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Kenya to Canada-Landing at a run

Since returning from Africa 2 weeks ago, it feels like I landed running, and I don’t yet see a respite in the near future. My keynote speech at the Viridis Genii Symposium is coming up fast which means I had better get travel arrangements to Oregon made ASAP, and with any luck get a day in Hawaii with master distiller Jack Chaitman of Scents of knowing, whom has long held my admiration and respect. He is figuratively and literally a wizard with plant intelligence and essential oils.

Spring is just starting to show here in Southwestern Ontario and the tree buds are swelling on the Niagara escarpment, finally clothing their winter nakedness with a bit of brown.  I hear the Wild ginger and Witch Hazel calling me. I have to get out of the studio  and visit with my plant friends.

For those who generously supported my travels though prepurchasing the Ethiopian Essential oils and professor Dagne’s lovely “Duet” co-distillation of Boswellia Papyrifera and B. Neglecta, the package is finally here from Ethiopia after many delays. I will be bottling them and hope to ship them out beginning of the week. I will also get these gems posted in the shop in the next few days, so keep checking back. I should also mention I am trying out $6.00 flat rate shipping in the shop. If I don’t lose my favourite shirt with it, I will keep it permanently.

My Ethiopian shipment came in with gorgeous fresh Frankincense and Myrrh resins. The Boswellia Papyrifera is in the largst most succulent chunks I have ever seen. Both the Myrrh and Opoponax resins are fresh, fragrant, vibrant and excellent representations of the species. The Boswellia Rivae is as deliciously sweet as ever, and part of me hopes it doesn’t sell so I can smell it and play with it as long as possible.

 

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Beautiful and aromatic, unusually large chunks of Ethiopian Frankincense Papyrifera in the shop now.

 

 

I want to thank everyone who has placed orders for resins, essential oils and my Astrodynamic products the past few weeks. Your patronage is a true compliment and your support is heart warming.

That being said, as a one man show, I may have to hire extra help with this influx of  orders, so please bear with me while I adjust to the new pace of sales in the shop… ……

In the meantime, to entertain, (distract), you, I am posting some photos from my visit in Kenya and the Samburu tribe courtesy of the talented photographer and wonderful travel companion, Minna Kalliokoski. Many have asked for them, so it will also be one thing I can tick off a job list that strangely seems to be growing daily and not getting any shorter.

Finally, I want to thank everyone for their generous donations to my work with indigenous harvesters and efforts to establish fair and sustainable trade of resins and other fragrant/medicnal materials. I could not have met and worked with Civet farmers, Somali resin co-op managers or the resin harvesting women of the Samburu tribe without your financial support. This influx  was unexpected and heartwarming. Much more than money, I was bolstered by the appreciation and warm moral support for these ventures. It makes me feel like change is possible in our world. That we can all work together to make this a better place for everyone, plants, animals and people. It felt like  a net of love that somehow appeared under a crazy idea and a leap of faith. My deepest and most sincere gratitude to you all!

Dan

 

 

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A Frankincense update and a bit of crowd funding

As some of you know, I am sourcing fair trade, sustainable and unique fragrance materials, resins and essential oils during my trip through Africa.
At the moment I am in Ethiopia purchasing local aromatics and speaking with Civet farmers and exporters. My friend and photographer Minna will be here tonight so there may be more, (better), photos to share soon….. Next week we leave for Kenya to meet with the women of the Samburu tribe and see if we can help them set up a fair trade platform for their sustainably harvested resins.
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Being in Addis Ababa Ethiopia is always a treat because I can visit my good friend Professor Dagne who is not only a distinguished scientist, researcher and educator, but a distiller of essential oils from local resins and fragrant plants. He is my source for the rarer types of Frankincense that grow only in this area of the world.

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Professor Dagne has a good stock of essential oils at the moment, which isn’t always the case, and I am buying a nice selection from him while i am here. The purchase will help support his work with local flora, and selling them to my customers and peers supports my projects with the resin harvesters and Civet farmers in Africa.

To this end I am pre-selling some of his oils, in 30 and 100 ml. bottles, which will be shipped to customers between the 16th of March when I arrive back in Canada, and the end of March.

The prices include the cost of shipping from Canada.

If you would like more than 100 ml. please let me know. This offer stands till mid March when I’m back in the shop again.

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Boswellia Rivae– The sweetheart of the Frankincense family and my personal favourite. With a familiar, warm Frankincense scent and a surprising sweetness that reminds one of its cousin Palo Santo,  B. Rivae is the Frankincense most often found in my own blends and perfumes. I can’t resist it!

Boswellia Neglecta-The “grounded” one in the Frankincense family, Frankincense Neglecta possesses the soft amber of Frankincense under an umbrella of Fir needles. Like Spruce and Fir essential oils it is both uplifting and grounding. I use it for anxiety and stress related issues.

T-Neg- Boswellia Papyrifera/Neglecta co-distillation. This is a special co-distillation created by the professor. The T stands for Tigray, which is the area where Boswellia Papyrifera grows. Co-distillation is the technique of pre-blending raw aromatic materials before distilling them together. This is an ancient approach practiced by more accomplished and creative distillers.

The product of this co-distillation of gentle B. Papyrifera and robust B. Neglecta is unique, thrilling and uplifting. The soft-spoken scent of reserved and dignified B. Papyrifera is radiant and energized, somehow expanded and exalted by the B. Neglecta without it dominating the fragrance in any way. He has managed to create a unique marriage, synergy and accord between these two very different types of Frankincense.

Personally, I think the name could be a bit more descriptive of its unique fragrance and not just the materials. This is why we need artists and scientists working together.
After much contemplation, coffee and pacing, reams of metaphoric notes crumpled and tossed in my metaphoric trash can, I have named this harmonic composition of odiferous tree voices “Duet”, a Boswellic Fantasy.
Actually “Dryad’s Duet” is the name that keeps tapping me on the shoulder even after publishing this post, but for now, and until I succumb to the wood spirit’s whisper, we can call it Duet.

I can only provide 10 Ml. and 30 ml. bottles of Duet. What is not sold now will be available in the shop after I return home.

The prices for these pre-paid essential oils are below. Payment can be made via PayPal to dnriegler@gmail.com and will help fund these projects that promote fair and sustainable practices in the trade of our medicinal and aromatic resources.
Feel free to email me directly at dnriegler@apothecarysgarden.com with any questions or requests.

