Tapping into Frankincense and its Boswellic acids- an easy extraction method
by Dan Riegler | Jul 26, 2015 | "How To", Apothecary, Apothecary Arts, DIY, DIY-Frankincense Products, Frankincense as Medicine | 60 comments
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I was about to make an oil extraction method you described earlier in the months with powdered frankincense (I already put it in oil), then saw your recent water extraction method. Can I filter out the oil and do the water method, then add it back to the oil? Is the oil method not as effective as the water method?
Hi Kirk. Unfortunately, once you have soaked the powdered resin in oil, it becomes less soluble in water and the oil may or may not interfere in the process of the resin coalescing in the boiling water. In short, I really don’t know….You will have to share your results with me if you try this.
you mention to use 100-500 grams in your extraction method. how much oil can be made using your method using 100 grams? trying to determine how much I want to buy for my first batch. Thank you Jennifer
Hi Jennifer. depending on the batch of Frankincense, you can get between 40% and 60% of its weight in resin extract.
Excellent information and method of extraction. I was particularly interested in the study you provided. Very informative
Thanks Doug. I hope it helps with your own extracts. If you do have any questions along the way please let me know.
Is there any reason to save the white water soluble gum liquid that you are pouring off? Is there any beneficial use for it or is the resin the only useful component?
That’s an excellent question Penny and one I too have been asking. From what I can tell, a water infusion or aqueous solution of Frankincense has been used in traditional Iranian medicine to improve memory and increase the intelligence of children while in the womb.
An infusion of whole tears is also considered a remedy for colds coughs and congestion in traditional Arabian medicine. There is a recipe in the navigation menu at the top of the blog for such a tea.
I think we have been focusing mainly on essential oils, and recently on the Boswellic acids in the resin and may indeed be missing the therapeutic properties of the water-soluble gums and the benefits of a “whole” medicine from Frankincense. There is little information online regarding this portion of the Frankincense except that it is made up of sugars or polysaccharides and a bitter priciple.
I have found it difficult to work with since once separated with water, it spoils quickly and when recombined with the resin and essential oils of Frankincense in an emulsion it requires a preservative for long term use. A powder of raw Frankincense or a water/alcohol tincture may be the only viable methods to utilize the whole oleo-gum-resin medicinally.
I was in Iran this summer and was told the same thing about eating frankincense resin while pregnant.
Thank you for sharing your experience here!
This is wonderful info, Dan. Thank you. I wondered, too, about the liquid gum being poured off. I might try to ferment it as a preservation method. I hate to waste anything. ; )
Hi everyone, I also hat to waste any part of my beautiful resin so after infusing it in oil for hours, I often leave the resin in the bottom of my container until I have used up all the oil. I then re boil the left over resin for a few more hours and then mix that water with magnesium flakes to make my magnesium spray. Smells divine and I feel this way I’m using all of the resin. Same when I take my resin out of my oil burner, I used to compost it but this boiling again really works this way too.
thank you for sharing your knowledge Dan, much appreciated. I love the clear, uncomplicated instructions and all your tips. Great approach to empowering others 🙂
Thank you Shari!!
Hi Dan~ So appreciating all of the info you’ve shared here. I just tried this process, but with finely ground Boswellia serrata, as my local apothecary was just cleaned out of tears by someone who’d come in the day before. I did the multiple washes, but figured it wouldn’t be possible to get the water perfectly milky-free due to the fine particulate. So, it’s possible I didn’t wash it enough. Would that be the reason why the oleo-resins did not bind together in the last step? I boiled for close to an hour, let the water cool down, poured it off–and it was still a silty, muddy mass at the bottom of the pot. I’ve washed it a few more times. Should I try the boiling again? Or, is powder just not the right form for this process? Any thoughts would be greatly appreciated! Thanks 🙂
I’m not sure what happened there…..
Boiling should have at least created beads of resin mixed in the gum at the bottom of your pot.
My best guesses are that either
1-What you received was not Boswellia Serrata, but the residue of a different material that had occupied your apothecary’s B. Serrata jar at an earlier date. It sounds like the behaviour of Styrax Benzoin and not a Boswellia.
2- That the powder you received was mostly powdered water soluble gum that had settled to the bottom of their jar over time and had little to no resin in it. Though if it was gum it would have dissolved and not formed a sludge at the bottom of your pot.
3-That within the sludge of water soluble gum at the bottom of your pot there is a collection of tiny micro beads of resin that for some reason did not join together in a larger mass.
My suggestion Kellie, is that you stir the water and after 30 to 60 seconds, when the heavier particles have settled to the bottom of the pot, pour off the white liquid and the dissolved gum. Add more room temperature water, stir and pour off only the white liquid. What is left at the bottom of your pot should be the resin and it should absolutely join into a mass when more water is added and it is brought to a boil.
