Frankincense has been used for medicine, perfume and beauty for hundreds if not thousands of years. Cosmetically Frankincense is considered an effective anti-aging, wrinkle reducing component in face cremes and believed to add elasticity to the skin. It has proven anti-inflammatory properties which have cosmetic applications and helps tighten and tone the skin. Besides these uses, the Boswellic acids which are present in some types of Frankincense exhibit anti-cancer activity causing apoptosis in many types of cancer cells without harming healthy cells and causing little to no side effects. We are just starting to fathom the many gifts this plant material brings us.
The following post outlines one of the many ways we can directly utilize the healing properties of Frankincense, cultivate an intimate relationship with the plant and deepen our relationship with Nature. This page is an excerpt from the post on making an extract from Frankincense, Myrrh and other oleoresins. You can find the full article here-https://apothecarysgarden.com/2014/07/30/how-to-make-a-whole-extract-of-frankincense-and-other-oleoresins/
On this blog, you will find other methods for extracting the volatile oils and resins from Frankincense. The resin portion in, (3 three types of), Frankincense is where the much studied, anti-cancer, anti-inflammatory Boswellic acids are located, not in the essential oil as some essential oil companies claim. With new research on the healing properties of the Boswellic acids and AKBA, it is important for us as Apothecaries, Herbalists and healers of self and others, to have the tools and methods to utilize these plant allies for the healing potential they offer us. This is not rocket science exclusive to big Pharmaceutical companies and requiring complex laboratory equipment, but ancient wisdom that has always been ours for the asking.
The method outlined below is likely the simplest way to access the resin and Boswellic acids in Frankincense. Though it’s product could be more accurately called an oleo infusion, rather than an extract, it provides us with a versatile medicated oil of Frankincense or Myrrh oleoresins, while leaving the water soluble gum behind. Some oleoresins will part with their resin and essential oils easily, and some, such as Myrrh, will require more effort. This means finer grinding, longer processing in the water bath, higher temperatures and lots of patience.
To create a true extract of Frankincense resin and volatile oils, a semi-solid which could be termed an absolute or resinoid, please see my post-Tapping into Frankincense and its Boswellic acids, an easy extraction method. This type of extract requires a slightly different approach when dissolving it in a vegetable oil. The process is outlined here-“Make a Frankincense resin oil with Boswellic acids”
Instructions for making an oleoresin extract/infusion
- If you are using any type of Frankincense or Myrrh, grind them to a fine powder first. (See the post on how to grind Frankincense & Myrrh. ).
- If using fresh pliable oleo-resins such as Spruce, Pine or Fir, the soft saps can be used as they are.
- In a water bath heat up 1 part oleo-resins by weight to 2-3 parts oil in a glass or mason jar. (See A Solid moustache wax recipe) for complete directions on making and using a water bath.
- When the bath reaches temperature and starts boiling, stir to break up any lumps and let sit in a simmering bath with occasional stirring for up to 3 hours.
- Remove from the bath and filter when you see there is no further change in the texture of the solid portion, and no further increase in the scent, colour, (taste?), and viscosity of the oil portion. Use your own judgement as to when no more oleoresin can be dissolved by the oil. Get up close and intimate with it. Taste it, smell it, rub it on yourself, put a drop on some blotting paper and compare the colour.
In the case of Boswellia Frereana, Maydi), the oleoresin dissolves into the oils within minutes of the bath reaching the boiling point. (It has little to no water-soluble gum). As soon as you have a hot homogenous mobile liquid you can proceed directly to filtering.
Filtering the oleo-resin extract
- Filter the hot liquid carefully through a fine metal mesh coffee filter, the corner of a well washed and thoroughly rinsed and dried pillowcase, or through a good piece of cotton cloth similar in weave to a bed sheet.
- Place your filtering material in a funnel over a clear glass vessel or jar. (so later you can gauge when most of the sediment has fallen).
- Add the hot liquid extract. ( I usually warm the receiving jar a bit first, or swoosh the first bits of hot liquid up its sides to dissipate and soften the sudden heat that may crack a cold glass jar).
- If using a cloth filter, twist the excess cloth on top to form a sachet, and press out the liquid from this bag with the back of a spoon.
- If using a metal mesh filter, running the edge of the spoon against the mesh to keep the liquid flowing and the mesh open.
- Working with the extraction while it is still hot keeps it mobile, liquid and more easily filtered. It will thicken a bit when cool.
- Cover and set aside.
- Compost the residue or return it to the earth.
- OPTIONAL-Wait till all sediment falls to the bottom of the vessel. This could take a day or so.
- Pour or siphon off the clear liquid, leaving the sediment. You can return this or use it for external applications.
- Most often, I will skip this sedimentation part. If no large bits bypass the filtering process, I will use all of this product and make sure to stir it up and evenly suspend the sediment before using it. Much of the sediment is made of heavier particles of resin and not foreign objects that need to be removed. Though it is not crystal clear, this will not interfere with the look or efficacy of salves or cremes you make from it. Unless you are making a product that requires a perfectly transparent oil, there is no reason to sediment it, (as I suggested in older versions of this recipe).
