Frankincense tea, also known as a Frankincense infusion, is a time-honoured remedy in many cultures. Some of its traditional uses have been researched in recent years and I am surprised to see that many of the classic therapeutic properties associated with Frankincense tea are substantiated in the laboratory. I have listed a few here, but trust you to do your own research as well.
What is a traditional Frankincense Tea?
A traditional Frankincense "Tea" is a simple overnight infusion of Frankincense tears in water that creates a partial emulsion.It is a time-honoured remedy in many cultures and has broad therapeutic applications, is easy to make at home and puts less stress on trees that are already burdened by our demand for Frankincense essential oil.
Sorting Frankincense in Northern Kenya
Not the essential oil
Our recent obsession with Frankincense essential oil can easily blind us to the plethora of therapeutic compounds found in the whole oleo gum resin and is no doubt increasing the pressure we are putting on trees that are already over-harvested and over-burdened with our growing demand for Frankincense essential oil. Remember, there are no Boswellic acids in the essential oil of Frankincense. These therapeutic compounds are left behind after distilling the essential oil.
Traditional therapeutic benefits of Frankincense
Frankincense tea has a broad range of traditional therapeutic applications..
As a sexual tonic and aphrodisiac
To increase fertility in men and women.
To stimulate brain function, memory and intelligence
As a home remedy for coughs, colds and congestion
To reduce the pain and inflammation associated with Arthritis and Rheumatoid Arthritis
As a treatment for Irritable Bowel Syndrome
Alleviating respiratory complaints such as Asthma and Bronchitis.
To treat diabetes.
To ease the irritation of urinary tract inflammations
A teaspoon of Frankincense tears steeped overnight in tepid water is a traditional healing formula that has been around for hundreds if not thousands of years. Placing Frankincense or Myrrh species resins in the day's drinking water is a custom practiced from Arabia to Africa.
Frankincense Carterii harvest Ufeyn Eastern Bari district Somalia. Photo credit M. Nur Warsami.
Frankincense tears-Oleo-Gum-Resins -Luban
Most Frankincense tears are oleo gum resins. When the tree is tapped they exude as an homogeneous emulsion and blend of resin, essential oil, gum and water. The essential oils act as a solvent for the resins as the water does for the gum. These solvents make the material fluid and mobile. As the essential oils and water evaporate, the tears harden. Seeing these milky-white drops appear on the freshly tapped tree, it is easy to see why Frankincense got its name of Luban and Olibanum. The root of the word Luban is Semitic and means white.
How to prepare Frankincense tea
The traditional ratio of Frankincense granules to water is about a teaspoon of tears to 4 cups or a litre of water.
Place a teaspoon of Frankincense tears in a container. Large tears should be crushed or broken down with a mortar or pestle, or by putting the tears in a Ziploc bag and bruising them with a hammer. Do not powder them. Lentil to pea size is ideal.
Add 4 cups, (1000 Milliliters) of room-temperature water.
Cover the container with a saucer or plastic wrap and let it sit overnight.
In the morning pour off some of the liquid into a cup or glass as needed.
Sip it throughout the next day.
If you prepare too much you can keep it in the fridge for a day or two.
If you want to prepare a larger amount for future use, freeze it in ice cube trays, then store the frozen cubes in Ziploc bags in the freezer. Thaw them as needed. they should keep well for up to 6 months.
Remember, traditional use suggests consuming small amounts throughout the day. It is likely more beneficial to consistently drink a cup or two slowly throughout the day than to consume large quantities over a short period.
Listen to your body, and don’t overdo it. Tempting as it might be...
Usually, the tears can be infused in water at least once more and will still colour the water.
When they are spent and the water no longer turns whitish, they can be consumed or burned as incense and a new batch prepared.
The known side effects of consuming too much Frankincense are digestive discomfort, if you experience digestive discomfort in any way, take a break and moderate your intake.
Above-The residue after an overnight infusion of Frankincense tears in water. This material can be used for the next night's infusion.
Which types of Frankincense are best suited to making a traditional tea?
Not all Frankincense types are suited to this type of preparation. Some Frankincense resins have no water-soluble gum and will not create an emulsion or break down when steeped in water.
