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As the dust settles-Riding the wheel of the year

After 3 months of packing and letting go of “stuff” on different levels, I’m on the other side of my decision to leave Canada and move to Israel. The flight was long, but relatively painless, and I’m back to work 2 days later which suits me well.
Though I hate to admit it to my friends who are in the midst of a classic Canadian Winterlude,  they were right, the weather here is amazing. Not only perfectly warm without being hot, the air caresses you with a sensuous signature fragrance that is hard to describe. Every country has one. That first foreign inhalation, as you disembark the airplane. Here it is a musky female earthiness, like nature, releasing her first spring breath mixed with bitter olive and orange blossoms. Israel by birth is ruled by Taurus and Venus. Need I say more…

Horseshoe nail Jewellry- Wheel of the year-Dan Riegler 2000
Horseshoe nail Jewellry- Wheel of the year-Dan Riegler 2000

I timed my flight to coincide with the traditional sacred day of Imbolc, (or Tu’bishvat?), “The first stirrings of spring”. It is a cross-quarter station of the sun in the cycle of the year, midpoint between the winter solstice and spring equinox. A symbolic act synchronizing a major life change with the bigger cycle of life on the planet. Like catching a ride on the wheel of the year.

What to pack, to ship, or leave behind was an ongoing dilemma. I crammed 95% tools and materials into my 3 Stanley toolbox “suitcases”, both for apothecary work and carving, with a sentimental grabbing of Ebony, Jet  and antler. I topped my permitted 70 kilograms of luggage with lab-glass wrapped in socks and tee shirts. Our priorities become apparent when the crunch is on.

 

Fresh co-op harvested Frankincense Frereana- from Somaliland-" Maydi or Yemenite Chewing Gum"
Back in stock. Fresh co-op harvested Frankincense Frereana- from Somaliland-” Maydi or Yemenite Chewing Gum” is an exquisite material for making incense, perfume, cosmetics and medicine.

To my delight, I discovered the rare, fragrant and oh so chewable Frankincense Frereana was waiting for me here. As of now, it is officially, and finally back in stock. I can get the first distillation of pre-ordered Boswellia Frereana essential oil up and running! WooHoo!!! With any luck I will record a video of the process and share it..

Though I didn’t write much during the whirlwind of moving, I did finish some new and exciting products for the store in the few weeks before I left. I didn’t have the time to write them up properly, so I left posting them till after the move when life would be a little calmer, (which should happen any time now?)

These are the new items I will post in the Etsy shop over the next while. I will describe them in greater detail in the store, but for now here is a glimpse.

– Frankincense Frereana Rejuvenative Creme.

Frankincense rejuvenative creme
A Frankincense Frereana rejuvenative creme using the whole oleoresin, not just the essential oils, simple whole and no fragrance added. A traditional cosmetic and anti-aging product that includes the therapeutic properties of the resin as well as the essential oils of Boswellia Frereana.

Spruce Oil, for DIY chest or muscle rubs & moustache wax recipes

ruce Oil-an Astrodynamic preparation
Spruce Oil-an Astrodynamic preparation. Ready to use straight or in your own formulas. The messy sap and oil extraction process already done.

 

Frankincense Neglecta Heart and chest rub

Frankincense Neglecta oleo Extract
Frankincense Neglecta oleo Extract. My “Heartsease oil”. Nothing external compares to the calming effect this has on the physical pangs of anxiety, heartache, panic, and tightness of the chest from stress. My  topical and natural Xanax. Reports indicate it might help with the constriction associated with asthma attacks as well. It may be due to the presence of Incensole and Incensole Acetate, but, studies are conflicting on the constituents of Boswellia Neglecta at this point.

5-fold Perfume Tincture of Muskrat Musk glands.

Muskrat 5-fold musk gland tincture
5-fold Muskrat musk gland perfume tincture. Fresh material macerated in the the menstruum/alcohol 5 times.

The name says it all.

