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Frankincense
Frankincense
(also known as olibanum, Hebrew: לבונה [levona], Arabic: al-lubān) is an aromatic resin used in incense and perfumes, obtained from trees of the genus Boswellia
Boswellia
in the family Burseraceae, particularly Boswellia
Boswellia
sacra (syn: B. bhaw-dajiana), B. carterii33, B. frereana, B. serrata (B. thurifera, Indian frankincense), and B. papyrifera. The English word is derived from Old French
Old French
"franc encens" (i.e., high quality incense).[1] There are four main species of Boswellia
Boswellia
that produce true frankincense. Resin
Resin
from each of the four is available in various grades, which depend on the time of harvesting. The resin is then hand-sorted for quality.

Contents

1 Etymology 2 Description 3 History 4 Quality 5 Production 6 Uses

6.1 Frankincense
Frankincense
essential oil 6.2 Perfume

7 Chemical composition 8 See also 9 Notes 10 References 11 External links

Etymology[edit] The English word frankincense is derived from the Old French expression franc encens meaning high-quality incense. The word franc in Old French
Old French
meant noble or pure.[2] A popular folk etymology is that this expression was derived from the fact that the Franks
Franks
(the forefathers of modern France
France
and Germany) reintroduced the spice to Western Europe
Europe
during the Middle Ages, but the word itself comes from the expression.[2][3] Description[edit]

Flowers and branches of the Boswellia
Boswellia
sacra tree, the species from which most frankincense is derived

Frankincense
Frankincense
is tapped from the scraggy but hardy trees by slashing the bark, which is called striping, and allowing the exuded resin to bleed out and harden. These hardened resins are called tears. There are several species and varieties of frankincense trees, each producing a slightly different type of resin. Differences in soil and climate create even more diversity of the resin, even within the same species. Boswellia
Boswellia
sacra trees are considered unusual for their ability to grow in environments so unforgiving that they sometimes grow out of solid rock. The initial means of attachment to the rock is unknown, but is accomplished by a bulbous disk-like swelling of the trunk. This growth prevents it from being ripped from the rock during violent storms. This feature is slight or absent in trees grown in rocky soil or gravel. The trees start producing resin when they are about eight to 10 years old.[4] Tapping is done two to three times a year with the final taps producing the best tears due to their higher aromatic terpene, sesquiterpene and diterpene content. Generally speaking, the more opaque resins are the best quality. Fine resin is produced in Somalia, from which the Roman Catholic Church
Roman Catholic Church
purchases most of its stock.[5] Recent studies have indicated that frankincense tree populations are declining, partly due to over-exploitation.[6] Heavily tapped trees produce seeds that germinate at only 16% while seeds of trees that had not been tapped germinate at more than 80%. In addition, burning, grazing, and attacks by the longhorn beetle have reduced the tree population.[7] Conversion (clearing) of frankincense woodlands to agriculture is also a major threat.[8] History[edit]

Indirect burning of frankincense on a hot coal

Frankincense
Frankincense
has been traded on the Arabian Peninsula
Arabian Peninsula
for more than 5000 years.[9] [10] A mural depicting sacks of frankincense traded from the Land of Punt
Land of Punt
adorns the walls of the temple of ancient Egyptian Queen Hatshepsut, who died circa 1458 BC.[11] Frankincense
Frankincense
was one of the consecrated incenses (Ha-Ketoret) described in the Hebrew
Hebrew
Bible and Talmud
Talmud
used in Ketoret ceremonies, an important component of the services in the Temple in Jerusalem.[12] It was offered on a specialized incense altar in the time when the Tabernacle
Tabernacle
was located in the First and Second Temples. It is mentioned in the Book of Exodus
Book of Exodus
30:34, where it is named לבונה ([levona]) (lebonah in the Biblical Hebrew), similar to the word for the color white in Hebrew, לבן ([lavan]).[12] It was one of the ingredients in the perfume of the sanctuary (Exodus 30:34), and was used as an accompaniment of the meal-offering (Leviticus 2:1, 2:16, 6:15, 24:7). It was also mentioned as a commodity in trade from Sheba (Isaiah 60:6 ; Jeremiah 6:20). When burnt it emitted a fragrant odor, and the incense was a symbol of the Divine name (Malachi 1:11 ; Song of Solomon 1:3) and an emblem of prayer (Psalm 141:2). It was often associated with myrrh (Song of Solomon 3:6, 4:6). A specially "pure" kind, lebhonah zakkah, was presented with the showbread (Leviticus 24:7).[13] Frankincense
Frankincense
also received numerous mentions in the New Testament (Luke 1:10 ; Revelation 5:8, 8:3). Together with gold and myrrh, it was made an offering to the infant Jesus
Jesus
(Matthew 2:11). Frankincense
Frankincense
is a symbol of holiness and righteousness. The gift of frankincense to the Christ child was symbolic of his willingness to become a sacrifice, wholly giving himself up, analogous to a burnt offering. Frankincense
Frankincense
was reintroduced to Europe
Europe
by Frankish Crusaders, although its name refers to its quality, not to the Franks themselves.[1] Although it is better known as "frankincense" to westerners, the resin is also known as olibanum, or in Arabic, al-lubān (roughly translated: "that which results from milking"), a reference to the milky sap tapped from the Boswellia
Boswellia
tree.

