I have, over the past few days, slowly succumbed to a head/chest cold. Stuffed up, scratchy rough throat, and a cough. Yuch!! On the bright side, it motivated me to finally make a Frankincense Oil, or rather a Frankincense Neglecta Cough and Chest Rub.
Since My first whiff of the rare and unusual Frankincense Neglecta last winter in the Mercado market of Addis Ababa Ethiopia, I have been itching to work with it and explore its therapeutic properties.
The Mercado is considered Africa‘s largest outdoor market and covers hundreds of square kilometers. It is like a sub-city of Addis and takes days to even scratch the surface of it. After spending the best part of a day hunting, feet sore from unpaved, rock strewn paths, exhausted, discouraged and ready to go home, I finally came upon a “quarter” in the market, that specialized in local resins, barks and dried herbs. Jackpot! Frankincense, Myrrh, Opoponax and everything else I had hoped to find.
My inspiration for working with Frankincense Neglecta, is its similarity in fragrance and substance to our local conifer saps, from which I make a wonderful winter chest “balm”, and a muscle and joint rub. Products which draw their healing powers from the use of their wholes saps, (Oleoresins), not just the essential oils of the trees.
I call my sap based respiratory product, the “Great Northern Cough and Chest Rub”. Anyone who knows me, knows I have been making it since my son Nathan was a toddler. At the time I had to come up with something that a child would, (willingly), allow one to administer, so it had to be pleasant, effective and smell nothing at all like Vicks!
The great northern “C&CR” or “Cough Balm” as we call it, has been a great success for over 15 years. It not only helps to break up phlegm, open and clear breathing passages, reduce coughing in young and old alike, but it also has the effect of calming and grounding, soothing those cranky sick kid nerves and promoting a sound sleep. Parents know how important it is for everyone to get a good nights sleep when there is a sick kid in the house. All in all, The Great northern Cough & Chest Rub has been one of my most successful formulas. Beyond minor tweaks, I haven’t changed the recipe or method of making it in over a decade and a half.
While Boswellia Neglecta is obviously a Frankincense, and has the distinguished warm, rich, fragrance that we associate with Frankincense, Neglecta has an extra “set” of terpene notes, reminiscent of our own temperate evergreens. It has a penetrating sweet Fir like scent. A scent that implies it likely shares similar phytochemical compounds and healing effects to our conifers, which are excellent decongestants and respiratory medicines. From what I can gather, Boswellia, or Frankincense Neglecta, has been used medicinally much more than the other types of Frankincense native to the region. Since all the species of Frankincense share anti aging, anti wrinkle and skin rejuvenating properties, I also look forward to seeing what B. Neglecta can do for the skin.
Two days ago, I prepared an oleo extraction of the whole oleo-resin, separating the volatile oils and resin, from the water-soluble gum. (All types of Frankincense and many other fragrant saps are oleo-gum-resins, with varying proportions of water-soluble gum, resins and essential oils, (see photo below)). I have since, been applying this fragrant medicated oil to my chest and neck areas regularly. The effect is an immediate opening up and easing of my breathing passages. A lightening and relaxing of a heavy and tight chest, with a loosening of phlegm which in turn creates productive coughs. The effect consistently lasts 4-5 hours before I feel the need to apply more, and it does not diminish with use. It works every time. My nose is still a little runny, but not as stuffed up as it was 2 days ago. I have a lingering headache, but the scratchiness in my throat is gone, and I am experiencing no accompanying soreness after 2 days of use.
The fragrance of this oil is calming and relaxing, grounding and elevating, comforting too, like Spruce. The fragrance on its own, has obvious benefits from an aromatherapeutic perspective, promoting a sense of peace and calm without diminishing mental acuity. I was experiencing some distress from feeling ill and under physical duress, (That Yuchi sick feeling). Whether it was absorbed through my skin or lungs, its calming effect on my nervous system was direct and immediate.
I think most of us realize on some level, that our emotional, physical and mental states are all tied together, affected by, and affecting each other. I can always feel an emotional and mental shift before I experience the physical symptoms of a cold or virus. For a medication to address and alleviate the emotional discord that comes with being ill, while it helps heal the body physically, is a great added benefit! I think it qualifies as a sign of a more holistic remedy and indicates a synergy to the product.
When it comes to sharing formulas, There are those who counsel not to reveal recipes or methods. They caution against giving away trade secrets that unscrupulous others may use to mass produce competing products and cut into my “Market share”. I understand their concerns, but,,,I don’t make millions from my salves and cremes, or hundreds of thousands, or even tens of thousands of dollars from them. I doubt I ever will. I make small amounts, for a local, small community that appreciates and need them. ( And with a small online community of like minded individuals) More to the point, I don’t want to set up a factory and produce thousands of jars of healing salves a month. Way too stressful. I would rather see thousands of people around the world, nurturing personal relationships with Nature, using these methods to produce small quantities of finely crafted, high quality remedies for their own families and local communities. So, the more, the merrier! That being said, I also have to point out , that methods are only a small part of what makes these or any natural products exceptional. If you read through my blog you will see that there is much more to producing a fine or sublimated natural medicine, than just a formula or knowing how to physically process plant material. Much, much more. Anyone can do that.