Shipping from Canada is included in the price as is my gratitude with each of these special purchases, and if I can, I might include a little something from my trip in your package as I am a compulsive gift-giver.

Frankincense Rivae

· 30 ml.-85.00

· 100 ml. $230.00

Frankincense Neglecta

· 30 ml.$75.00

· 100 ml. $180.00

Duet, a Boswellic Fantasy

· 10 ml. $35.00
· 30 ml.$90.00

I know some of you are waiting for fresh Ethiopian resins to be shipped directly from Ethiopia. I encountered some unexpected postal restrictions, which put a dent in my plans, but, I am still working on it.

That’s it for now. A warm thank you to everyone who has contributed through a donation or purchase to this venture.
If we all do what we can, we can change the world for the better. It can’t happen without community and an active involvement the in the process.

Dan

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A fragrant moon over Addis

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First night in Addis Ababa Ethiopia, reclining in a hammock, chewing on some Chaat and gazing at the moon at 2,355 meters above sea level. She feels closer somehow. Supporting a huge halo, I’m comforted by her unchanging presence no matter where in the world i might be.
The blend of fragrances in the air is nothing short of exotic.
Sewage in a small stream that runs through the city provides a complicated base-note that blends in and out with mysterious and foreign florals, the smell of burning cook fires, punctuated by rich hints of Frankincense Papyrifera wafting from homes and the massive, always-busy church up the street. An engaging and ever-changing composition.
All in all, a wonderful way to shake off the claustrophobia and travel fatigue from the day-long journey getting here.
image Vending incense and resins on the street. Boswellia Papyrifera on the upper left.

This morning the burnt, rich scent of fresh roasting coffee beans leads the parade up my nose. Most everyone buys them green and roasts their own over a charcoal burner. A signature smell of Addis.
My Airbnb host Henok, is an artist, radical and kindred spirit. His home feels like many of my own over the years. Life is good.
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The always busy Piazza.

The morning was perfected with a coffee with my good friend Ermias, AKA
professor emeritus Dagne, who relishes the campus coffee even more because it is the cheapest in town. A perfect place for us to meet and to catch up on projects, future and past.
Though officially retired from teaching, professor Dagne is still very active in the university of Addis Ababa and there is usually a flock of grad students not too far from him.
He is one of those warm, authentic, magnetic, energetic people that walks with a slight tilt forward as if constantly on his way somewhere. Always busy. Always inspired, he is as much an artist as a scientist, and as much an apothecary and medicine maker as a distiller of essential oils. I’m honored to call him my friend.

Professor Dagne has offered his support with the upcoming Samburu project in neighboring Kenya.
One of the critical issues in marketing the resins the Samburu women collect is properly identifying which species they are.
While the Myrrh they gather  is generally accepted as Molmol, Myrrh or Commiphorah Myrrha, and the other as Hagar, or Opoponax, AKA C. Holtzii, the Frankincense types they bring back from their nomadic travels, are simply called “Light” and Dark” incense.

The global academic community has decided that only Boswellia Neglecta is to be found in North Eastern Kenya and neither of these fragrant oleoresins matches the description of B. Neglecta oleoresin as we know it. One is a clear golden yellow, often in tear form, and the other arrives in dull grey/white lumps.
So, a mystery awaits. And some work.
Professor Dagne will receive both plant pressings and their paired resins, and perform Gas Chromatography tests on the resin samples to help us identify them.

Over the past 100 or so years, 7 distinct species of Boswellia were registered in this area of East Africa. Over the past few decades they were all relegated to the species B. Neglecta S. Moore. I don’t know if this was based on similarity of leaf and flower and reasonably safe guesswork, but if the resins of these trees differ from each other so radically, it is worth a close look. And smell. Likely a taste too. Having access to sophisticated equipment that has not been available till recently could be the determinating factor in answering these important questions.
I will try to keep everyone updated as these projects unfold.
Dan

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How to separate the resin with its Boswellic acids from Frankincense-An improved method

 With time, as I find better ways of doing things, I update older posts and recipes. This is an edit to a post I published 4 months ago on my other blog, Fair Trade Frankincense. I’m going to mix things up a bit and post it here on Apothecary’s Garden since I seem to have accumulated a different following on each blog. To read the full post, which tells you exactly which types of Frankincense contain the anticancer and anti-inflammatory Boswellic acids, you can click the link  below and check out the full post.

Tapping in to Frankincense and its Boswellic acids-An easy extraction method

Boswellia Papyrifera-Pure Resin extract. For medicine or Perfume.
Boswellia Papyrifera-Pure Resin extract. For medicine, incense or Perfume.

I first came across the pure resin of Frankincense after distilling Boswellia Papyrifera. Gorgeous pools of caramel coloured resin rested on the bottom of the cold still and looked good enough to eat.

I discovered that this pure resin from which all the water-soluble gum had been removed, dissolved easily in warm oils without the grittiness that raw Frankincense delivered with its gum portion. Since many of the therapeutic compounds that Frankincense offers us are found in the resin and are not present in the essential oil, I started incorporating this resin extract in a number of my products and thought it would be a valuable material to share with other Apothecaries, Herbalists and Cosmetics formulators.

If you have ever tried to make an oil based product such as a salve or creme from whole Frankincense, you already know that the water soluble gum in it makes it gritty and must be carefully filtered out to create a creamy smooth product.

In the past, I mentioned it could be taken internally which is true. But, I believe that if you want to benefit from the Boswellic acids present in the resin, the best method is to powder the whole fresh resin and take it either in capsules or by the teaspoon with water as I do when the need arises.

In my humble opinion it is usually best to stick with a whole, natural, unprocessed and unadulterated product when possible. We don’t really know why or how things work, and I  suspect there are good reasons different compounds appear naturally in a plant. So if there is no need to refine it, my choice will always be to use the whole plant material.

If you would like to take concentrated Boswellic acids internally,there are commercial and factory produced products on the market that are standardized to 60%-65% Boswellic acids. A percent that is likely close to what is already present in the fresh oleoresin.

Though this pure resin is a byproduct of distilling Frankincense, not everyone distills or knows a distiller from whom to it. For this reason I present a method for separating the resin from the gum at home without the need for distilling apparatus. Though some of the essential oils are lost through the heating process, it is easy enough to add essential oils to your product during the cool-down stage of your finished product if you so choose.