Red Pine Ontario
Red Pine Ontario

 Red Pine essential oil-Artisan distilled

I distilled this from the oleoresin of local Ontario Red Pines about 6 years ago. It resurfaced during the move. During distillation, I reserved the first 20% that came over, and kept it separate, leaving a slightly sweeter essential oil minus some of the terpene notes. Like many resinous essential oils, it improves with time. I have about 20 10 ml. bottles left.

 *****

That’s it for now. Time to address the inevitable red tape and bureaucracy , open a bank account, get a local phone, find new suppliers, rates at the post office, and to pack and ship orders to those of you who have been waiting patiently for this move to end. I can’t wait to dig into work, tincturing, distilling and getting the lab up and running at full speed again!

The ride might have been hairy till now, but with all the wonderful medicinal and aromatic materials to work with close by, both in Africa and the Mediterranean, it’s also bound to be well worth the upheaval and change.

Ahh, new beginnings..

 

Dan

Posted on 14 Comments

Preparing winter medicine with tree saps

Spruce sap ready for collection.

 

Frankincense tree
Frankincense tree

As we enter another winter here in the Northern hemisphere, questions about chest rubs, cough and cold syrups, salves and liniments for sore muscles and joints are increasing. Short days and long nights bring some of us a sense of dread with Seasonal Affective Disorder looming in the dark.

Literally dripping with an abundance of healing plant chemicals, our tree saps, across the globe, have traditionally addressed these discomforts and many more.
They are well established as antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, antitussive, and agents of emotional grounding and spiritual clarity. The anti-cancer and anti-arthritic properties of the Frankincense family are getting a lot of attention lately with the isolation and research of Boswellic acids.  Mastic and other oleoresins are proven treatments for peptic ulcers. Myrrh essential oil and tincture are among the best healers for teeth and gums. Pine, Spruce and Fir saps share long histories of use around the world as decongestants, muscle relaxants and relievers of musculoskeletal pain. Most are used to heal and protect our skin, as they do for the trees that bear them. The list of therapeutic properties our trees bring us grows daily as more research is performed and ancient traditions are examined.

Friars Balsam. A tincture of "exotic" tree saps. Popular since the Victorian age and available still in most drug stores.
Friars Balsam. A tincture of “exotic” tree saps. Popular since the Victorian age and available still in most drug stores.

The past few decades, with the wonderful growth of Aromatherapy, we have focused on essential oils as representatives of the therapeutic powers of plants. However, in the case of oleoresins, the essential oils only bring us a small part of the healing compounds in the plant material.

Distillation of fresh Spruce sap with pressure cooker pot-still and Allihn condenser.
Distillation of fresh Spruce sap with pressure cooker pot-still and Allihn condenser.

In  oleo-resins, the essential oils are the volatile constituents that evaporate before, and up to the boiling point of water. When these flammable chemicals have evaporated, many of the tree’s valuable therapeutic compounds, the “heavier” constituents, are left behind in the resin. Hence oleo, or essential oil, and resin=oleo-resin.

Solvent extractions such as Friars Balsam, (an alcohol tincture of Balsam Peru, Balsam Tolu and Benzoin), , can bring us a more Holistic” and whole product since they collect both the volatile essential oils and the “heavier” resins that remain after the distillation process. Using solvents provides us with a simple method for extracting many more of the valuable healing constituents from oleoresins, including much researched and talked about compounds such as Boswellic acids, Incensole and Incensole Acetate from Frankincense which recent studies have shown to possess anti-cancer and anti-anxiety properties respectively. These powerful healing compounds and many other constituents of our oleo-resins will not be found naturally in the distilled essential oils. 

Alcohol extracts & tinctures from oleoresins

are pretty straight-forward. The alcohol readily dissolves most resins and volatile oils, bringing us the whole sap in the form of a tincture. We know much less about the therapeutic properties of the gum present in many oleoresins, however, if you wish to include them, a water/alcohol solvent mixture will add these water-soluble gums to your medicine as well.

For oral care, I have found nothing as effective as a mouthwash made from a tincture of Myrrh. This can be made easily at home with whole Myrrh oleoresin and pure alcohol or an alcohol-water mix such as Vodka.