I should also point out that most of these oleo gum resins will float as a sticky scum on top of the water when it is boiling, and then sink to the bottom of the pot when the water cools. Try bringing it to a boil again. If anything floats on top, it is your resin portion of the Frankincense. Collect it with a sieve or spoon and there you have your resin extract of Boswellia Serrata.
It very well be you are working with the wrong material. If so, please send me your address and I will send you some authenticated Boswellia Serrata. Once you have worked with it you will be able to identify it in the future with ease and there will be no doubts as to the type or quality of your material if there are issues.
Please let me know how this unfolds for you. I need to know the recipes can work for everyone.
Hi Dan! Thanks for the sample of tears and oleo resin that you sent me. I used the tears, as well as the additional 8oz. of tears I purchased from you, to follow the newly updated directions here. It was a total success, and now I have 135g of oleo resin extract that I’m looking forward to putting in some salves. I’d say that it’s worth mentioning in your directions to use a sieve that will be dedicated for this extraction process as it is impossible to clean! I know it probably is something that I should have thought of, but I didn’t, and consequently turned a sieve that I love for cooking into a dedicated oleo-resin sieve. Oh well! Thanks for your generosity in both knowledge and products.
Kellie, I thought my sieve was ruined but thought why not try and coat it with some oil on both sides. Put/place it upside down (flat side down, mesh side dome-ed up) on an aluminum covered baking sheet then coat it with oil. Set the oven to 230 degrees Fahrenheit and let it sit in the oven for about 10 minutes and chedk on it. If it hasn’t changed, let it go another 10 minutes. After that I pulled mine out and let it cool down. I wiped the edges with some paper towel and it’s good as new.did the same thing to a pot I had used and it worked. Hope this helps.
I meant to say, I wiped the edges down when it was still hot. As of course when it’s cooled it’s rock hard.
Hi.. I am trying the “simple and safe method for isolating the boswellic acid from the resin of Frankincense” as per the instructions here on the website. In the third bullet it states to place a sieve/colander 1/2 submerged in the water. It’s not clear: Do I place it 1/2 of the way from the top to the bottom of the pot itself or do I place it 1/2 of an inch from the top surface of the water?
Can anyone let me know? Thanks.
Place the sieve so it sits supported on the rim of your pot. Make sure there is enough water in the pot to submerge the bottom of the sieve in water up to about half the height of the sieve. You need to leave some space between your water level and the rim of the pot and sieve so the water does not splash over when you add the frankincense.
So if the top of your sieve is the same height as the lip of the pot, make sure there is enough water in the pot to flow into the bottom portion of your sieve and wash through the Frankincense.
I hope this was of some help. If not please let me know.
Hi Asa. Thank you.
I use olive oil and a scrub pad to dissolve the resin and then warm water and dish soap for a final cleaning.
As one reader pointed out, best to set aside dedicated tools, pots and sieves for working with the resins since it can be time consuming bringing them back to their original state each time one makes an extract.
Dan, is there a way to do this if ones does not have a sieve?
Yes, you could use cheesecloth. Simply tie your frankincense loosely in the cheesecloth like a sachet and suspend it in the boiling water.
I hope that was of some help.
Thanks for sharing your recipe on Boswellia oleo-resin separation via hot water. I see on http://apothecarysgarden.com, that you’re planning a visit to the Horn of Africa during Feb.’16.
IF any of your regional flights pass through Nairobi, consider taking a few days detour & come and visit us 4 hours from NAI in Northern Kenya. We’re working (amongst water & nutrition) to establish an Ethical Trade platform for local Samburu women harvesting an assortment of Boswellia & Commiphora species throughout the year. Travel is safe & the region has had incredible rains, resulting in an eruption of new growth …. Regards, Andre.
Hi Andre. Thank you so much for your invitation. I had a look at the work you are doing with water and nutrition and well, wow :-). I have only fantasized about what might be possible in those areas, you are doing it.
My itinerary is still coming together and fairly flexible, and honestly, I wouldn’t miss the opportunity to drop in for a few days and see if there is any way I can help, participate, or contribute in some small way to your project. A stop-over in Nairobi actually opens up more and better flight options for my trip.
So, that’s a big glowing and very excited Yes! Let’s continue the conversation via email.
Jo here from Australia. I read with so much excitement , yours and Andres post on the ladies setting up a fair trade platform and wish to be involved with this on a volunteer basis. Do you know if this is at all possible? I have become totally “obsessed” with Frankincense Serrata and have tons of it now in my home, ha ha. Burn it, drink it, make oil from it, just look at it…
I did reply to Andre’s post but i realize its almost two years old so I may never hear from him so I thought i would try you.
Here’s hoping you can send me in the right direction for working with these ladies, even if its on a volunteer, English language help basis.