The fact that all the Boswellic acids, including the much studied AKBA,  ( acetyl-11-keto-β- boswellic acid ), reside in the resin is fortunate for us. This means that we can easily utilize certain types of Frankincense for their Boswellic acid content and its anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer properties in healing oils, salves and cremes.

  This  extraction can be performed in any kitchen and enables not only experienced Herbalists and Apothecaries to make therapeutic products with Boswellic acids, but anyone who wishes to take a more independent approach to their own health and wellbeing. I have clients and customers who make their own oils and salves from raw Frankincense for Rheumatoid Arthritis and other chronic inflammatory issues with good results.

Before going on to describe the extraction method, I have to add that we in the West are buying a growing volume of Frankincense essential oil each year, sometimes at astronomical prices, thinking that we are benefitting from these healing compounds when in fact, the resin that contains all the Boswellic acids, is usually discarded by the distillers as waste, or sold off as inferior incense locally. This is the product we should be buying for its healing compounds, not the essential oils. We should most definitely NOT be ingesting these pure concentrated essential oils thinking we are consuming Boswellic acids.

 We have to start thinking more clearly. These trees will not last forever. Most all Frankincense and Myrrh trees that supply our resins live in the wild, along with their harvesters, under harsh conditions. As they are harvested with increasing frequency to meet our demands, the trees become stressed, produce less resin, yield seed that has a lower germination rate and thus cannot reproduce and regenerate their numbers in the manner they normally do.

  In short, our increased demand is leading us to a decreased supply. This doesn’t mean we should take a passive approach and stop buying Frankincense. That would be a blow to communities who already struggle, and it would simply create a back door and a black market. We need to take an active role instead. Before it is too late.

 Neither the trees nor the harvesters are benefitting from our increased demand for essential oil of Frankincense.  Harvesters, clans, communities in developing countries, see only a few cents of that $50.00 or $100.00 bottle of Frankincense essential oil.  Currently not a penny of our’s goes back to propagating or sustaining the trees, and the harvesters often see just enough to get by.

Frankincense tree
Frankincense tree

In February 2016, after a couple of years communicating with harvesters and elders, flirting with financial, academic and government stakeholders, I will be in the Horn of Africa again.  I believe there is still time to set up a different model of trade for these precious, fragrant and medicinal resources before they are lost. We need programs that sustain both the trees and the harvesters, who are their only stewards

 I have a growing vision of a model based on fair trade practices. It is direct, ethical and sustainable, benefits local ecologies, economies and social frameworks. It supports the harvesters and their communities in stewardship of the land and propagation of the trees in the wild to ensure future harvests will meet our growing needs.

  This world in all its gorgeous diversity is our Apothecary’s Garden. It’s up to us to take care of it.

So, here is a new and improved method for making an extract of Frankincense, high in Boswellic acids and easy to use in cremes, oils and salves.  It is a simple and safe method using water as a solvent to isolate the resin and Boswellic acids in Frankincense. Though I do name it an “Easy” method, Easy is a relative term. It is also a very messy process. For some tips on cleanup see the link at the bottom of this post-“A visual walkthrough”

  • Take 100-500 grams of fresh Frankincense.
  •  In a stainless steel, Teflon coated or glass pot, bring at least 10 liters of water to a boil. More than this is just fine.
  • Place a stainless steel sieve or colander with a fine mesh about 1/2 submerged in the water. Ideally, use a sieve that will rest on the edge of the pot securely, otherwise you will have to hold it at the right height through the process and you will need an extra hand.
  • When it is at a full boil, gently add 100 to 500 grams of one of the 3 aforementioned types of Frankincense into the suspended sieve, careful to not splash boiling water on yourself. It is fine if the resin sits partially above the water, it will soon settle.
  •  With a wooden spoon or some other utensil, gently run the submerged resin granules back and forth through the boiling water allowing the water to wash over them all and dissolve them.
  • The water-soluble gum will dissolve and disperse in the water while the pure oleoresin, the resin with the essential oils, will exit and float around the outside of the sieve. The bark and other foreign matter will collect in the sieve and not pass to the water.
  • Once most of the resin is floating on the surface of the water, it will also push its way back into the sieve. To address this, lift the sieve higher and allow the rest of the resin to exit the sieve. At this point you may need help running the utensil back and forth gently forcing the resin through into the water.
  •  When the sieve is empty of gum and oleoresin, set it aside.
  • Skim/scoop out all the resin that is floating in the pot into a separate preferably stainless steel bowl. I use a small colander/sieve that captures more resin than water for this purpose. It’s ok if you transfer water into the bowl with the resin since you can easily pour it off after the resin sets.
  •  Set the pot of hot water aside to cool. As most of these oleoresins do, they will generally settle to the bottom of the pot as the temperature drops.
  •  When the pot has cooled, pour the contents through yet another fine mesh sieve and add the bits of resin you collect in the sieve to your main bowl of collected resin.
  •   You can collect and save this liquid if you like.  Though mostly made up of water-soluble gum, it is very potent and fragrant. It can be added to bath water for a fragrant, healing bath and kept in the fridge for a week or two. My roommate has experimented with drinking it. He has combined it with different fruit juices and is developing a personal blend. I believe that as long as he does so in moderation it will do no harm. The aqueous solution or tea of Frankincense has been used for hundreds if not thousands of years in traditional medicine for coughs and colds, to stimulate brain function and memory and as an aphrodisiac and tonic. This leftover Frankincense water is quite similar to what you would get from such a tea. Taking it internally is, without a doubt, of less harm and more benefit than ingesting the undiluted essential oil of Frankincense. There are likely more Boswellic acids floating around in this “tea” than in a comparable amount of essential oil of Frankincense. It is bitter so cutting it 1/2 and 1/2 with something sweet helps. As always, pay attention to what your body says. Listen to it and you will know if it is good for you or not.
  • Your resin extract still needs to go through the bath once more to remove traces of water-soluble gum.
  • So, repeat the above process of boiling your filtered resin with fresh clean water in the pot.
  • Stir it around and you will likely see the water getting a bit cloudy. This is the residual water-soluble gum we want to get rid of.
  •  It should only take a few minutes of gentle stirring to wash the rest of the gum out of the resin, so after 3-5 minutes of the melted resin floating around, you can skim it off as before, and place it in a clean bowl to cool and set.
  •  Again, let the pot cool and collect any resin you missed.
  • Though you could use the resin extract as it is, I put it through one final process to dry it of any residual trapped water. It usually collects water in little pockets and bubbles as it floats around the boiling water.
  •  To do this, I crush the resin coarsely, exposing as much of it to the air as I can. I stop when the largest chunks are about the size of a pea.
  • Place it on a clean sheet or pan. A Teflon or silicone cookie sheet or something comparable.
  •  Preheat the oven to about 100 degrees Centigrade and place the pan in the oven.
  •  The resin will melt and flow releasing all the water in the form of liquid and vapor to the air. I tilt it this way and that to expose and pockets of water while it is hot and mobile. Often you can pour off the water as it is released from the resin.
  •  It takes from 5 to 15 minutes of the resin uniformly melted to dry it and it can be removed from the oven and left to cool.
  •   When solid and cool, lift from the cookie sheet, break it in pieces if you like and store in ziplock bags or  a glass jar. Keep it cool or it may flow a bit and adhere to a glass container.
  • I have also used a heat gun, the kind used for stripping paint to melt the resin and remove any trapped water from it. This is an option if you feel like experimenting. If it sizzles a bit it is OK.

