patient waiting, I finally have a product I can share.
After much recent re-interest in Frankincense by Western doctors as a treatment for tumors and cancer, I felt it was important to share this medicine with anyone who is fighting that battle, particularly those with brain, stomach, bladder, ovarian, prostate, or lung cancer. Cancer is a very complex and private process, and as an herbalist it is important that I do not claim that any plant medicine can “Cure” anything. But I do feel comfortable writing that over the past few years many people have found comfort using this extract in combination with their other treatments, and among them there are many successful stories.
I also felt inspired to share this medicine with my own grandmother who has spent her life fighting obesity, and the severe pain that comes with that accumulation. It has become a central part of her managing her mood and energy levels as well as her pain. She has been working very hard to get off prescription painkillers, which she used to deal with the crippling pain of carrying her body weight on a knee joint that no longer has cartilage. Some claim that Frankincense is one of the few medicines that can restore cartilage tissue. So we thought we would give it a try. I cannot honestly say that there is measurable restoration or cartilage in her knee joint, but I can say that she has lost a tremendous amount of weight, is mobile and comfortable using far fewer prescription medications, and very happy.
I can share a story about one client and friend who claims great success with reducing inflammation and restoring tissues damaged from osteoarthritis and sarcoidosis. My friend Launa wrote me after about a year of consistent use that she went for a routine checkup with her doctor and he was shocked at the X-rays. He found that some of the deterioration and inflammation in her upper vertebrae had completely vanished. She told me she had no doubt in her mind that it was due to the Frankincense and this is what she insisted to her befuddled physician.
I could share many more stories, but what I really want to share is this: I had no idea when I started working with Frankincense how much of an impact it would have on my life, or the lives of important people around me. It was only through thorough research, a process of being open, and experimentation that I was opened to the wondrous healing potential of this plant. I continue to be curious about its potential for decalcifying the pineal gland, balancing hormones, treating asthma, increasing sexual vitality and fertility, and healing DNA. Stories of people who use my preparation with confidence continue to inspire me to share and explore more. This has been the richest offering of all. I daily meditate of the energetics of plants and the transmission of the suns light into this beautiful resin. I am thankful for the opportunity of this life to ask these questions and experience the answers.