No it’s not too late for anything. I will pass your message on to Andre. If you like, please email me at [email protected] thecarysgarden.com and we can talk further.
Hello Andre, I know I am nearly two years since your post but have only just “discovered” Dan’s site and Love,Love, Love it. I was instantly hooked on your invitation to him and what you do there in Northern Kenya, and also what the local women are trying to establish. I am sure this Ethical Trade platform has by now probably been established but I just wanted to say that I would love to be a volunteer over there (I am obsessed with Frankincense) and if there is any way I can help the women continue or advance their platform, I would love to be involved.
I currently live in Queensland, Australia and am semi-retired, and even if helping them with the English language in some capacity would be helpful, please could you let me know or point me in the direction of someone I could get in contact with,
I hope I hear from you sometime.
i forgot to click, Notify me of new comments via email, sorry….Jo
Hi Jo. Email me at [email protected] and we can continue the conversation.
Is it safe to chew on the “tears” and is it beneficial just to make tea from it? I found one of the types of boswellia you put here in a local coop and want to know the best way to ingest it. I’m looking into alternatives to buying the extract.
Also I have read that lecithin can increase bioavailablity. Or even a fatty meal. Would you know anything about this? I like doing chemistry here but am looking for a shortcut.
I can only speak from my own experience. I personally take about 1/2 teaspoon powdered frankincense up to 4 time a day mixed or chased with water. My assumption is that it is more easily assimilated in the body and clumps less than capsules. I have heard some theories about taking it with lipids but I haven’t made up my mind about them yet.
Hi Dan, I saw your comment to Marie that said she could use cheesecloth for the same result. This sounds like an easier (extraction for dummies) method for me. Also love that whats left over can be used in various ways as I make salves, perfume, oils etc. I am assuming whats left in the cheesecloth is the resin? Any other tips or steps for this method? Thanks so much for sharing your gifts and knowledge.
Thank you Mary. If you are using the hot water method, with a colander or cheesecloth, then you really won’t have much left over except white water and a bit of bark. The resin will pool and you will collect it to dissolve in oil based products.
However, if you are making an infusion/extraction of the resin in oil, ( as in this process-https://apothecarysgarden.com/2014/07/30/how-to-make-a-whole-extract-of-frankincense-and-other-oleoresins/), you will definitely have a lot of nice abrasive grit left over which is mainly the powdered water soluble gum that didn’t dissolve in your warm oil. Now that makes a great exfoliant!!
Hi Dan, if I’m extracting the fine powder in oil, will I get the Boswellic acid? Or do I have to go through your process in order to get the Boswellic acid? Sorry, it’s a bit confusing why you would go through such detailed process.
Hi. Yes you will extract the Boswellic acids. The resin acids are oil soluble and dissolve into the carrier oil. The reason you might go through the process of creating a pure resin extract is if you wanted to make a product that had a higher proportion of resin and a lower proportion of oil such as a moustache wax, suppositories and other semi-solid products. Once you have diluted the resin in oil as in the infusion/extract you are stuck with the oil.
When I add the Frankincense to the sieve, should it be ground? Thanks for all your wonderful information.
No, I place the whole resin tears or chunks directly in the sieve. The hot water does a fine job of dissolving them. I will post photos of the process shortly and apologise for not doing so earlier.
Thank you! I took a change and did it right. The oil is wonderful. I have a second batch ready to be melted in a water bath with oil which will be a gift to a veteran friend who suffers with RA. I’m hoping he gets great results from it and I thank you for sharing your knowledge.
Hi ,do You have any video how to do it ,cause I don’t understand how You do it ,sorry ,the extraction . You have sieve in another pot over the water ,I don’t get it
Hi Kasia. I know, it is difficult to follow with only words describing the process. I hope to make some videos soon, but in the meantime I will post photos of the process and hope they will be of help.
I’ve been reading your blogs with glee, and think I’ve developed a bit of an intellectual/philosophical crush :). Anyoldwho…
I tried the above extraction method (thank you) using some Boswellia carterii powder I have in the cupboard. It didn’t turn out as expected, so I’m wondering what this means about the material:
The powder is beige. Boiling it up, the water went very cloudy. Some semi-solid material sank. At no time did a frothy or resinous scum form. Eventually I drained the cooled water through a fine sieve, which allowed me to collect a large amount of wet beige sludge.
I tried drying this in the heat of the Australian Summer sun, on a ceramic surface. The result is soft and pudding-like, rather than resinous.
What does this tell me about the ‘Frankincense powder’ I have? It was apparently sourced from Oman.
Thank you 🙂
Hi Stephanie. Since the water went very cloudy, it indicates there was a good amount of water soluble material in your Frankincense powder. I get the feeling it may have been more than one should find in Frankincense.