You now have a product with a substantial, therapeutically active proportion of Boswellic acids in a concentration much, much higher than you could ever get from a comparable quantity of essential oil without the risk that concentrated essential oils can represent. At the same time you likely have a healthy percent of Frankincense essential oils in their naturally occurring concentration and matrix.

Boswellia Sacra/Carterii resin extract beneath B. Papyrifera resin extracts.
A visual reference for your extract. This is how it should look when you are done. Boswellia Sacra/Carterii resin extract beneath B. Papyrifera resin extracts. The same, but different. Each exhibiting expected variations in colour and fragrance.

It is a substance that dissolves readily in warm vegetable oils, waxes and alcohol, and lends itself with ease to the creation of cremes, oils, salves and more. You know exactly what went into your product from start to finish. You know it wasn’t adulterated along the way, that no solvents, or fillers were added, and that you have a 100% natural product.

I have put together a visual walkthrough of the above process and you can find it here extracting-the-resin-and-boswellic-acids-from-frankincense-a-visual-walkthrough/

 

 And remember…

 always take clear notes.

 Your future self will thank you.

Dan

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How to make a Tincture of Frankincense or Myrrh- 4 Variations and a Tea

Frankincense tree
Frankincense tree

With a growing interest in the anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer activity of Boswellic acids, Acetyl-11-keto-beta-boswellic acid (AKBA), Incensole and Incensole Acetate which are found in some types of Frankincense, the market for Frankincense products is growing rapidly.

Identified to date in only 4 types of Frankincense-Boswellia Serrata from India, B. Papyrifera from Ethiopia, and B. Sacra from Arabia and  Boswellia Carterii from East Africa, (See dissert. Michael P. pg. 137.) , these compounds are resin acids and make up the heavier resin portion of these oleo gum resins, which is left behind when Frankincense is distilled. For this reason, it is not physically possible for there to be anything but trace amounts of Boswellic acids in the essential oil of Frankincense. No matter what the company reps tell you( See Wikipedia-Boswellic acids)

It is safe to say that all the literature and information that claims Boswellic acids are found in the essential oil of Frankincense are written and disseminated by essential oil companies who seek to boost their sales of Frankincense essential oils.

It is also safe to say the studies one finds online at PubMed and other otherwise reputable sites claiming the essential oil of Frankincense cures cancer or contains Boswellic acids are written by a core of individuals who either own or work for certain well known essential oil companies. Please look closely at these studies and make your own evaluation.  Don’t take my word for it. Take your time and read the fine print. Correct me if I am wrong.

This is has become generally accepted misinformation, misleading at the very least and keeps us ignorant of how we can truly utilise Boswellic acids for our own health and wellbeing. It goes without saying that this information has also led to an increase in the unhealthy use of essential oil of Frankincense internally where it has served little function beyond straining and in some cases damaging our organs. There are no Boswellic acids in the essential oil of Frankincense.

This recent increase in Frankincense essential oil sales has a far-reaching impact all the way back to the harvesters and the trees. Suffice to say, at the very least, our growing demand for the essential oil of Frankincense has led to serious overharvesting, contributing to trees dying much quicker than they can propagate themselves. We are going to lose them in a few short decades. (See the work of Dr. Anjanette Decarlo in Somaliland here-http://www.conservecalmadow.org/).

We are also participating in a supreme waste of precious natural resources since the Boswellic acids we think we are getting are only present in the resin portion of Frankincense and discarded as valueless after distilling out our essential oils.

If we are being misinformed, and the Boswellic acids are not present in anything other than trace amounts in the essential oils, then where do we find them, and how can we utilise them safely for their healing potential?

Well, I’m happy you asked…

To my knowledge and in my experience, there are 5 ways to utilise these healing compounds, easily and safely, for external and internal use.

5 safe and rich sources of Boswellic acids from Frankincense

  1. Using the whole fresh oleo gum resin, frozen, ground and as a powder. (See “How to grind Frankincense and Myrrh”). I take 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon, 3 to 4 times a day. I find it a stimulating tonic and excellent anti-inflammatory.  Studies indicate that when it is taken with oily/fatty food, our uptake and assimilation of the Boswellic acids is much higher. This could be fries, Avocado, salmon, oil and vinegar salad dressing or any other source of digestible fats that will help dissolve the resin portion and aid in its digestion.
  2. Making a fixed oil, oleo extract/infusion with vegetable oil, which will dissolve most of the volatile oils and resin. This is useful as a medicated oil for topical use and can be quite bitter if taken orally.. (See “How to make an extract of Frankincense and other oleoresins”).
  3. Using a solvent such as alcohol to produce a tincture or extract, which will capture all the resin-based compounds and essential oils. (See below).
  4. Washing out all the water soluble gum using heat and water to isolate a pure oleoresin. (Tapping into Frankincense and its Boswellic acids).
  5. Though this resin extract can be taken orally and does contain a high percentage of Boswellic acids, one has to wonder if a more holistic approach which includes the naturally occurring gums and essential oil that are in the fresh whole Frankincense might be of more benefit than an isolated concentrate…(Which takes us back to method number 1 above). I initially developed this method to facilitate the making of medicated cremes, salves and oils where the water soluble gum portion would have to be filtered out.
  6. Purchasing an extract of Boswellic acids. There are a few patented processes and products on the market that offer a 60%-65%  concentration of Boswellic acids. Most are made by washing the material in both water and alcohol to isolate the pure oleoresin from the gum and foreign particles such as bark and sand. Due to the high cost of these extracts, they are more suited to internal use and not the preparation of salves, cremes or medicated oils.

