Frankincense is an aromatic tree resin. Its name is derived from the old French “franc encens”, which means “high quality incense”.
There are four main species of the Boswellia tree that produce true frankincense. The quality of the resin they produce varies on the time of harvest and the resin is hand sorted by quality.
Frankincense is harvested by slashing the bark of the tree and allowing the resin to bleed out and harden. The resulting pieces of hardened resin are called tears.
The boswellia sacra trees that produce frankincense have an unusual ability to grow in such unforgiving environments that sometimes they grow out of solid rock,in an area of the world (Yemen and Somalia) which is prone to violent storms. The trees are tapped 2 to 3 times per year, with the final taps producing the highest quality, more opaque resin.
Frankincense is used in perfumery, incense, and church ceremonies and the burnt remains of frankincense, kohl, were used as eyeliner by the ancient Egyptians.
Frankincense essential oil is derived by steam distillation of the dry resin and is sometimes use in skincare. Frankincense resin is also edible and is used in traditional Asian medicine for digestion and healthy skin. The resin can be chewed like gum, but is stickier.