Frankincense
Frankincense
olibanum resin

The Greek historian Herodotus
Herodotus
was familiar with frankincense and knew it was harvested from trees in southern Arabia. He reported that the gum was dangerous to harvest because of venomous snakes that lived in the trees. He goes on to describe the method used by the Arabs to get around this problem, that being the burning of the gum of the styrax tree whose smoke would drive the snakes away.[14] The resin is also mentioned by Theophrastus
Theophrastus
and by Pliny the Elder
Pliny the Elder
in his Naturalis Historia. Southern Arabia
Southern Arabia
was a major exporter of frankincense in antiquity, with some of it being traded as far as China. The Chinese writer and customs inspector Zhao Rugua
Zhao Rugua
wrote on the origin of frankincense, and of its being traded to China:

"Ruxiang or xunluxiang comes from the three Dashi countries of Murbat (Maloba), Shihr
Shihr
(Shihe), and Dhofar
Dhofar
(Nufa), from the depths of the remotest mountains.[15] The tree which yields this drug may generally be compared to the pine tree. Its trunk is notched with a hatchet, upon which the resin flows out, and, when hardened, turns into incense, which is gathered and made into lumps. It is transported on elephants to the Dashi (on the coast), who then load it upon their ships to exchange it for other commodities in Sanfoqi. This is the reason why it is commonly collected at and known as a product of Sanfoqi."[16]

Quality[edit]

Frankincense

Frankincense
Frankincense
comes in many types, and its quality is based on color, purity, aroma, age, and shape. Silver and Hojari are generally considered the highest grades of frankincense. Currently, there are two dissertations which may enable the identification of a few Olibanum species according to their specific secondary metabolism products.[17][18] Production[edit]

Frankincense
Frankincense
is often prepared inside a censer, such as the meerschaum dabqaad traditionally used in Somalia
Somalia
and Djibouti.

Estimates of the current annual world production of frankincense vary, but generally are around several thousands tonnes. More than 82% of the product comes from Somalia, with some frankincense also gathered in adjacent Southern Arabia
Southern Arabia
and Ethiopia, Sudan, and other central African countries. In Somalia, frankincense is harvested in the Sanaag
Sanaag
and Bari regions: mountains lying at the northwest of Erigavo; El Afweyn District; Cal Madow mountain range, a westerly escarpment that runs parallel to the coast; Cal Miskeed, a middle segment of the frankincense-growing escarpment; Karkaar mountains or eastern escarpment, which lies at the eastern fringe of the frankinscence escarpment.[19][6] In Dhofar, Oman, frankincense species grow North of Salalah
Salalah
and were traded in the ancient coastal city of Sumhuram, now Khor Rori. Uses[edit] Frankincense
Frankincense
is used in perfumery and aromatherapy. It is also an ingredient that is sometimes used in skincare. The essential oil is obtained by steam distillation of the dry resin. Some of the smells of the frankincense smoke are products of pyrolysis. Frankincense
Frankincense
is used in many Christian
Christian
churches including the Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox
Oriental Orthodox
and Catholic
Catholic
churches. According to the Biblical text of Matthew 2:11, gold, frankincense, and myrrh were among the gifts to Jesus
Jesus
by the biblical magi "from out of the East." Christian
Christian
and Islamic Abrahamic faiths have all used frankincense mixed with oils to anoint newborn infants, initiates and members entering into new phases of their spiritual lives. Conversely, the spread of Christianity
Christianity
depressed the market for frankincense during the 4th century AD. Desertification
Desertification
made the caravan routes across the Rub' al Khali
Rub' al Khali
or "Empty Quarter" of the Arabian Peninsula
Arabian Peninsula
more difficult. Additionally, increased raiding by the Parthians in the Near East caused the frankincense trade to dry up after A.D. 300.