Making a Tincture of Frankincense or Myrrh

The word tincture comes from latin and means “to dye or colour”, referring to the menstruum, or the solvent liquid receiving the colour or character of the material it is extracting. Our English word, “tinge”, shares the same etymological root.

The word Menstruum is rooted in Old English and Latin. From the word “Mensis”, it refers to the liquid solvent we use to extract the therapeutic compounds from plant material and its meaning is “a month”, not just any month, but a Lunar month which we see implied in the words menses and menstrual. This is important since Astrologically, the Moon “rules” and influences all things fluid, as seen in the ebb and flow of the tides most obviously. This knowledge can be put to good use when we are preparing high-quality tinctures and other fluid plant preparations.

Tinctures offer us a convenient and effective method to extract and utilize the active compounds in medicinal and fragrant plants, and are just as useful now as in centuries past. Tincturing will separate the soluble, active compounds from cellulose, bark, starches and other non-active components. Though, in theory, different solvents such as petroleum distillates, Acetone, Glycerin, and Acetic Acid will also dissolve medicinal compounds, alcohol is considered now, as in centuries past, the “Universal solvent”, and still held as the best tincturing medium or menstruum available to us.

Water acts as a solvent for water-soluble compounds only. and has no ability to preserve itself as a tincture. For this reason  products collected via water have a very short shelf life. A tea can be considered a tincture of sorts as can an infusion or decoction, however, they are limited in the range of compounds they can absorb and by their inability to keep for more than a few days before succumbing to bacteria and moulds.

Alcohol will mix readily with water and even when present at a very low percent, will help preserve a tincture. This means that an alcohol-water mixture can capture both the water-soluble and the alcohol-soluble compounds, and will preserve them all for future use.

This is especially important since both Frankincense and Myrrh are not pure oleoresins, but oleo gum resins. Each containing varying amounts of water-soluble gum along with their alcohol-soluble resins and volatile oils. Gums which will not be dissolved by alcohol but water alone. These gums are not as well studied or understood to date and we may wish to include them in our tinctures and medicine for different reasons.

Though the method of making a tincture from Frankincense is fairly straightforward, there are different types of Frankincense that can be used for different purposes and there are alcohols of varying water/alcohol ratios we can choose from for different applications.

A visual comparison of three types of Frankincense
A visual comparison of 5  types of Frankincense

A high-proof alcohol that contains little water and it will extract mainly the volatile oils and resin from oleo-gum-resins and little of the water-soluble gum. An alcohol with more water in it such as a 40% alcohol, also termed, 80 proof, will dissolve and hold a reflective proportion of the water-soluble gum when one is working with Frankincense and Myrrh. We can control the percent of gum in a tincture by adjusting the percentage of water in our alcohol/water tincturing menstruum.

Alcohol based tinctures offer us a simple, safe, effective and practical method to capture and deliver these resin acids and other healing compounds including the essential oils in their naturally occuring proportions.

Tinctures can be used alone, to make compound medicines with other plant tinctures, or contribute to syrups, liqueurs, lacquers, liniments and other products for our health and enjoyment. Tinctures can also be a starting point for medicinal extracts and natural perfume tinctures or absolutes of fragrant plant material from which the alcohol is later evaporated.
Below are 3 different types of tinctures one can make with Frankincense or Myrrh depending on our needs.

A Simple Tincture of Frankincense or Myrrh

An every day and all-purpose tincture and medicinal. Simple, straightforward and easily made at home. This sets out the basic method for the following alternative and more complex processes. It is these fundamental processes,  combined with practice, knowledge, experience and vision that can lead to a mastery of the art and superior products that excel in colour, scent, shelf life and efficacy.

  • In a clean resealable glass vessel place 1 ounce or 30 grams finely powdered, fresh Frankincense or Myrrh oleo gum resin. See the post, “How to grind Frankincense and Myrrh” to avoid delays and learning the hard way. A larger jar is preferred to a small one.  A good volume of space above the liquid encourages a microcosmic environment where vapours will naturally rise with the ambient heat, condense, collect and rejoin your menstruum. Much as in Nature.  You can of course, double, triple or quadruple this formula as long as you keep the same ratio.
  • To the powdered oleo gum resin add a Vodka of your choice, unflavoured and at least 40% alcohol or 80 proof. You can use Brandy or even Whisky as long as it is unflavoured and with no additives. A higher ratio of alcohol to water will deliver more resin and less water-soluble gum to your tincture. 96% alcohol is about the highest percentage we can get and it can be used straight or diluted with water to achieve any % or proof you desire.
  • At a ratio of 1:5, add 150 Ml. of alcohol to the powdered material. This is the standard acceptable ratio for tincturing dry plant material in most Herbal circles.
  •  Run a tiny bit of vegetable oil on your finger, around the thread of the jar, almost to the lip. This will ensure the lid is not sealed close by resin that seeps in through capillary action while you are shaking the tincture daily. Hand tighten the lid on the jar.
  • Place in a relatively warm place.
  •  Shake at least once daily making sure all the material is dislodged from the glass each time.
  • Continue the maceration for at least 1 full moon cycle, approximately 4 weeks. Ideally 1  1/2 or 2 cycles, and it can be left indefinitely with no harm. Always plan and time your tinctures by the moon, not by Solar days or weeks.
  •  Remove the tincture when you are satisfied no more colour is transferring from the material to the menstruum, (the liquid). There are many approaches to this process. Some require precise timing based on astrological and other esoteric calculations which lead to a higher quality product. However, as mentioned, we are dealing only with the basics here, so 8 weeks is a good minimum to yield an effective tincture and transfer the most important compounds to the alcohol.
  • Pour your finished tincture through a fine filter such as a clean paper coffee filter set in a funnel.
  •  Fold the edges of the paper over on to the now exhausted material and press gently with the back of a spoon to squeeze out the last of the moisture while being careful not to rip the paper and allow solids into your clean tincture.
  •  Cover your filtered tincture and let it sit undisturbed a day or two to settle and sediment.
  •  Pour off or syphon off the clear liquid into clean sealable bottles or jars and label them accordingly.
  • Make sure you have recorded the whole process and any pertinent information in a journal or formulary for future reference.

