When I arrived for my meeting I saw was an unmarked, well-worn building, with iron gates and a lone security guard. It was down an unpaved road in an industrial area of Nairobi, mechanics and spare parts cluttered the road. Had the taxi made a mistake?
I stepped out of the car to inquire, but immediately, my nose told me the answer. Yes, this was the right place. The sweet, delicious smell of resinous citrus wafted out from every crack in the building. Yes, this was Frank’s house (ok, “frankincense” but, hey, after all these years we are on a first name basis).
The smell of frankincense is simply intoxicating. Unmistakeably beautiful. If I was a roadside mechanic, I would set up shop outside this building too.
So, here I was at the humble doorstep of one of the world’s top producers of frankincense essential oil.
Our meeting went wonderfully. I got a tour of the factory. I got to smell and sample the oils. I got to see the distillation process in action. We talked about philosophy, philanthropy and ethical practices. We talked about issues of sustainability and social responsibility to the women’s groups in Somalia who collect the frankincense resin.
I left the factory happy, and relaxed (of course). They gave me a parting gift of a little bag of frankincense resin.
Fast forward to today when I have to announce my new favorite habit- CHEWING FRANK!! As if I needed another reason to love frankincense!
Pop one of these crispy crystals in your mouth, let it hydrate, and begin to chew. It turns into the most amazing, saliva inducing chewing gum ever! Sweet, balsam taste. Pure breath freshening magic. Plus, the health benefits to my teeth, mouth and lungs??? All other gums step aside. Why is frankincense not a major ingredient in commercial chewing gums? Hmmm. Did I just stumble upon a new Botanical Me project?
In the meantime, here’s some interesting reading so you can know know my friend Frank too:
What is frankincense?
Frankincense is derived from the gummy sap that oozes out of Boswellia trees when their bark is cut. The leaking resin is allowed to harden and scraped off the trunk in tear-shaped droplets; it may then be used in its dried form or steamed to yield essential oils. Frankincense resin is edible and often chewed like gum. It is also extremely fragrant, particularly when burned. It has a sweet, citrusy scent.
The shrubby trees that produce frankincense are native to the Arabian Peninsula and regions of northeast Africa. Many people recognize frankincense as one of the gifts given to newborn Jesus in the New Testament.
Frankincense—also known as olibanum—has been traded in the Middle East and North Africa for upwards of 5,000 years. It is believed that the Babylonians and Assyrians burned it during religious ceremonies. The ancient Egyptians bought entire boatloads of the resin from the Phoenicians, using it in incense, insect repellent, perfume and salves for wounds and sores. It was also a key ingredient in the embalming process.
Here’s an interesting beauty fact: The heavy kohl eyeliner ancient Egyptian women wore was made from charred frankincense that had been ground into a power.
Sacks of frankincense even appear in murals decorating the walls of a temple dedicated to Queen Hatshepsut, who ruled Egypt for roughly two decades until her death around 480 B.C.
Provides Upper Respiratory Relief. Frankincense oil can help reduce upper respiratory symptoms caused by common colds and bronchitis. Its antidepressant, anti-inflammatory, and antiseptic properties help to relax breathing passages and boost the immune system. If I ever have a cough or cold, I will add several drops of frankincense (and some other immune boosting oils like peppermint and eucalyptus) to a bowl of steaming water and inhale the vapors.
Fights Wrinkles. Frankincense oil is cytophylactic which means that it helps protect existing cells and encourage new cell growth. Combine that with its astringent properties, and the result is an extremely powerful anti-aging weapon. To use on the face, combine a few drops of frankincense oil with 1 drop of carrier oil and apply directly to the face and neck.
Heals Scars and Wounds. The same properties that make frankincense an anti-aging powerhouse also promotes the healing of wounds, scars and stretch marks. Why not slather it all over your entire body? Frankincense is one of the star ingredients in Botanical Me’s Lavender Savanna shea butter body crème.
Reduces Anxiety. Frankincense oil promotes deep breathing and relaxation. I think it is a great oil to use during yoga, meditation or times of stress. At the first signs of anxiety, add a few drops of to an oil burner or diffuser to disperse the scent throughout a room, or add a few drops to a bowl of water and inhale.
Improves Oral Health. The anti-inflammatory and antiseptic properties of frankincense oil can help relieve many common oral health problems such as bad breath, swollen gums, mouth sores, and toothache. Chewing the resin also makes your teeth and gums strong, and increase saliva flow, which in turn can help reduce dental caries.