Ways to Use Frankincense Tears (Benefits & Uses; History & Science)
Ever since I learned about all the wonders of Frankincense essential oil and started using it daily for my skin, I’ve been fascinated with this herb. Frankincense, one of the gifts of the Magi to the baby Jesus at his birth, has spiritual, physical, and mental benefits and uses. The essential oil is quite expensive for a quality therapeutic grade, but the tears? Not quite so much. And these are extremely useful in many ways, as well.
I’ve been experimenting with using frankincense tears in various ways, and I now have a good idea about how these precious little gems of hardened resin can be useful in your life. So if you’ve been wondering about using the tears in place of or in conjunction with the essential oil, I’ve got your back.
Here’s a rundown of some of the ways to use these little golden nuggets of pure goodness.
FTC Disclosure: There are affiliate links scattered here and there throughout this article. If you click through and make any kind of purchase, I may earn a small commission at no extra cost to you.
All About Frankincense Tears: Benefits & Uses; History & Science
Before we get into the many uses of frankincense tears, it’s always a good idea to learn about the plant itself. Where does frankincense come from? How are these hard, little tears made? Are there sustainability issues with the harvesting of frankincense? And what everyone wants to know: how can you use them in your home?
Also, I want to be clear: I’m discussing the actual tears, not the essential oil. For everything you’d want to know about the essential oil, check out this article about frankincense essential oil: This powerful essential oil does some pretty wonderful things!
What Kind of Plant Does Frankincense Come From? Plus, a Brief History
Frankincense comes from species of the Boswellia tree in the Burseracaea family. There are over 30 different species, but only a few provide tears that are of good enough quality to be useful. These include Boswellia serrata, B. carteri, B. frereana, and B. sacra.
The B. serrata species is most commonly used in medicine and comes from trees growing in Pakistan, N. Africa, and India.
Trees growing in Oman in the Arabian peninsula (B. sacra) are said to provide the highest quality frankincense in the world. In fact, these trees are thought to be the most ancient source of frankincense and were traded for thousands of years by being shipped to other countries by water.
In the first century B.C. the Romans wanted to add frankincense to their trade commodities, and 10,000 troops were sent to conquer the area in Oman. However, they never made it due to the harsh desert conditions and the great distance.
From 1,000 B.C. to 400 A.D., frankincense production was the reason for the great wealth of Southern Arabia at that time. These days, of course, it’s oil production—-but isn’t it interesting that just a couple thousand years ago it was an herb?
How are Frankincense Tears Harvested and Made? And About Sustainability…
Frankincense tears are a dried resin from the Boswellia tree. In order to get the resin, the tree must be wounded, or tapped, to produce the sap, which dries and hardens on the surface of the tree. From there, it is scraped off to be used.
Partially because of the heightened interest in frankincense in the past decade or so of the essential oil explosion, Boswellia trees are in serious decline. One of the reasons for this rapid decline is they are being overtapped, which will eventually kill the tree.
The trees can sustain a certain amount of tapping, but if too much sap is taken, the trees can’t remain healthy. Some researchers predict that there will be a 90% decline in the existence of the trees within the next 50 years!
There are other reasons for the decline of Boswellia trees besides over tapping. These include grazing in areas where the trees grow, adult trees that die are not being replaced at nearly a fast enough rate because so few saplings live to grow into a full tree, and attack by the longhorn beetle.
I’m now wondering if it is possible to cultivate a few Boswellia in a greenhouse in Idaho where I live? The climate and environment is obviously not conducive to natural growth, as these trees live in hot, semi-tropical areas….but it’s a thought and a wonder. And a great experiment if I can figure out how to get a little tree!
I’m not past trying to grow citrus here, so maybe a Boswellia would be a next step?
Actions and Chemical Make Up of Frankincense
The main constituents in frankincense are monoterpenes, triterpenes diterpenes, and triterpenic acids, Alpha-pinenes and Alpha-thujones.
Actions include anti-inflammatory, anti-fungal, astringent, antiseptic, expectorant, carminative, anti-depressant, analgesic, emmenagogue. Frankincense is particularly useful for helping with joint inflammation, repair of the skin, and bronchial issues.
Its energetics include being bitter and pungent to taste and is a slightly warming herb.
Ways to Use Frankincense Tears
Frankincense has been used in a wide variety of ways over the centuries, depending on the region, culture, and needs of the people. Except for burning as incense, frankincense tears are best used in most applications in powdered form. The how to is below!
Here’s a quick bullet summary of some of the ways to use your tears:
Steam inhalation for bronchial issues
For meditation and prayer
To sooth painful joints
As a liniment for sore muscles and minor wounds
You might be wondering where you can purchase frankincense tears? I love to get mine at Starwest Botanicals, where I purchase most of my herbs I don’t grow or forage myself.
How to Make Frankincense Powder
You can grind them course or fine, depending on what you are going to do with them.
Now here are more details on the ways to use frankincense tears:
To Make an Herbal Steam:
Frankincense can help open your bronchial passages and sinuses, allowing you to breathe easier!
Here’s how to create an herbal steam using frankincense tears:
1) Place 1 tsp in a pan of steaming water
2) Cover your head with a towel and breathe in the medicinal steam.
Caution: Be sure the water is not too hot, or you could actually burn your skin.
To Tincture for Use as a Liniment:
Powder your resin (tears) very finely for a faster tincture.