 An oleoresin tincture of Frankincense or Myyrh

We will choose to make this type of tincture when we desire only the resin and essential oil content of the Frankincense or Myrrh, with no water-soluble gum.  We will use the purest alcohol we can find  which is 95%-96% alcohol, branded as “Everclear” in the U.S.. This is likely the closest most of us can get to a food grade pure alcohol since is is very difficult for us to create an alcohol that is purer. This is partly due to alcohol’s hydrophilic nature and its ability to absorb moisture from the air.

The resin and essential oil portions of Frankincense, Myrrh and other oleo-gum-resins have received most of our interest and research lately, and are known to be the source of many of their medicinal compounds. In the case of the Frankincense family, these are mainly the Boswellic acids, AKBA, Incensole and Incensole acetate which so far have only been found in Boswellia Papyrifera, B. Sacra/Carterii and B. Serrata.

This tincture offers us the complete array of compounds in both the essential oil and resin portions of our oleo-gum-resins. It collects a negligible amount of water-soluble gum and  is most useful in preparing  liniments, and serves as a perfume tincture which captures all the aromatic compounds of the material and can transfer them easily to our perfume or fragrant product. The combined fragrance profile of both resin and essential oils is richer than that of the essential oils alone. In traditional herbal practice, tinctures are most often prepared in a ratio of 1 part dry herbal material to 5 parts menstruum. This can be used as a standard for Frankincense and for Myrrh tinctures used in the above applications.

An alcohol extract of Frankincense or Myrrh

A more concentrated version of an oleoresin tincture that serves preparations such as the “Myrrh anti-fungal lacquer” and produces a tincture from which we can gently evaporate the alcohol to create an absolute or resinoid for perfumery, salves, cremes or internal applications such as gel caps and suppositories.

Though we could, in many cases, use a 1:5 ratio of menstruum to material since we are going to evaporate the alcohol anyway, a 1:3 ratio performs as well and wastes less alcohol.

The instructions are the same as above, but if we wish to create a solid product, after maceration and filtering our tincture, we set it out in a shallow pan, covered with a loose cloth and allow the alcohol to evaporate at a low temperature. Once a solid is available, we will collect it and store it in an airtight container to be powdered or melted and added to our products. This extract, if devoid of water-soluble gum, will dissolve readily in hot oils that may be used as the bases for salves and cosmetic cremes.

Boswellia Papyrifera-Pure Resin-Medicine, Perfume & Incense.
Boswellia Papyrifera-  A pure resin extract-Boswellic acids. can be produced using water or alcohol.

A Holistic tincture of Frankincense or Myrrh

 There is something to be said for the concept of Holism, where we create products that are as close to their natural state as possible. Where we strive to keep our processing to a minimum, maintain the integrity, life force and “intelligence” of the original plant material intact. Keeping its components as close to the proportions and ratios present in nature is one step we can choose in this direction.

 We do this by matching the ratio of water to alcohol in our menstruum to the ratio of gum to oleoresin in the material.
In Myrrh, Commiphora Myrrh, we find a consensus that water soluble gum takes up 65% of the material. We will prepare a menstruum with 65% water and 35% alcohol.
These 3 Boswellia species all contain between 18% and 25% water-soluble gum so we will have to settle on a rougher estimate.  With variations in climate, geography, and differences between first and consecutive harvests each season, no two batches of Frankincense are alike, and it is not realistic to expect any kind of precise foreknowledge of the constituents  of Frankincense without sophisticated testing equipment on hand, which few of us have access to. For this reason we must proceed with an educated guess, a feel for the material, our intuition or whatever works for us individually, keeping in mind there are few true absolutes in life and that in these more esoteric pursuits, our intent is also an important part of the formula.

76% alcohol Spiritus at the LCBO
76% alcohol Spiritus at the LCBO

Since the Ontario Liqueur board has started selling a high-proof, 76% alcohol Vodka branded “Spirytus”, I have found it most convenient to use it as the menstruum for holistic tinctures of the above Boswellia types.
These tinctures are made as the others above.

Lastly, to close a rather lengthy post, let’s share an Aqueous solution, tea.
A traditional remedy for congestion, coughs and colds in the Arabian peninsula, at least in Qatar, and taken across the Islamic world as a pre-natal tea to increase intelligence and bravery of children as decreed by the Prophet Muhammad.

A Frankincense Tea

  • 1 teaspoon of Frankincense tears in a cup
  • Add 1 cup of cold water
  • Cover loosely
  • Let sit overnight
  • Take by the teaspoonful during the course of the next day.
  • Used for coughs, colds, congestion and other cold and flu-like symptoms.

  OK, back to work now where I’m preparing a batch of pure oleoresin extracted from fresh Boswellia Serrata from India.  Lovely, fragrant, flowing, shiny, caramel stuff perfect for making salves and cremes that deliver Boswellic acids.

Boswellia Serrata resin  Extract
Boswellia Serrata resin Extract

You are invited to visit my online shop by clicking on any of the product photos in the sidebar. You might find exactly what you are looking for. Or perhaps you might find what you need.

 And of course.

 Remember to ALWAYS take clear notes!

 Your future self will thank you!!

Dan

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Frankincense-Boswellia Papyrifera

 

Until recently, in our North American market, there was little choice as far as the type of Frankincense resin or essential oil one could buy. Religious, occult, and “new age” stores, aromatherapy and natural perfume shops offered only Frankincense Sacra or Carterii. (These 2 types are often synonymous with each other and whether they are the same or different species is still a popular topic for researchers and other experts in the field). As recent as the last decade or so there has there been an increase in the types of Frankincense one could easily acquire here. I assume this is in part to the increase in interest in aromatherapy and natural perfumes, the “Global Village” phenomenon and the integration and growth of African, Asian and Mediterranean communities in North America.