When we buy pre-powdered resins it is difficult to discern the quality of the material. Is it fresh? Is it pure? Has a cheaper filler been added to “bulk it up” and increase someone’s profit margin? The art of adulteration has been practiced for thousands of years and powdered materials are a traditional place to get creative with cheaper substitutes. Even if you purchased it from a reliable supplier, they may have assumed it was 100% pure.
That being said, it sounds like you did get some resinous and non water soluble material out of the experiment. It shouldn’t be a mush or sludge though, so my advice to you is to boil another pot of water and run that sludge through again. Let it boil for a good half hour, then allow it to cool to room temperature. The extra “cooking” won’t diminish the quality of your resin and with any luck the resin particles will adhere solidly to each other and anything non resinous will be excluded.
Your product should be a homogeneous and solid lump with no mushiness.
My guess is there may have been some Gum Arabic in the powder which can take longer to dissolve than the Frankincense gum and can lend a bit of a pudding or jelly like texture to things when wet..
I hope this was of some help. If you decide to run it through the boiling water again let me know how it turns out.
Can you tell please how much Boswellic acids should i use in Lotion or creme?
Hi, Pat. When I make a lotion from the resin extract, I dissolve it in 3 times its weight of carrier oil and with the aid of an emulsifying wax blend it with distilled water. The % of resin extract in the finished lotion is between 10% to 20%. If you want a product with a higher % of resin extract and Boswellic acids, a 1 to 3 infusion in a carrier oil gives you about 33% Resin extract content in an oil, not a lotion. You can raise the quantity of resin extract and Boswellic acid in these products if you make a more concentrated infusion of resin extract in oil. A 1:2 or possibly 1:1 ratio which will be quite thick. I hope that answered your question.
The oil infusion that these products are based on can also be made with a hot infusion of fresh Frankincense in a carrier oil.
I have a Kilo of frankincense (sacra) that I purchased in Dubai. I want to isolate the essential oils using my glass steam distiller to use for aromatherapy. Once I get the oil can I use the resin left over to make the extract? If yes, can the extract be ingested?
Thank you and I am looking forward to your reply.
Hi Duan. Yes! What you will have after you distill the Frankincense. essential oil is water infused with the gum portion, and pure resin in beads or “puddles”. This is the pure resin extract and you can use it any way you like.
Such great information! I have read that there is benefits to chewing in the raw resin form as well…could you give me your thoughts on that please.
Trying to find out if that can be done for cancer treatment as well?
Yes, many of the therapeutic benefits can be accessed through chewing Frankincense. Though Frankincense Frereana is considered the Premier chewing gum in Arabia, wherever Frankincense grows, you will find the local population chewing it, regardless of its species. The types of Frankincense that contain water-soluble gum break down in the mouth more quickly than Frankincense Frereana. Many of them contain Boswellic acids and other compounds that are digested and absorbed by the body. I don’t know how much Frankincense you would have to chew to assist in treating cancer, but I believe that chewing the resin supports good health in general.
Just discovered your website and products. Quick question, can argan oil be used as the carrier oil with the pure resin extract Frankincense/Bowellic acid? Would like to make a skin care serum OR add to an argan/shea butter/Korean snail mucin cream recipe I’m already using. Thanks for your time!
Hi. Yes! In general, these resins and resin extracts all dissolve in warm vegetable oils and animal fats.
What would you recommend S the best method for creating a fragrance oil for scented candles using frankincense resin? Thank you!
Hi. Though I haven’t made scented candles myself, I know some people dissolve Frankincense resin into the hot melted wax to add fragrance. After the resin is infused/dissolved in the liquid wax, it is filtered before pouring into moulds.
So I think I’m on a similiar track & it seems to have worked out well in salves… I bought a bunch of previously hydro-distilled Black Omani sacra resin from a eo distiller …it still had a nice smell but had had eo’s already extracted from it.. but I figured that the leftover resin must be loaded w boswelic acid… it melted w a little bit of time & stirring into olive oil that I had in a double boiler kind of set up…. almost no sediment to be strained out at the end but a little… made a great salve… I’m assumimg it’s loaded with b. a…
Hi Susan. Yes, the spent resin from this type of Frankincense is full of Boswellic and other resin acids. The best part of the Frankincense in the opinion of some. Happy to hear your salve turned out well!
Prior to coming upon this method, I tried the method of freezing and grinding using Boswellia Sacra and then dissolving in hot oil in a water bath. I ended up with sand-like grains at the bottom, which I then dissolved in water to make sure they were the water soluble gums. I found that saving those after straining, they make a fabulous “sugar” scrub for my hands. Have you found the same?
Yes I have!
That post is overdue for some updating and I will be sure to mention this option. Thank you for your feedback Catlin.