Very interesting article about Frankincense at the site of Abibitumi Kasa Afrikan Language and Liberation Institutes.
Here are the excerpts:
The Clash of Names
One of the most difficult areas of research had to do with what plant deserves the title “frankincense.” It is accepted that frankincense is a member of the family Burseraceae, and the genus Boswellia. What has remained is a muddy mix-up over which species is the “Real” frankincense. From all of the sources accessed, a few front runners emerged: Boswellia sacra, Boswellia carteri, Boswellia serrata, and Boswellia thurifera…
Acquisition and Processing
The collecting of frankincense requires that a deep, longitudinal incision is made in the trunk of the tree and below it a narrow strip of bark 5 inches in length is peeled off. As a result of the incision, a milk-like substance, oleo resin, is produced which hardens due to exposure to the air. The incision is then deepened. After about three months the resin hardens into yellowish “tears” which are harvested by scraping them off the tree. The inferior resin which has run down the base of the tree is collected separately. Collecting lasts from May until the middle of September, when the onset of rain prevents further collecting for the year…
Of Historic Importance
Although much has been made of the differences between the different species of Boswellia, it is universally agreed that historically, frankincense was an economically important plant. Most Westerners will recognize frankincense as one of the gifts of the three wise men at the birth of Jesus. What most people don’t recognize, however, is that the frankincense and myrrh were more valuable than the gift of gold…
It was the use of the camel and improved land routes around 11th century BCE when frankincense and other trade items where carried from Qana to Gaza (in Egypt). By sea these goods went straight from Qana to India. By 1000 BCE, myrrh and frankincense had already made its impact on the ancient world. Babylon, Assyria, Egypt, Rome, Greece, and China all had use for this rare resin. Its natural oil content and pleasant smell made it desirable to be used in temples as incense and as well as for its medicinal properties.
It was on the basis of the rich spice trade, and more specifically, the frankincense trade, that led the first century Greek writer, Pliny the Elder, claim “that control of the frankincense trade had made the south Arabians the richest people on earth.”…
Mostly when people think of frankincense they think of the “incense” part. Egyptians used frankincense in their religious rites, as did the Babylonians and Assyrians. It was Herodotus who reported that “1000 talents weight was offered every year during the feast of Bel, on the great altar of his temple…” Frankincense was also used in Persia and again Herodotus states “that the Arabs brought every year to Daurius as tribute 1000 talents.”
Frankincense was important in Jewish ritual, and later became important within the rites of the Catholic church. The Greeks and the Romans used frankincense as incense, but not as offerings. Instead it was used in everyday life - burning on the braziers that provided heat in the domicile. The earliest recorded use of frankincense was inscribed on a tomb of a 15th century BCE queen named Hathsepsut. The charred remains of the burnt frankincense was ground into a black powder called kohl. Kohl is the substance used in creating the distinctive black eyeliner found on the figures in Egyptian art.
Frankincense was commonly used for medicinal purposes. Pliny the Elder, (1st century) used frankincense as an antidote to hemlock poisoning. The Iranian physician Avicenna (10th century) thought that it was good for body ailments such as tumors, vomiting, dysentery and fevers. In China B. Carteri is used for everything from leprosy, cancer, gonorrhea and carbuncles, and as an astringent.
Additionally, B. Carteri is used as camel food. The roots are debarked and eaten raw or used in beverages. The inner bark is used to make a brown dye and can even be used as fish bait! The resin is used in wine as an additive. Some of the exudates are used as non-vertebrate poison and even as fuel. The soft wood is used in a variety of building/craft products.
Western Uses Today
Today Western medicine does not promote/validate any of the historical or current Eastern medicinal practices. However, practitioners of aromatherapy believe in its power to reduce anxiety or stress. It is also promoted as an aid in meditation and prayer - a throwback to the times when it was the primary scent in the temple. In the East it is widely used as a medicinal. Frankincense is still a main ingredient in many different types of incense. It is also popular in commercial incense mixtures - and the raw “tears” are readily available to burn directly on hot coals just as the ancients did.
It is also important in the perfumery industry as a scent and as a fixative. Oil from frankincense can take up to six hours to evaporate, making it an important ingredient in many perfumes. The current potpourri market has also found a niche for the “tears” and oil.
Frankincense has been with humanity for a very long time. With care and attention it will remain a renewable resource - bringing with every harvest the sweet smell of the future.
Read full article here: http://www.abibitumikasa.com/forums/afrikan-healing-systems/37796-history-use-frankincense.html