Boswellia
Boswellia
sacra tree, from which frankincense is derived, growing inside Biosphere 2

Frankincense
Frankincense
essential oil[edit]

Frankincense
Frankincense
( Boswellia
Boswellia
carteri) essential oil

The essential oil of frankincense is produced by steam distillation of the tree resin. The oil's chemical components are 75% monoterpenes, sesquiterpenes, monoterpenoles, sesquiterpenols and ketones. It has a good balsamic sweet fragrance, while the Indian frankincense oil has a very fresh smell. Contrary to what some commercial entities claim, steam or hydro distilled frankincense oils do not contain boswellic acids (triterpenoids), although may be present in trace quantities in the solvent extracted products. The chemistry of the essential oil is mainly monoterpenes and sesquiterpenes, such as alpha-pinene, Limonene, alpha-Thujene, and beta-Pinene with small amounts of diterpenoid components being the upper limit in terms of molecular weight.[20][21][22][23] Perfume[edit] Olibanum is characterised by a balsamic-spicy, slightly lemon, fragrance of incense, with a conifer-like undertone. It is used in the perfume, cosmetic and pharmaceutical industries.[citation needed] Chemical composition[edit]

Structure of β-boswellic acid, one of the main active components of frankincense

These are some of the chemical compounds present in frankincense:

"acid resin (56 %), soluble in alcohol and having the formula C20H32O4"[24] gum (similar to gum arabic) 30–36%[24] 3-acetyl-beta-boswellic acid ( Boswellia
Boswellia
sacra)[25] alpha-boswellic acid ( Boswellia
Boswellia
sacra)[25] 4-O-methyl-glucuronic acid ( Boswellia
Boswellia
sacra)[25] incensole acetate, C21H34O3[26] phellandrene[24] (+)-cis- and (+)-trans-olibanic acids[27]

See also for example the following references which give a comprehensive overview on the chemical compounds present in different frankincense species:.[17][18] See also[edit]

Desi Sangye Gyatso Elemi Frankincense
Frankincense
Trail Incense
Incense
Route Myrrh Nabataeans Palo Santo Pliny the Elder Resin Theophrastus

Notes[edit]