- If you plan to keep your extract around for a while, add 400 IU of Vitamin E to each 250 ml. or cup of extract. And it is ready to use. I have found they will often keep for many years in a cool dark place. If the oil does eventually go rancid, it will be evident in the scent.
For internal use I suggest starting with 1 teaspoon of extract with food. See how your body feels about it. This is uncharted territory and you are ultimately in charge of your own health. We don’t know how much is too much. However compared to ingesting pure essential oils as some do, this method is very easy on the body, readily digested and assimilated, and I believe likely much more effective than ingesting essential oils, which in the case of Frankincense, have only trace amounts of Boswellic acids.
For external use, apply to face, joints etc as often as desired. Again, listen to your body….
Rereading this post a year or so after writing it, I would add that another simple way to benefit from the Boswellic acids and other healing compounds in Frankincense, is to prepare a fine powder of the whole oleo gum resin and take a teaspoon of it as often as you like. I use Frankincense this way regularly with good results, especially when I am suffering from internal inflammations and irritations of either the GI tract or UT. A teaspoon of powdered Frankincense, mixed in my mouth to a homogenous suspension with a sip of water, swallowed and followed by a chaser of a half glass of water seems to work well for me. I will take this between 2 and 6 times a day depending on the need. OK, on to the creme part already!
To make a Frankincense or oleoresin cosmetic crème
I am not an expert in cosmetic formulation. Far from it. The more I delve into the subject, the more I see there is a lot of science that goes into many of the products we use today, even the “Natural” ones. There is an abundance of great recipes online written by people with much greater knowledge of this art than I. I suggest you find one with detailed instructions for making an oil/water creme that appeals to you, and replace the oil portion in any of these recipes with your oleoresin extract to make a healing creme. The guidelines below are simply that, loose guidelines based around a recipe that works for me until I learn a better method. We are all learning here.
- Set up a fresh water bath with one jar for oil and a large jar for distilled water.
- Put the filtered extract back in a jar in the water bath.
- Add distilled water in the second jar in a quantity that makes up 75% to 80% of the total weight of your finished creme. More water means a slightly thinner lotion or creme. Some experts claim up to 10% of your water will evaporate before your creme is finished, and counsel compensating this loss by adding an extra 10% distilled water at the start.
- If you are not using delicate oils, heat the water bath till boiling till both jars and the bath have reached the same temperature-If you are using oils that won’t tolerate high temperature then follow the instructions that come with the oil and bring both vessels in the water bath to the appropriate and same temperature.
- Calculate the total of all the oil soluble components you will have in your product, carrier oil, essential oils, waxes and oil based preservative if you are going to use one.
- Add 25% of the total weight of the oil based portion of your product in emulsifying wax.
- Blend the emulsifying wax in the oil till completely dissolved.
- Remove from the bath and slowly add the water to your oil/wax mixture in a large enough bowl or jar to hold both materials comfortably. Mix and blend the water portion untill it is all blended in homogeneously.
- Bend the oil-wax mixture for a couple of minutes and let sit. Every 15 minutes or so, repeat the blending till the mixture is room temperature and has started to thicken.
- This cool-down period is the time to add your essential oils and any other products that are heat sensitive. Preservatives often fall into this category. Remember if the preservative is an oil-soluble product, it’s weight should have been included in your calculation of how much emulsifying wax to use. I use Liquid Germal Plus and find it effective and relatively benign.
- When room temperature and of the right consistency pour into clean, sterile containers. If you have not added a preservative then keep refrigerated.
- For long-term unrefrigerated use, a preservative is a must since you have added water to the formula. Bacteria and molds are “suitcase in hand”, just waiting to move in. Many organisms can grow in this type of product unseen to the eye and can cause allergic reactions and irritations, sometimes more serious problems.
- Of course you can improvise with the formula to your heart’s desire. Depending on the purpose of your creme and your personal preferences, there are many waxes, oils, colourants and essential oils you can fine tune your product with. These are just the basics. I expect you to explore, be creative and have fun with it. ( and read up about preservatives and opportunistic organisms).
- For an excellent and informative website dedicated to all facets of lotion and creme making, recipes, instructions, and tutorials, I found Makingskincare.com a great resource.
I am told regularly by concerned friends that I should not share secrets, methods and successful recipes online. I disagree. I believe we are at a stage in our evolution as a global society that all information needs to be shared freely and openly. The internet is our collective brain and even our collective consciousness. We all draw from it, and contribute to it one way or another. The time for hiding things, for secrets and shadows in the world is past. We need to share whatever we have. If we all shared freely and none of us hoarded any resources, there would be more than enough of everything to go around. There would be no lack in the world, no poverty, and likely no war. If we all actively sought opportunities to share, the transformation would be immediate. I also believe whatever we put out there always comes back to us in whatever form we need.
So. Have fun, be responsible for your health and wellbeing, and share what you have. You will always get more of what you give.
And always, always keep clear notes!
Your future self will thank you.