The following species of Frankincense are the best suited and the most popular types for this application and contain water soluble gum. They all appear as "tears" Click on the name below to purchase some and for a more detailed description of each type in the shop.
Though Frankincense Rivae, Neglecta and Frereana contain many therapeutic compounds, their lack of water-soluble gum means their resin acids will not be delivered through an emulsion.
Can I add Myrrh to my Frankincense tea?
The answer is yes, in moderation. There is a synergistic relationship between Frankincense and Myrrh, (Please look it up), and for this reason you will often find them used in traditional formulas together. Keep in mind that the root of the Word Myrrh, is Mar which means bitter. Be prepared for a very bitter brew.
Look it up
Put in the time to research everything! We now share a vast brain online, if you can read this post then you can also spend a few minutes looking at research papers, formulas and studies about Frankincense. Take responsibility for educating yourself.
Some tips for your tea
A recent privately funded study shows that the water will absorb more of the Boswellic acids if the PH level is brought up to 11-12. This can done with a small amount of baking soda and Litmus papers.
Though the amount of Boswellic acids absorbed by the water is not a lot compared to the solid resin or commecial extract, it is an easily assimilated form and the body absorbs more of the Boswellic acids than ingesting an extract of pure Boswellic acids.
The study showed that a tea can be prepared twice from the tears and that a third infusion contains a negligible amount of Boswellic acids.
A bit of Scientific research
Laboratory studies of the tea, infusion or aqueous extract/solution of Frankincense support many of the traditional uses. Below, are a few of the studies I came across. I urge you to do your own research. An online query such as “Frankincense tea” or ”Frankincense infusion” won’t yield many results. However, if you phrase your search, “Aqueous solution or Aqueous extract of Boswellia, or something similarly scientific, you will be well rewarded.
I have by no means collated everything there is, but a few hours searching proved fruitful and educational. The potential benefits of a simple tea of Frankincense are extensive and yet to be fully explored. Here are a few. I would be very pleased if any of my readers posted other related studies in the comments for everyone's edification.
Studies like these remind me how much we don’t yet know about nature, our bodies and diseases. There is so much more for us all to learn. It also tells me that our obsession with taking things apart and consuming individual active compounds, ( such as essential oils), is likely to our detriment, that of the land and the plant species that give us our medicine.
If this type of traditional tea is used in your culture or family, leave me a note in the comments. I would love to hear from you.
This is an updated version of a popular post that was originally published in 2017.
Dan Riegler is an Herbal Apothecary, Artisan, formulator, distiller and advocate for sustainable management of our aromatic and medicinal plants. A lover of Nature, he is a friend to trees and a sap for resins. Dan travels regularly to Kenya and Ethiopia to meet with Frankincense harvesters and purchase fresh Frankincense and Myrrh resins directly from them.
Apothecary's Garden provides an ever-growing selection of fresh & fair trade, ethical and sustainably harvested medicinal and aromatics including Frankincense and Myrrh, local and exotic fragrance materials, artisan distilled essential oils, natural perfume ingredients and animal essences. Apothecary's Garden shop also showcases Dan's aromatic, cosmetic and therapeutic preparations, salves, cremes, tinctures and oils, as well as those of Guest artisans from around the world.
The Blog, Apothecary's Garden is a journal about Herbs, plants and processes, recipes, plant Alchemy, traditional wisdom and our Relationship with Nature.
There is a lot of interest in the healing compounds found in the different types of Frankincense. Notably, the the Boswellic acid family including AKBA which are ONLY found in Frankincense. With the right information these healing compounds can be incorporated in a broad range of cosmetic and therapeutic products in any kitchen.
Frankincense and Myrrh resins have been used for medicine, incense and perfume for over 6000 years. There are many variations of each of these aromatic treasures and in this post I will tell you about a special Myrrh resin called Suhul Myrrh. Suhul Myrrh is sweeter, lighter in colour and not as bitter as the regular type of Myrrh, and, it is sustainably harvested!
by Dan RieglerDecember 14, 20239 min read1 Comment
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