Myrrh tree oleo-resin Ethiopia. Photo coutesy-Ermias Dagne
Myrrh tree oleo-resin Ethiopia. Photo coutesy-Ermias Dagne

A Recipe for a Tincture of Myrrh 

  • 1 part finely ground myrrh. (see my post-How to grind Frankincense, Myrrh and other Oleoresins, for tips on grinding.)
  • 3 parts 45% grain alcohol or unflavoured Vodka.
  • A mason jar with a tight fitting lid.
  • mix the powdered Myrrh and the alcohol in the mason jar. Make sure to break up any lumps.
  • Screw the lid on tight, (moisten your finger slightly with vegetable oil and run it around the thread on the outside of the glass before you screw the lid on tight. This will prevent the resins from “gluing” the lid closed if some of your tincture gets on the thread).
  •  Shake the mix thoroughly.
  •  Place the jar in a warm place out of direct sunlight. The top of a fridge, furnace or water heater work well.
  • Shake your jar vigorously at least once a day for 4 weeks. Longer is fine too, but a lunar month should be sufficient.
  • After your maceration is done, find a good spot to work.
  • Filter your tincture into a clean jar or bottle that has a tight-fitting lid or cork. You can do this by pouring it through a paper coffee filter in a funnel.
  • Scrape all the ground Myrrh into the filter. If you like you can try to press the rest of the liquid from the material, but be careful the paper doesn’t rip.
  • Seal the jar or bottle and let your tincture sediment for a few days.
  •  pour or siphon off the clear liquid and bottle it for use. It can keep for a few years.

For sore, spongy or inflamed gums, loose teeth, Canker sores, toothache, Gingivitis, Halitosis, sore throat, or Thrush, mix 1 teaspoon of your tincture in a cup of warm water in which you have dissolved 1/4-1/2 teaspoon sea salt. Swoosh some around in your mouth for as long as you can, (spit it out when done), and as often as you can till you find relief.  Use it a few more times, then continue using this tincture as a daily preventative.

The essential oil can be used in a pinch by dabbing a cotton swab soaked with essential oil on and around the bothersome area. It can also be left between gums and cheek till all the essential oil is dispersed in the mouth.

A rudimentary, but still effective tincture can also be made by adding 4-5 drops of essential oil of Myrrh to a teaspoon of an alcohol/water mix like such as vodka. This can be added, as above, to a warm mix of water and salt.

 Make a Tincture of Frankincense

The range of healing properties found in the many types of Frankincense is growing daily as we identify and examine each species more closely and study their effects in the laboratory.  Whether treating various types of cancer and tumors, rheumatoid arthritis, sore, inflamed joints and muscles, peptic ulcers, ulcerative colitis, Asthma, respiratory complaints, head trauma, depression or anxiety, many active therapeutic compounds are found only in the resin portion of oleoresins not in their essential oils.

Along with the unique chemical compounds each Frankincense type claims as its own, they also share many of the same constituents. In my personal opinion, it is safe to say, all types of Frankincense are anti-inflammatory. There is still confusion, despite recent research, or in light of it, as to which constituents are exclusive to each species of Frankincense. This  points to the need for more studies around the world of our resin bearing trees.

A Visual comparison of Boswellia Species-Frankincense
A Visual comparison of Boswellia Species-Frankincense

Of the 6 types of Frankincense commercially available to us, only one, Frankincense Frereana, is an oleoresin with little to no water-soluble gum. This means it dissolves almost entirely in alcohol, and there is little benefit to using water in the tincturing solvent. In Boswellia Rivae, Neglecta, Serrata, Carterii/Sacra and Papyrifera, an alcohol/water tincture can capture the water-soluble gum and any phytochemicals it may contain. Though not much research has been done on the gum portion of Frankincense, it too is used in traditional medicine.  I would guess that Nature is consistent and produces nothing that has no value.

