Frankincense & Myrrh, a Theory on Holistic Tinctures

A Thought on the holistic tincturing of oleo-resins.

Each type of Oleo-Gum-Resin such as Myrrh, Opoponax, Mastic, the many types of Frankincense etc., contain different proportions of water-soluble gum and alcohol soluble oleo-resins, (resins and volatile oils).

I propose that when one of these Oleo-gum-resins is tinctured to extract its medicinal constituents and properties, that the 2 solvents used for tincturing, be in the same ratio to each other, as the ratio of gum to oleo-resins in the material being tinctured.

Frankincense, Boswellia Papyrifera 60 grams. An oleo-gum-resin
Frankincense, Boswellia Papyrifera 60 grams. An oleo-gum-resin. Has a different percentage of gum to resin than Boswellia Rivae.

In a traditional medicinal, water/alcohol tincture, the gums are dissolved by the water, the oleo resins by the ethanol,(alcohol). What is left over after this extraction is mainly bark and other insoluble extraneous organic material. (Spagyric tinctures often put this to good use). The point of tincturing is to extract as much of the soluble active medicinal components as possible. Ideally exhausting the material by transferring all its chemical constituents to the medicine, while preserving any preexisting synergistic effects between them.

Considering that all parts of these natural Oleo-Gum-Resin exudates, (saps), contain valuable chemical constituents and compounds, and if there is no reason to isolate or change the natural composition of the material, it would  be a more efficacious  medicine if preserved as close to its natural state as possible

Myrrh tree, Myrrh Oleo-Resin, Ogaden region of Ethiopia. Photo courtesy of Ermias Dagne
Myrrh tree, Myrrh Oleo-Resin, Ogaden region of Ethiopia. Photo courtesy of Ermias Dagne

I propose that the best way to create a water/alcohol tincture that is true to its source material, is by using the same ratio of water to ethanol as the plant material exhibits in its ratio of gum to oleo-resin. That this is the only way to accurately migrate  the whole material authentically, with its inherent medicinal potency, and any “synergy” that is naturally present in the original material.

Boswellia, Frankincense Papyrifera. Gum, Resin and volatile oils.
“Solve'” applied to Boswellia Papyrifera. The triad is separated into its 3 components. Gum(on right), Resin, (on left), in solution, and essential oil. (Not in  their naturally occurring proportions ).

Thus, if a sample of Myrrh oleo-gum-resin contains 60% gum and 40% oleo-resins, and a Tincture was made using 100% ethanol, it would only extract the resins and volatile oils. It would have a negligible amount of water-soluble gum. Certainly nothing close to the gum to oleo-resin proportions found in the original material. One would assume this extraction would not offer the same medicinal effects as the whole oleo-gum-resin. 1- Because the water-soluble gum contains   chemical constituents that have medicinal value on their own. And 2- because whatever effects the synergy of the whole material had in its natural form, would be lost.

Myrrh is a common resin in the Horn of Africa.
Myrrh is a common resin in the Horn of Africa. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

According to this method, a solvent mix composed of 20% alcohol and 80% water would not extract a tincture that was representative of the original material either. Rather it would contain more gum than oleo-resins than the original Myrrh. The same could be said of any other combination of these two solvents other than a combination of water to alcohol that reflected as closely as possible the actual proportions of gum to oleo-resin found in the material tinctured.

Some types of Frankincense contain very little gum, such as Boswellia Frereana.  As low as 0. 5%-0.1%, see AritiHerbal table of Extractability of Boswellia Resin. Other types of Frankincense have greater proportions of gum to oleo-resin. According to this theory of holistic tincturing,  the unique qualities inherent in each oleo-gum-resin, can only be  reproduced in a tincture if the natural ratio of gum to oleo resin in the source material is reflected accurately in the ratio of water to alcohol in the tincturing solvent. One could assume it would keep the same natural synergy in the original material intact by keeping all the chemical constituents in the same relative proportion to each other in the finished product or tincture.

Boswellia, Frankincense Frereana. Called Yeminite chewing gum.
Containing almost no water-soluble gum, Frankincense Frereana does not dissolve when masticated, for this reason it is used as a chewing gum and can be purchased under the name “Yemenite chewing gum”. It is composed mainly of resin and essential oils.

I am not a trained scientist, nor do I have access to the instruments that would put this theory of holistic tincturing to the test.  I don’t know if this makes sense to anyone besides myself, or if there is any corroborating research out there to support this theory, but I would Love to hear any opinions, conflicting or supporting.