Frankincense
Frankincense (Photo credit: Wikipedia). Likely Boswellia Sacra/Carterii.

Though the Boswellia family contains over 20 different species of Frankincense, there are only 6 or 7 types that are readily available commercially.

 

A visual comparison of 5 types of Frankincense-Boswellia- Papyrifera, Neglecta, Frereana, Rivae, Carterii/Sacra Apothecarysgarden.com
A visual comparison of 5 types of Frankincense-Boswellia

Frankincense has been a valuable commodity and a very important part of our global cultures, religions and trade for thousands of years, highly valued for its medicinal ceremonial and esthetic uses, it is only recently that the different types of Frankincense have been examined closely and their unique chemical compositions studied. Until a short time ago there had been much confusion as to which chemical compounds were attributed to the individual species of Frankincense. Samples purchased from merchants for study were not directly taken from identified trees, and some research results were associated with the wrong species. This has been corrected and now one can look back on earlier valuable research and with an understanding of the proper chemical markers associated with each species, identify the correct oleo-resin on which the studies were based.

 

” Although the gum resin of B. Papyrifera coming from Ethiopia, Sudan and E. Africa is believed to be the main source of frankincense of antiquity (Tucker, 1986), there was until recently a great deal of confusion in the literature regarding the chemical analysis of its resin as well as of the essential oil derived from it by steam or hydro distillation. This was mainly due to the fact that analyses were done on commercial samples without establishing the proper botanical identity of the true source of the resin.”, on Boswellia Papyrifera, Aritiherbal.com.

 

Boswellia Papyrifera, Frankincense Tigray type
Boswellia Papyrifera, Frankincense Tigray type
Ethiopia 2013

Some sound and exiting research studies conducted over the past few decades had reached the right conclusions, but for the wrong trees and oleo-resins, which compounded the confusion. Now that correct chemical markers are assigned to the different species of Frankincense, we find among other critical identifying markers, that Boswellia Papyrifera has the unique chemical markers Incensole and Incensole Acetate that distinguish it from the other types of Frankincense.

Frankincense Boswellia Serrata is well known in India for its healing medicinal properties in Ayurvedic medicine. Boswellia Serrata resin extract shows great promise in the treatment of inflammatory diseases such as inflammatory bowel disease, rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis and asthma. Among other characteristic chemicals it contains Boswellic acid which has been linked to anti-tumour and anti-cancer activity. I hope to elaborate on the chemical composition and medicinal applications of Boswellia Serrata in a future post.

 

 Indian frankincense  Boswellia Serrata

 

Boswellia Frereana is another unique type of Frankincense now more readily available commercially in North American markets. It grows mostly in Somalia, Yemen and Kenya and is widely used locally for ritual and medicine. In Somalia it is called “Meydi” and is burned daily in the home after meals and used to odorize ones clothing. It is sometimes called “Yemenite Chewing Gum”. Boswellia Frereana is composed mostly of resins and essential oils and contains very little water-soluble gum, this makes it especially suited to the purpose of chewing gum, because the resin and oils are not water soluble it does not dissolve or break down in the mouth, it softens when chewed, and can be masticated for long periods of time, cleaning teeth, massaging gums and freshening the breath with its essential oils. Its unusually low gum content, relative to other types of Frankincense can be seen in this chart of solubility courtesy of Ariti Herbal in Addis Ababa. Another way this high ratio of oleo-resins to gums can be verified is noting the way Frankincense Frereana melts and is absorbed into a hot incense charcoal, leaving nearly no carbon residue and emitting very little of the traditional burnt odor other types of Frankincense do. This charred remnant is a result of the water soluble gums burning and some historic references cite this charred portion of Frankincense as an ingredient in traditional middle eastern Kohl, eye liner, along with Antimony and other ingredients.

 

Boswellia, Frankincense Frereana. Called Yeminite chewing gum.
Containing almost no water-soluble gum, Frankincense Frereana does not dissolve when masticated, for this reason is used as an all natural chewing gum. It is composed mainly of resin and essential oils.

Ethiopia is home to three commercially important types of Frankincense, none of which had been easily available in North America till recently. Boswellia Papyrifera, or Tigray type from the north, Boswellia Rivae also called the Ogaden type from the south east Ogaden area and Boswellia Neglecta from the Borena area of Ethiopia. All are used locally and are commercially important resources. Their wood is used for fuel, construction and furniture, the bark for incense and medicine and the oleo-resins are used among other things, to produce bases for varnishes and adhesives, essential oils, absolutes for perfume, and as incense and medicine. Boswellia Papyrifera is by far the most extensively used oleo-resin locally and abroad. It is used in Ethiopian households daily as incense and in their traditional coffee ceremonies, it is the choice incense of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church and is also used locally as an insect repellent and for medicine. It has been the Frankincense of choice by Churches and religious institutions all over the world for hundreds if not thousands of years. Both Boswellia Rivae and Boswellia Neglecta deserve their own segment here, so I will leave their detailed descriptions for another day and focus on Boswellia Papyrifera .

 

Boswellia Papyrifera is distinguished from other types of Frankincense by the presence of large amounts of Octyl Acetate and Octanol and two other unusual and unique chemical markers, Incensole and Incensole Acetate. Studies have shown that Incensole Acetate affects our central nervous system and posesses psychoactive properties. According to studies, Incensole Acetate can generate heightened feelings of well being and spirituality, reduce feelings of anxiety and depression and improve memory function. Other research has indicated that Incensole Acetate shows neuroprotective and anti-inflammatory properties and indicates it may be of use in cases of stroke and head trauma. It is presumed that Incensole and Incensole Acetate are absorbed by the body through the smoke released during the burning of Frankincense as an incense. One can see how this might be an ideal incense for spiritual/religious purposes in churches and temples.