The instructions for making an alcohol tincture of Frankincense are identical to the above instructions for making a tincture of Myrrh. Though I suggest using a 1:5 ratio of oleoresin to solvent by weight instead of a 1;3 ratio as with the tincture of Myrrh.  Otherwise, simply substitute the oleoresin of a Frankincense type of your choice for the Myrrh in the recipe.

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If using alcohol is not an option for you, you will find the oleo extraction of Frankincense and other oleoresins offers a great alternative.

Oil based oleoresin infusions or extracts

are not as well known, and a there is less literature about making and using them. These too can bring us substantially more of the healing compounds found in oleoresins than their essential oils.

Frankincense oleo-resin extracted from Boswellia Neglecta.
The oleo extract of Frankincense oleo-resin extracted from Boswellia Neglecta. A potent anti-anxiety  chest rub with deep calming properties.

A vegetable oil such as olive oil will dissolve most, if not all of the healing compounds in many saps.  This type of oil infusion can be used as a base for a salve, crème or liniment, making it easy to use externally for respiratory issues, inflammations, muscle/joint pain, aging skin, and many other applications. Considering that many of the active compounds in oleoresins are absorbed through the skin and some are able to pass the blood-brain barrier, these types of products can be especially effective when used externally.

Often, creating a medicated product from tree sap is as simple as replacing a unmedicated oil in a salve or creme recipe with your oleo extract.

Some take these vegetable oil extracts of oleoresins internally in small quantities.  They are not as harsh or concentrated as the essential oils, and do not shock our system as essential oils can when ingested. They are assimilated more easily, and bring us a broader range of healing compounds than the essential oils in proportions that echo their source.    That being said,,,let me add a caution. Too much of anything is not good for us. Studies have shown that ingesting an excess of Myrrh oleoresin can cause heart irregularities, and severely tax or cause damage to the kidneys which have a tough time eliminating it. We all have different constitutions, medical histories and tolerance levels. We MUST practice caution when trying new things. Though I believe we need to take responsibility for our own health, I also believe there is likely a talented, qualified, Naturopath, alternative healthcare practitioner, Herbalist, traditional healer, shaman, or progressive doctor in your area, and I advise you to seek them out, and invite them to work with you. If your health is important enough for you to take matters into your own hands, then it is important enough to seek qualified support and expert advice.

Beautiful-Spruce-Spring-renewal-May-2013
Beautiful-Spruce-Spring-renewal-May-2013

Spruce, Pine and Fir saps stand at the top of my list as the very best oleoresins for respiratory complaints. I use them in my Great Northern Cough and Chest Balm, and in my St. John’s Wort-Spruce Muscle rub. I have barely changed these recipes in almost 20 years since they work so well.

For complete instructions for making an oleo extract of Pine, Spruce or Fir Sap and how to turn it into a fragrant medicated chest or muscle rub, please see the post-

Make a wonderful winter chest rub from Spruce sap

Great Northern Cough & Chest Rub. An all natural alternative to harsh commercial Chest Rubs and inhalers.
Great Northern Cough & Chest Rub. An all natural alternative to harsh commercial Chest Rubs and inhalers.

For complete instructions on making an extract of Frankincense, please see this post-

How to make an extract of Frankincense and other oleoresins

An oleo extract of Frankincense Neglecta from Ethiopia.
An oleo extract of Frankincense Neglecta from Ethiopia.

Animal fats as solvents

Animal fats can work as oleoresin solvents for external applications. Lard and tallow, rendered respectively from Pig and Cattle fat, are traditional carrier/solvents mentioned in many old  herbals. Lanolin keeps much better than rendered fats and causes no harm to the animals. Lanolin is much closer in composition to our own natural body oils than other fats, making it an ideal delivery material for nutrients and therapeutic compounds. Win, win, win. My kind of solution.

