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The intriguing world of raw ingredients: frankincense

Katja Kokko | 6.3.2016

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This time on our journey to the intriguing world of raw ingredients we´re headed for Africa with a look into frankincense, olibanum  Boswellia carter and Boswellia thurifera.

The history of Frankincense  

The name frankincense derives from the words frank and incense. It has been used throughout the centuries in different religious ceremonies as an incense resin. The roots of frankincense go some 5000 years back to Egypt where it was allowed to be used only by ordained ministers because it was used to increase spiritual and God awareness.

Frankincense was one of the most lavish and precious gifts one could give and thus has affected change even in world politics. Baby Jesus has been told to receive gold, myrh and frankincense as a birthday present. The Egyptians were well aware of the skin rejuvenating properties of frankincense and would use the precious oil in facial masks which the Roman poet Ovid praised later on in his Medicamina Faciei Femineae (Cosmetics for the Female Face, also known as The Art of Beauty) skin care book.

The Boswellia tree bleeds out resin, the hardened resin drops are called tears. The essential oil prepared from these tears is collected from trees growing in Somalia, Sokotra and southern Arabia and shipped to Egypt, Mesopotamia and India.

The use and effects of Frankincense  

Originally frankincense was solely used as an incense but later on it´s use carried on to skin and beauty care. It´s aromatherapeutic properties are mind calming and for that reason it has been used in meditation, religious ceremonies and rituals: the breath deepens and calms down and the mind is cleared from thoughts. The oil distilled from the resin typically has an effect on the lungs and it´s mucus film, that´s why frankincense is often used to treat asthma, cough and bronchitis. The oil can be safely used during pregnancy from the fifth month onwards. Rubbing frankincense on the upper abdomen or using in bath water strengthens the uterus.

Frankincense blends well with sandalwood, basil, citrus and black pepper essential oils.

Frankincense is especially used in treating ageing dull skin because it has a strong cell rejuvenating effect. Frankincense slows down the formation of wrinkles and smooths fine lines. It brightens and refreshes the skin tone and heals scarring.

My favourite products containing Frankincense 

Frankincense can be found in several skin care products and my favorites are definitely Neal’s Yard Remedies Rejuvenating Frankincense and Frankincense Intense skin care lines. The company uses three different strands of frankincense that are produced in Somalia and Kenya – aside of the wild grown they use  FairWild certified and certified organic oils. The production of frankincense brings the sole source of income to several small villages in Africa and Neal’s Yard Remedies is committed to sponsoring the production, fair wages and ethical work environments.

The renewing Frankincense line suits all skin types from 30 years and up. The products are all amazing but for a couple of my favorite products let me mention the Frankincense facial mask which is the most moisturising mask I know. It has plenty of hyaluronic acid and frankincense so it is able to tie in moisture into the skin cells uplifting and plumping the skin. The mask´s composition is gel-like and it is completely non-comedogenic so a person with a dry-oily combination skin can enjoy this product as well.  The Frankincense facial mist can be carried around in your purse because of it´s small size. The mist contains calendula, gotu kola and mahonia extracts and frankincense, neroli, cinnamon, patchouli and abies alba essential oils- a perfect moisture, refreshment and protection against free radicals that can be used amidst the working day, morning and evening or it can be also used as an aromatherapeutic product to calm and invigorate the mind.  The perfect companion to the mist is the Frankincense facial oil it is an effective and cost conscious oil serum that brightens, renews and firms the skin and suits all skin types.

The Frankincense Intense care line is Neal’s Yard Remedies´ most popular line around the world and no wonder because the line´s products are very effective in treating signs of ageing skin and they have been tested in an independent laboratory in co-operation with the World Medical Association. Aside of frankincense the products contain a collagen production enhancing three peptide compound and gardenia stem cells that strengthen and protect skin cells. The care line has three perfectly composed products: Frankincense Intense intensive cream, which is in my top four of perfect moisturisers and the silky Frankincense Intense Concentrate, that strengthens, firms and moisturises the skin and for the third product Frankincense Intense Eye Cream for the eye contour area, which we should be able to find in Finland soon as well.

Lastly I must mention Neal’s Yard Remedies Frankincense perfume which combines aromatherapy and a perfume. Every time I´m using this scent people ask me what I´m wearing.

What are your favorite frankincense products and what do you think of the scent?

Illustration Essi Markku

Translated by Mariko Pajalahti

Source Ulla Kivimäki & Maarit Hirvonen: Hoitavat tuoksut aromaterapiaopas

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