^ a b Oxford English Dictionary.  ^ a b "Frankincense". Etymology
Etymology
Online. Retrieved 30 May 2017.  ^ "Frank". Etymology
Etymology
Online. Retrieved 30 May 2017.  ^ "Omani World Heritage Sites". www.omanwhs.gov.om. Archived from the original on 2008-10-12. Retrieved 2009-01-14.  ^ BBC.co.uk ^ a b Patinkin, Jason (25 December 2016). "World's last wild frankincense forests are under threat". Yahoo Finance. Associated Press. Retrieved 25 December 2016.  ^ Melina, Remy (December 21, 2011). " Christmas
Christmas
Staple Frankincense 'Doomed,' Ecologists Warn". LiveScience.  ^ Dejenea, T.; Lemenih, M.; Bongers, F. (February 2013). "Manage or convert Boswellia
Boswellia
woodlands? Can frankincense production payoff?". Journal of Arid Environments. 89: 77–83. doi:10.1016/j.jaridenv.2012.09.010.  ^ Paper on Chemical Composition of Frankincense
Frankincense
Archived 2008-12-09 at the Wayback Machine. ^ Ulric Killion, A Modern Chinese Journey to the West: Economic Globalisation And Dualism, (Nova Science Publishers: 2006), p.66 ^ "Queen Hatshepsut's expedition to the Land of Punt: The first oceanographic cruise?". Dept. of Oceanography, Texas A&M University. Retrieved 2010-05-08.  ^ a b Klein, Ernest, A Comprehensive Etymological Dictionary of the Hebrew
Hebrew
Language for Readers of English, The University of Haifa, Carta, Jerusalem, p.292 ^ "www.Bibler.org - Dictionary - Frankincense". 2012-07-21.  ^ Herodotus
Herodotus
3,107 ^ Kauz, Ralph (2010). Ralph Kauz, ed. Aspects of the Maritime Silk Road: From the Persian Gulf to the East China
China
Sea. Volume 10 of East Asian Economic and Socio-cultural Studies - East Asian Maritime History. Otto Harrassowitz Verlag. p. 130. ISBN 3-447-06103-0. Retrieved December 26, 2011. The frankincense was first collected in the Hadhramaut ports of Mirbat, Shihr, and Zufar whence Arab merchant vessels shipped it to Srivijaya, before it was then reexported to China. The term "xunluxiang" is derived from the Arab word "kundur". . . According to Li Xun, frankincense originally came from Persia.92 Laufer refers to the Xiangpu 香譜 by Hong Chu . . . Zhao Rugua
Zhao Rugua
notes: Ruxiang or xunluxiang comes from the three Dashi countries of Murbat
Murbat
(Maloba), Shihr
Shihr
(Shihe), and Dhofar (Nufa), from the depths of the remotest mountains. The tree which yields this drug may generally be compared to the pine tree. Its trunk is notched with a hatchet, upon which the  ^ Kauz, Ralph (2010). Ralph Kauz, ed. Aspects of the Maritime Silk Road: From the Persian Gulf to the East China
China
Sea. Volume 10 of East Asian Economic and Socio-cultural Studies - East Asian Maritime History. Otto Harrassowitz Verlag. p. 131. ISBN 3-447-06103-0. Retrieved December 26, 2011. resin flows out, and, when hardened, turns into incense, which is gathered and made into lumps. It is transported on elephants to the Dashi (on the coast), who then load it upon their ships to exchange it for other commodities in Sanfoqi. This is the reason why it is commonly collected at and known as a product of Sanfoqi.94  ^ a b Chemotaxonomic Investigations on Resins of the Frankincense Species
Species
Boswellia
Boswellia
papyrifera, Boswellia
Boswellia
serrata and Boswellia
Boswellia
sacra, respectively, Boswellia
Boswellia
carterii: A Qualitative and Quantitative Approach by Chromatographic and Spectroscopic Methodology, Paul, M., Dissertation, Saarland University (2012) http://scidok.sulb.uni-saarland.de/volltexte/2012/4999/pdf/Dissertation_Fertig_211112.pdf ^ a b Phytochemical Investigations on Boswellia
Boswellia
Species, Basar, S., Dissertation, Hamburg University (2005) http://www.chemie.uni-hamburg.de/bibliothek/2005/DissertationBasar.pdf ^ Programme, author, War-Torn Societies Project International, Somali (2001). Rebuilding Somalia : issues and possibilities for Puntland. London: HAAN. p. 124. ISBN 1874209049.  ^ Verghese, J.; et al. (1987). "A Fresh Look at the Constituents of Indian Olibanum Oil". Flav. Fragr. J. 2 (3): 99–102. doi:10.1002/ffj.2730020304.  ^ Hayashi, S.; Amemori, H.; Kameoka, H.; Hanafusa, M.; Furukawa, K. (1998). "Comparison of Volatile Compounds from Olibanum from Various Countries". J. Essent. Oil Res. 10: 25–30. doi:10.1080/10412905.1998.9700833.  ^ Baser, S., Koch, A., Konig, W.A. (2001). "A Verticillane-type diterpene from Boswellia
Boswellia
carterii Essential Oil". Flav. Frag" J 16, 315-318 ^ Frank, A; Unger, M. (Apr 2006). "Analysis of frankincense from various Boswellia
Boswellia
species with inhibitory activity on human drug metabolising cytochrome P450 enzymes using liquid chromatography mass spectrometry after automated on-line extraction". J Chromatogr A. 1112 (1-2): 255–62. doi:10.1016/j.chroma.2005.11.116.  ^ a b c "Olibanum.—Frankincense". Henriette's Herbal Homepage. www.henriettes-herb.com. Retrieved 2009-01-14.  ^ a b c "Farmacy Query". www.ars-grin.gov. Archived from the original on 2004-11-10. Retrieved 2009-01-14.  ^ Incensole
Incensole
acetate (@NIST) ^ Cerutti-Delasalle, Celine (4 October 2016). "The (+)-cis- and (+)-trans-Olibanic Acids: Key Odorants of Frankincense". Angewandte Chemie. doi:10.1002/anie.201605242. ISSN 1521-3773. 

References[edit]

Woolley, CL; et al. (Oct 2012). "Chemical differentiation of Boswellia sacra and Boswellia
Boswellia
carterii essential oils by gas chromatography and chiral gas chromatography-mass spectrometry". Journal of Chromatography A. 1261: 158–63. doi:10.1016/j.chroma.2012.06.073. 

Bibliography

Müller, Walter W.: Weihrauch : ein arabisches Produkt und seine Bedeutung in der Antike, Realencyclopaedie / Pauly-Wissowa : Supp. ; 15, 1978, 700-777. Groom, Nigel (1981). Frankincense
Frankincense
& Myrrh: A Study of the Arabian Incense
Incense
Trade. ISBN 0-86685-593-9. Maloney, George A, (1997). Gold, Frankincense, and Myrrh: An Introduction to Eastern Christian
Christian
Spirituality. ISBN 0-8245-1616-8.

External links[edit]

Wikimedia Commons has media related to Frankincense.

Quotations related to Frankincense
Frankincense
at Wikiquote  "Frankincense". Encyclopædia Britannica. 11 (11th ed.). 1911. 

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