So here is my recipe for making a simple extraction of the resins and essential oils of Frankincense Neglecta. It is applicable to other saps and oleoresins. This is a medicinal or medicated oil that can be used for respiratory problems and muscle / joint pain. It can be used as is, with added essential oils, or as the base for a salve.
I am very happy with the healing effects of this oil. It works extremely well. I hope that if you try to make some for yourself, or for those in your family and community, you will all experience equally gratifying results.
A Recipe for Frankincense oil, a cough and chest rub.
- 1 part fresh Boswellia Neglecta oleoresin. The fresher and more pliable it is, the better your extraction will be.
- 2 parts Cold Pressed Extra Virgin Olive oil. You can use any oil of your choice. You can use a different amount of Frankincense, but, in general a ratio of 1:2 by weight is what I aim for and works best for me.
- In a water bath,(See “A Solid Mustache Wax Recipe” for instructions on making and using a water-bath), combine oil and oleoresins in a container that holds double the volume of the products.
- Clamp container to the wall of the water-bath.
- Bring water bath to a boil.
- Stir, press, agitate oleoresins with a clean wooden spoon or other clean utensil , break up any chunks or lumps as best you can.
- Leave in simmering water bath for an hour at least, longer if using old, dry or hard material. Stir and break down the Frankincense periodically. Using a large mason jar works well. This way you can keep a lid on it when you are not stirring, I believe this will help retain more of the essential oils since the heat will make the volatile oils fly out of the oleo resin.
- After an hour or so, when you feel the Frankincense has broken up as much as it will, and when it seems the oil and resin are homogeneously mixed. Put the lid on tight, turn off the heat and let cool to room temperature.
- Take a clean, washed pillowcase, you may have to rinse it well with hot water and re-dry it so there is no residual odor of laundry detergent or any other aroma. Lay the open pillowcase in a bowl, corner at the bottom, and pour the contents of the jar into the corner of the pillowcase. Scrape out as much of the jar contents as you can.
- Collect the sides of the pillowcase, (keeping unneeded parts of the pillowcase from being saturated with oil), and twist it so the mixture starts filtering out of the pillowcase corner into the bowl. Squeeze as much as you can by hand, twist it as if wringing out a towel to dry, then if you have one, cram the pillowcase into an herb press and press out the rest of the liquid.
- Pour all your liquid into another jar or vessel you can close. Let it settle for a day or two, then very carefully pour off, or siphon off the clearer liquid, leaving the sediment on the bottom.
You now have a potent, fragrant, whole oleo-resin, medicated oil that works effectively “as is” ,or, if you like, you can use it as a base for a salve. It will probably settle further so be prepared to separate it from more sediment. You could let it sit in a glass separatory funnel and drain off the sediment again later, or if you have a vacuum filtering system, you can use it to remove all resin particles. Then again, you could just leave some of the sediment in your oil.
If you like, you can add some essential oil of Frankincense Neglecta to make up for what may have been lost due to the age of your Frankincense, or through the extraction process. Also, if you like, you can add essential oils that compliment the application you are using it for, such as Rosemary, Eucalyptus and Peppermint essential oils for respiratory issues, Chamomile for sleep, Wintergreen, Birch etc. for use as a muscle rub. Plan to add about 2% essential oils at the most.
It will keep for years, as oleo resins, (saps), do, and the oleo resins will help keep the vegetable oils from going rancid. If you like you can add 400 IU, (one gel cap), of vitamin E. to each cup or 250 ml. of medicated oil as an extra precaution against rancidity down the road, or add a small amount of Benzoin essential oil. Both these additives have skin healing properties.
To Make A Salve
To turn your oil into a salve,
- Pour the Frankincense oil you made into a vessel that holds at least twice the volume of the oil.
- clamp it in to the water bath wall.
- In a separate jar, break, scrape, grind or shave, raw Beeswax. About 1/4 – 1/3 of the volume of oil you are working with.
- Bring the water bath to a boil.
- When the beeswax is completely melted and both materials are at the same temperature, pour a little beeswax into the oil and mix well. (Or use a bulb type baster to transfer the hot liquids).
- Put a drop or two of the hot, well mixed, oil and wax, on a cold plate.
- When it cools to room temperature, test the consistency. If it is too soft or liquid, add a little more beeswax.
- Test again and repeat until your salve is exactly the consistency you desire. If by chance you add too much wax and your salve is too hard you can add a small amount of room temperature oil to your salve, test and adjust it.
- If you are adding essential oils to your salve, do so during the cooling down point, after removing the salve from the water bath. It is easier to measure and pre-mix the essential oils before you make the salve, just put them aside and add them at the end.
Remember to keep clear notes, especially on the quantities of essential oils you are adding. If it is a success you will want to reproduce it as precisely as possible in the future and avoid disappointments .
Make sure you have closeable containers ready to receive your salve. Pour it in carefully. When it is cool and solid, put your caps or lids on.
That’s it. Your salve will keep for years. Hopefully it will not last that long, and it will get used quickly for its wonderful healing properties.
It will make a great gift, providing comfort through the worst parts of colds and flus, to family and friends.
Remember to always keep notes.
Your future self will than you.