Fill a jar about 1/4 of the way with the frankincense powder. Now fill the jar with high proof alcohol. If you can find 90% alcohol (180 proof), that’s a great strength. If not, use what you have, but keep in mind the lower the ratio of alcohol (proof), the longer it will take for the tears to dissolve.
Place the jar in a spot where you can remember to shake it daily. When the powder is dissolved, it’s ready!
If you plan to use this tincture internally for any reason, be sure you are using food grade or organic tears.
You can find out more about making tinctures here and also in my series, How to Start Using Herbs.
NOTE: I have not personally made a frankincense tear tincture (yet). My tears are on order and I’ll be experimenting. Once I have created some projects, I’ll be updating this article! So stay tuned!
For Soothing Painful, Inflamed Joints:
If you be sure to purchase food grade frankincense tears, you can powder it and add to your water. However, this is probably not the best way to take frankincense internally, as it’s not standardized to be sure the correct amount of the Boswellic acid is available for you body. This is the constituent needed for soothing those painful joints.
It’s probably a good idea to purchase a high quality source of frankincense that’s been standardized. Generally, I’m more a fan of making my own supplements, but in this case, I would go with the purchased product. Just be sure it’s got at least 65% of the Boswellic acid in a bioavailable form.
To Use in the Purification of an Area for Meditation or Spiritual Practices:
Frankincense is believed to protect, purify, & bring clarity of mind. It’s been burned as an incense in religious ceremonies across cultures for thousands of years.
To use as incense:
1) grind, crush finely with mortar & pestle or a spice grinder
2) Light an incense charcoal & place in heat-safe container. Place the resin on the charcoal & burn for meditation and prayer,
As an Insect Repellant:
Frankincense, when burned, is a great insect repellant. If you like you can also burn sprigs of dried rosemary, lavender, and sage as well.
This is also useful as a way to “smudge” your home to get rid of negative energies.
Frankincense has some pretty special powers when it comes to healing and soothing skin issues, including mature skin and scarring. It’s pretty easy to add it to your homemade body care products too!
For Handmade Soap:
You’ll want to powder the frankincense tears as finely as possible. You can then add them to the oil mixture for either HP or CP soap, the lye solution, or even at the end of the cook time in the hot process soap making method.
For melt & pour soaps, add the fine powder to the melted soap right before pouring into the molds. You can find out more about melt and pour soap here—-it’s a great way to start making your own soap if you are a beginner or don’t want to work with lye.
For Handmade Salves:
You can also add very fine powders to your homemade herbal salves. Simply add them at the end of the melt period and right before pouring into the tins.
You can find out more about how to make herbal salves here with a basic recipe, or take a look at this article in the series, How to Start Using Herbs.
To Make a Skin Toner:
Since frankincense is soluble in alcohol, simply create a tincture. Once the frankincense is completely dissolved, you can get the toner made.
Add 3 parts of distilled water to 1 part of the frankincense tincture. Use as a spray toner for your skin. Adjust the amount of the tincture you use based on your skin’s needs. Dry or mature skin will need less, while oily skin may be able to use more.
As a Bath Tea:
Want to add some frankincense to your bath? Take a 3x5 muslin bag with a draw string and add a teaspoon of frankincense crumbles or powder. You can add other skin-loving herbs such as rose petals, lavender buds, yarrow, or elder flowers if you like.
Hang the tea bag over the faucet and allow the water to filter through it as it fills. You can also tie it up tight and let it steep in the tub like you would a cup of tea!
Your Home Environment:
Adding frankincense tears or pieces of tears to natural, handmade potpourri is a nice way to enjoy the scent of frankincense and other essential oils.
I’ve also heard of the tears being pressed into the outside of candles.
Hygge is becoming quite a trend these days, and a bit of frankincense may just contribute to that cozy feel!
Final Thoughts on Working With Frankincense Tears
It’s pretty obvious that frankincense is a wonderful herb to use in your practice. And so is the essential oil, although I haven’t included the essential oil as a focus in this article. You can read more about ways to use the oil here.
I have to admit: I was all gung-ho on using my frankincense tears, and of course, since they are on their way, I still am.
However, the disturbing fact remains that the Boswellia trees are in such serious decline and really has me re-thinking whether or not I will continue to use either the essential oil or the tears themselves.
On the other hand, much of the decimation of the trees is out of the consumer’s hands, and is not even related to harvesting the tears. When you factor in the bark beetle, fires, grazing on the lands the trees grow on, and other political/social factors, product consumption is just part of the decline of the trees.
I’ll be doing more research on this in the upcoming days and weeks in order to better make a decision for my personal self.
In the meantime, I’ll be experimenting with my tears and updating this article as I go. So stay tuned!
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And there are a ton more on the blog, so head on over and browse around! :-)
Do you use frankincense tears? Leave a comments and questions in the comments section! I love to hear your thoughts!
Oh! One last thing! Have you given any thought to learning more about using herbs in your daily life? The Herbal Academy of New England has online courses for all levels and interests! If you want to learn about herbalism, they’re great!
Hugs, Health, and Self-Reliance,
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Disclaimer: I am not a medical doctor. In no manner, stated or implied, is any information in this article, website, or any of my publications on any platform meant to treat, cure, diagnose, or prevent any disease or illness. Please be sure to seek advice from your medical professional before using herbs or essential oils, especially if you are pregnant, nursing, or on medications.
**This article was shared on The Homestead Blog Hop! So hop on over and take a look at all the great info there!