As an addendum ,( written a month or two after this post), I need to add that after thought, contemplation, examination and the occasional dream, I realize there may be one other way to extract all of the essential oils, resin and gum from these oleo-gum resins. The one way they could be extracted in their entirety and with their naturally occurring proportions intact, without a knowledge of their inherent gum-resin-oil ratios is, If  a “disproportionately large” amount of alcohol/water is used for the extraction. So instead of making a 1:5 or 1:6 tincture with 1 being the oleo-gum-resin, something like a 1:10 tincture could be prepared. using much more water than the quantity of gum required, and much more alcohol than the oleo-resin required. In this way all the components could be extracted. However…the obvious drawback, is that there would be a much higher quantity of liquid and a lower proportion of oleo-gum-resin. So it can be done, but with a price. In a way, cheating a bit. This 1:10 ratio tincture, though containing all the soluble and desired parts of the material, would be very weak, which is not ideal and I see no finesse, or advantage to it. It would be very very difficult, if even possible, to remove the excess solvents without losing some of the volatile oils.

Since I am on the topic I will take this opportunity to raise a point that I will address in greater detail  in a future post. Lately there has been a lot of talk about the healing properties of Boswellic acid found in Boswellia Sacra. Though much important research has been done on the different types of Frankincense, and Boswellic acid does show great promise as an anti-inflammatory and antitumor, among other important applications,  it is not a volatile  or essential oil . Which means little, if any Boswellic acid is found in the essential oil of Boswellia Sacra/Carterii.  Whatever Boswellic acid is present in the oleo-gum-resins of some of the members of the Boswellia family, resides  in the resin part, not in the “Oil”, and is not normally extracted with the essential oils. If a  company claims that its essential oil of Frankincense Sacra has a “high percentage  of Boswellic acid, then one should ask, how did it get there??

Food for thought.



  1. Hello, am i doing this rite / I put the frankincense in a flask and held it at a slow boil for about 2 hours the water turned white and there was a yellow resin which would settle to the bottom when I quit boiling it it was like taffies as it cooled it got hard and brittle when I ground it it was easy to pick out any bark that was in it
    This yellow resin I dissolved in hemp seed oil using a magnetic stirrer this way I did not have to use any more heat when I used it on my knees it sure seemed to help the pain , I also added 6 drops of frankincense oil,3 drops of roman and German chamomile and there was about 3 table spoons of hemp seed oil and resin
    Is this yellow resin what you are talking about ?
    Please reply if and when you can
    by using these products and essential I am doing good getting away from morphine and other narcotic pain med’s, which without I can no longer do anything that has me on my feet more then several hours a day sometimes I can not even get up for day’s and this has run into several months . more then i care to even think about I am hoping that experimenting will help me get back a simi normal life I would be grateful for your help on this matter
    Thank you for your time Wayne Farrar

    1. Hi Wayne. Yes! That is the resin part of Frankincense and exactly what I am referring to. It is oil soluble, not water soluble and contains the majority of the therapeutic compounds Frankincense offers. Because it has anti-inflammatory properties it might be reducing pressure on nerves, and could very well cause a reduction in pain.
      If you have any other questions about processing or using it please let me know and I will try to respond more quickly.

      1. thank you very much for your reply. I have found that using a magnetic stirrer that the finely ground resin is not very hard to blend i tried it with Hemp seed oil,and jojoba oil I stirred it for about 4 hours at room temperature. i use this blended oil as a base oil with Chamomile,frankincense,Helichrysum ,peppermint ,marjoram It has helped with the pain in my legs knees being the worst also have tried several other blends wintergreen I tried bit stay away from it because i use a lot of oil sometimes I use it 5 or 6 times a day, but it has helped cut back almost 50 % or more on narcotic medications
        Any oil blends you think may be helpful I will try and let you know the results
        Thank you for your time and help
        Wayne Farrar

  2. Dan…When you’re thinking of the two components as being in a synergistic balance of the oleo-resins, in this case a 40-60% ratio, water soluble gum to alcohol soluble oleo-resins, I think what you would have to do is figure out what the saturation point of each solvent (water/alcohol) would be and if a the ratio of components of the resin are known, ad the solvents in a proportion that would end up giving you the exact and concentrated extract of each component. Or, use water extraction and alcohol extraction separately and blend them together at the end. But to be in the correct proportions, you would need to know the concentrations of each extract and then blend in proper proportions. I think you would have to test to see what volumes of resin/solvent gives you a close to 100% saturation of both the water soluble gums and the alcohol soluble resins. If the components were heavy enough to weigh, you could weigh the separate extracts and knowing the weight per volume of the solvents, subtract known weight of the solvent from the weight of the extract to get %. I’m not sure if there would be a scale that accurate for us common folk. Just my thoughts and I also have no scientific training.

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