 

The discovery of Incensole and Incensole Acetate as identifying chemical markers of Boswellia Papyrifera goes a long way to bolster the theory that Frankincense Papyrifera is indeed the true Olibanum and “Frank”(True) Incense of ancient times and scripture. Employing an incense that has psychoactive properties and elicits altered states of mind during ritual and ceremony, would make this incense a very valuable commodity to churches and other religious establishments, and would require a special knowledge to discern between regular non psychoactive incense and the true, or Frank-incense. This would be a valuable skill when one purchased such an exotic and expensive imported item for church use. Oleo resins such as Frankincense and Myrrh were at times worth their weight in gold, they were hard to come by, growing only in Ethiopia they would travel by caravan, ship, boat, donkey, horse or camel, or all the above often for many months. They would exchange hands many times before they reached their final destination which could often be thousands of miles away. One can safely assume, because of their value and scarcity in most parts of the world, they would run a real risk of being adulterated or replaced along the way with other less expensive materials for the profit of those that traded in such items. This would lend even more weight to the need to be able to identify the “true” incense from other types. The Frank-incense.

 

Boswellia Rivae, has a distinct haunting, rich and deep fragrance. The resin stands out in its aroma, fresh, as well as when burned as incense. The essential oil is a sweet, compelling, mysterious and complex mix that brings to mind mystery, magic and ancient sacred places. It has a surprising sweet note reminiscent of Palo Santo, unexpected in a Frankincense essential oil.
Frankincense. Boswellia Rivae
Frankincense. Boswellia Rivae
Boswellia Neglecta; Is another unusual Frankincense from Ethiopia. It is a delight burned as an incense, grounding and elevating. It has a pine like component which nicely rounds out an incense or Bakhoor mix. The essential oil of Frankincense Neglecta is also grounding, earthy & sweet. More stimulating than relaxing. The essential oil and oleo-resin have a boldness that makes them quite a different experience than the Boswellia Sacra/Carterii we have gotten used too.
Dan

 

 

 

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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.

Dan

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.

Dan

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Distilling Frankincense essential oil

Continuing to work on a Frankincense anti aging/wrinkle crème and a Frankincense rejuvenating mask from the (post distillation) gum and resin residue of different types of Frankincense. Here I am distilling the essential oils from Frankincense, Boswellia species.

Successful formulation of a Frankincense Anti-Aging creme, utilizing the healing properties of the Frankincense gum and resin.
Successful formulation of a Frankincense Anti-Aging creme, utilizing the healing properties of the Frankincense gum and resin. Much more than just an essential oil.

By “post distillation” I mean that after distilling off the essential oils, what I am left with are the water-soluble gum and alcohol-soluble resin.
Since essential oils can irritate the skin, especially of the face, post distillation allows me to add a controlled amount of essential oils of my choice, isolate the water-soluble gums from the alcohol-soluble resins and remove all extraneous materials from them.

The method for distillation is steam/hydro distillation using a simple home-made pot still.

For a closer look at distilling Frankincense please see my post “A distillation of Frankincense Frereana”.

  For instructions on how to make a pot still for home production of essential oils and alcohol, see- “How to build a kitchen still for essential oils and alcohol”.

Home made pot still charged with fresh Frankincense, Boswellia Papyrifera from Ethiopia.
Home made pot still charged with fresh Frankincense from Ethiopia.

  The oleo-gum-resin for this distillation is Frankincense Papyrifera from Ethiopia. Because this is an experiment I only used 2 kg. of resin. Much less than this still can process.
The ratio of essential oils in each type of Frankincense varies greatly. One can collect  anywhere from 0.05% to 10% essential oil from Frankincense and other oleoresins.

The sieve keeps the resin from sitting on the bottom of the pot where it could burn. If the resin did get burned, even slightly, the fragrance of all the components would be affected, making resin, gum, oil and residue in the still, unusable for any purpose whatsoever and no way to reclaim them or separate the burnt odor from them. In fact, on top of the loss of the material, the whole still, including over 8 feet of air-cooled copper condenser would have to be scrubbed and practically sterilized to make sure there was not the slightest remnant of burnt residue or odor in the whole distillation train. I shudder at the thought!!! I had already done this twice prior to distilling the Frankincense just the day before. First removing traces of the last essential I had distilled, then had to do it all over again because I could smell hints of cleaning products in the condenser when I turned up the heat and started the distillation process.

       The lesson here, I believe, is that there are benefits to using standard glass water cooled condensers. I love the fact that this one utilizes air and consumes no resources to function. But it has its drawbacks.

This is a photo of the resin after distilling. Note the change in colour and texture. A pool of gum has settled at the bottom of the sieve, trying to drip into the pot through resin clogged sieve holes. Also note the milky white colour of the water after it has dissolved some of the the water soluble gums.

Home made pot Still. Frankincense resin suspended in sieve to avoid burning.
Home made pot Still. Frankincense resin suspended in sieve to avoid burning.
Frankincense water soluble gum mixed with distillation water in the still
Frankincense water soluble gum mixed with distillation water in the still has coloured the water a milky white.

Now that the essential oil is distilled from the oleo-gum-resin, most of the resin is in the basket. Except for some that dripped through the sieve and formed the tastiest looking layer of caramel coloured resin on the bottom of the pot.The water in the pot is white from dissolved gum. What remains is to separate the rest of the gum from the resin, (using water as the solvent), then remove all extraneous materials, pieces of bark, stone, sand etc., and purify the components.

Frankincense, Boswellia Papyrifera resin from bottom of still
Frankincense, Boswellia resin from bottom of still. Looks good enough to eat!!

 

When gum and resin are separated and purified they will be recombined in an emulsion with the addition of  emollient and skin nourishing oils, antioxidants, and a small amount of broad spectrum preservative.

Even though the prototypes and first formulas seem to have kept well for months without obvious spoilage or mold.  And even though i have a deep respect for the preserving qualities of tree oleo resins. I can’t take the chance of bacteria or other organisms growing after making an oil/water emulsion.

Frankincense, Boswellia Rivae, post distillation of essential oils. Only gum and resins remain to be separated and cleaned. Then recombined and reformulated for skin care and healing products.
A different type of Frankincense, post distillation of essential oils. Only gum and resins remain to be separated and cleaned. Then recombined and reformulated for skin care and healing products.
Home made pot Still. Used to distill essential oils, wines and much more. Note it is made of everything including parts of the kitchen sink.
Home made pot Still. Used to distill essential oils, wines and much more. Note it is made of everything including parts of the kitchen sink, with a salvaged copper/Aluminum heat exchange as an air cooled condenser..
Distilled Frankincense essential oil. Boswellia Rivea. 2013, Home made still.
Distilled Frankincense essential oil. Boswellia Rivea. 2013.