Frankincense Facts


Frankincense is an aromatic resin obtained from Boswellia trees. For centuries, frankincense has been used in incense and perfume. Also, boswellic acid, the main component of frankincense oil, has shown anti-cancer properties.


The Boswellia thurifera is a small, shrubby perennial that grows on rocky slopes in northeast Africa and southern regions of the Arabian peninsula.


The resin is harvested by scraping the bark of the tree and allowing the fragrant resin to seep out and harden. The harvesting season lasts from May through September.


The exuded resin hardens when exposed to air. It is broken into chunks or ground into a powder. Oil is extracted through a steam-distilling process.

Medical Uses

A 2009 study published in the journal BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine concluded, "Frankincense oil appears to distinguish cancerous from normal bladder cells and suppresses cancer cell viability."

Christian Symbolism

Frankincense was believed to be one of the gifts of the Magi, presented to the Christ child by Balthasar. There are numerous references to frankincense in both the Old and New Testaments.


  • BioMedCentral: Frankincense Oil
  • Bible Study: Frankincense
Keywords: frankincense, boswellia, anti-cancer properties

About this Author

Moira Clune is a freelance writer who since 1991 has been writing sales and promotional materials for her own and other small businesses. In addition, she has published articles on VetInfo and various other websites. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in English from Hartwick College.