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Research and application of frankincense

Edited by Yongyuan Bio Amy 201908
I. What is Frankincense?
Frankincense, also known as libanotus, libanus, mastic, mastix, olibanum etc., is the resin exuded from the bark of the genus Boswellia in the family Burseraceae. Arabs call it "al-lubán", which means "milk", and it is called frankincense in China.

Geographical Distribution: The original plants of frankincense are mainly distributed along the coasts of India and the Red Sea (including South Arabia, tropical areas of northeastern Africa, northeastern Tanzania and Madagascar).
II. Characteristics of Frankincense
1.The color of fresh resin is milky white.
2.Some coagulated resins are papillary.
3.Water can be ground into white or yellow-white emulsion.
4.The resin has a unique aroma.
III. Chemical Constituents of Frankincense
Chinese Pharmacopoeia 2015 Edition 1: Resin exuded from bark of Boswellia Carterii Birdw in the family Burseraceae, and its related plant Boswellia bhaw-dajiana Birdw. It is divided into Somali frankincense and Ethiopian frankincense, and each frankincense is divided into frankincense beads and raw frankincense. Somali frankincense should contain no less than 6.0% (ml/g) of volatile oil and Ethiopian frankincense should contain no less than 2.0% (ml/g). The frankincense tree contains 60% - 70% resin, 27% - 35% gum, 3% - 8% volatile oil, and the rest are bitterness, impurities and water.
IV. Growth Environment
Frankincense grows mostly in barren, miserable and arid areas. Originally, the southern end of the Arabian Peninsula (Oman, Yemen), the easternmost corner of Africa (Somalia, Ethiopia), and the Indian Peninsula in South Asia are all the birthplaces of ancient civilization.
V. Harvesting Process

Frankincense can be harvested twice a year, one in late winter (January to March) and the other in early autumn (August to October). Harvest time also affects the quality of resin.
VI. Humanistic History
Frankincense is known as “liquid gold, divine tears” and is regarded as a sacred oil in the Middle East. In ancient times, frankincense was as valuable as gold. According to the Bible, the three wise man chose frankincense, myrrh and gold as gifts for the newly born Jesus to show their reverence and devotion to him. Therefore, frankincense is also called “the tears of Christ”. In many religious sacrificial occasions, frankincense resin will be burned, so that people in this noble smell, more holy spirituality, and enhance communication with the Creator.

Export to China is used as medicinal material. Mastic acid can clear channels and collaterals and smooth Qi and blood. It is an important medicinal material for the treatment of tumor diseases.
The frankincense was first recorded in the “Mingyi Bielu” of the late Han Dynasty. The frankincense was classified as the top grade according to three categories.
“Compendium of Materia Medica”: “Eliminate carbuncle and gangrene diseases, protect heart, promoting blood circulation and relieving pain, treatment of women dystocia, trauma.”
“Introduction to Materia Medica”: “Frankincense, blood-activating and wind-dispelling, muscle-relaxing and pain-relieving drugs.”
The Chinese Pharmacopoeia of 2015 edition records that frankincense “promotes blood circulation and relieves pain, disperse swelling and engender flesh.”
In 2000, UNESCO listed the Frankincense Trail as a World Heritage Site.
VII. Market situation
There are 24 species of frankincense plants in the world, but not all the resins produced by frankincense plants are frankincense used in traditional Chinese medicine. Different uses of frankincense have different origins. The source of Chinese herbal frankincense is the resin exuded from the bark of Boswellia Carterii Birdw of Burseraceae and Boswellia bhaw-dajiana Birdw. It can be divided into Somali frankincense and Ethiopian frankincense. Each frankincense can be divided into frankincense beads and raw frankincense for raw or processed use. In the past two or three decades, the war in Somalia has been continuing and trade has been blocked. Therefore, most of the medicinal frankincense in China is now Ethiopian frankincense. Good Chinese medicine frankincense fragrance, bitter taste; light yellow, granular, translucent, no sand and bark and other impurities. Ethiopian frankincense does not contain tertiary ester of orange blossom isobutyrate, which can be used as a basis for authenticity identification.
VIII. Research and Application:
Modern pharmacological studies have shown that frankincense has obvious analgesic effects, which can inhibit inflammation, accelerate the excretion and absorption of inflammation, and promote wound healing. It can also alleviate gastric mucosal injury and stress mucosal injury caused by some western medicines. Research from the University of Oklahoma has confirmed that frankincense can reduce the toxicity of tumor cells. It's also very helpful in killing cancer cells.
New studies have shown that the combination of two potent plant extracts is more effective against colon cancer. An article published by the Baylor University Medical Center (where animal experiments are conducted) said that taking a combination of turmeric and frankincense can effectively suppress the growth of cancer cells, even on the second day after taking it. The results were published in the Cancer Prevention Research journal.
The results of the Institute of Dental Medicine of Chinese Herbal Medicine (Japan) showed that the saliva of the same person was collected in a Petri dish and frankincense was added only to the left side. After 10 minutes, the inhibitory effect of frankincense on salivary bacteria was observed.

More than three thousand years ago, frankincense was introduced into Jerusalem and ancient Egypt by Oman. The ancient Egyptians used frankincense as an antiseptic and also used as incense for sacrifice. The eye shadow powder used to draw the charming Egyptian black eye liner was made from burnt frankincense as the main raw material. The Egyptians used to make frankincense mask to keep them young.
Frankincense is still widely used in modern times. Locals have the habit of directly chewing and eating, and can also burn incense or medicine, and can be used as raw materials for making perfume and cosmetics.
At present, there are 608 Chinese patent medicine manufacturers using frankincense as raw material, with 249 varieties, such as “Shiwei Frankincense Capsule”, “Jingfukang Capsule”, “Dahuoluo Pill” and "Renshen Zaizao Pill" are still classical prescriptions.

Frankincense is often mixed with myrrh, dragon's blood, safflower, etc. “Compendium of Materia Medica” record: “frankincense to promote blood circulation, myrrh to dissipate the blood, all can alleviate pain,disperse swelling and engender flesh, so the two drugs are used at the same time.” The compatible use of frankincense and myrrh originated from the Ming Dynasty Wang Kentang's “Standards of Diagnosis and Treatment” frankincense analgesic powder. Frankincense can also be used with Fructus aurantii, Earthworm, Trichosanthes, Licorice, Angelica sinensis, Myrrh, Prunella vulgaris, Dandelion, Forsythia suspensa, etc.
IX. National policy
The Ministry of Foreign Economic and Trade and the State Pharmaceutical Administration have decided to increase the import licensing of six kinds of southern medicines, namely frankincense, myrrh, areca nut, clove, Amomum Tsao-ko and radix picrorrhizae, with the exception of the original sixteen kinds, starting on March 20, 1987 (subject to the date of signing the contract).
Safety: With the approval of the United States Drug and Food Administration (21CFR 172.510), frankincense can be used as food additive (FA) and flavoring agent (FL). It is also included in Pharmacopoeia of many countries around the world, including the British Pharmacopoeia (BP), European Pharmacopoeia (EP), Chinese Pharmacopoeia (ChP), etc. Traditional literature “Compendium of Materia Medica”: non-toxic. “Materia Medica of Ri Huazi”: Micro-toxicity.
Note: Frankincense is more intense, has a strong irritation to the stomach, easy to cause nausea and vomiting, so the weak stomach should be cautious to use; and because frankincense has a strong power of promoting blood circulation, so pregnant women should be cautious to use it.

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