Some tips when working with vegetable oils and animal fats as solvents

  • To use animal fats as solvents and carriers for oleoresins, wait till the fats melt in the water bath and use them as indicated for an oil extract. They need to be mixed, filtered and poured while hot, since they will turn more viscous as they cool down to room temperature.
  • Benzoin is a traditional and often used preservative for these types of fat. Adding 1% of Benzoin essential oil is usually recommended.
  • Some saps lend themselves more readily to oleo extraction and others are more difficult. Vegetable and animal fats/oils are not a universal solvent, but offer us a useful and effective alternative in many cases.
  • In general, a fresh and yet pliable sap will part with more of its components, more readily, in vegetable oil or animal fat than a hard and aged sap.
  • An oleo-resin, with little or no water-soluble gum lends itself more easily to a warm dissolution in oil.
  • However, oleo-gum-resins, like most types of Frankincense and Myrrh, require extra attention due to the water-soluble gum component in their makeup. Myrrh, with a 65% water-soluble gum content is likely the most challenging.
  • Finely Grinding these oleo-gum-resins before oil extraction facilitates extraction of both volatile oils and resins, leaving behind mainly water-soluble material, the gum.

Water as a solvent for water-soluble gums in oleoresins

Recently L. A., a reader of this blog who makes her own oleo extracts of Frankincense to address arthritis in her lower back, described the behavior of water-soluble gums in relation to the oleo-resins most eloquently. Quoting her very loosely, “The polysaccharides are nature’s perfect material to encase and lock in the oleoresins. They create a matrix, a hard shell and barrier that surrounds, isolates and preserves the resins and volatile oils.” This suggests how Frankincense, that may be decades or even hundreds of years old will look the same as a fresh sample, and yield its fragrance to a hot coal. It also points out how difficult it is to know with any certainty, whether we are buying Frankincense that is fresh harvested or decades old. This hard protective sheath of gum is also the reason we encounter resistance proportionate to the amount of water-soluble gum present in a oleoresin when we attempt to make an oil extraction.

L.A. also pointed me in the direction of research done in Teheran where an extract made from water-soluble gum of Frankincense Serrata was used in a study and indicated an increase in the learning ability of  rats. Other studies based on local traditional medicine have shown an aqueous, (water),  extract of Frankincense Serrata taken during pregnancy and lactation strengthened short and long-term memory in infants. See-The Therapeutic Effect of the Aqueous Extract of Boswellia Serrata on the Learning Deficit in Kindled Rats.

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I want to thank Auntie Doodles, another reader of this blog for sharing the following water based recipe she discovered while visiting Qatar. I assume it is used with either Frankincense Sacra/Carterii, or  Frankincense Papyrifera, when one is suffering from the effects of coughs, colds and congestion.

A recipe for a Frankincense cough and cold  infusion

  • 1 heaping teaspoon of loose Frankincense Papyrifera or Carterii/Sacra tears. You can break them up if they are in large lumps, or crush them coarsely in your mortar.
  • Place Frankincense in a glass, mug or cup, (250 to 400Ml.)
  • Cover with room temperature water.
  • Close loosely with a saucer.
  • Let stand overnight at room temperature.
  • Take the infused water in tablespoon doses as needed for coughs, colds, the discomforts of fevers and flu.
  • It will keep for a couple of days.
  • To keep it longer, pour off the liquid and store it for up to a week, covered in the fridge.
  • To preserve this medicine for months, transfer the liquid to an ice cube tray. When frozen, move the cubes to a sealed container or plastic bag and store for future use.

I see numerous visitors from Arabian countries, India and African states coming through this web site. Whether family recipes, or regional traditions, I would be deeply grateful for any information anyone could share about their traditional uses of Frankincense, Myrrh and other oleoresins.  Too much of our ancient knowledge is getting lost in the wave of progress we are riding.

Ethnobotanical research does not have the economic value or financial incentive of other types of research, and is usually underfunded. It can’t keep up with its role of preserving our rich oral traditions before they are lost.  If you would like to share any cultural wisdom or traditional recipes you possess, and help preserve them for posterity, please leave a comment for me below, or email me directly at dnriegler@gmail.com. I offer my thanks and gratitude in advance. Thank you!!

Water-Bath, Baine Marie, Double Boiler
Water-Bath or Double Boiler-indispenable tool for working with oleoresins.

 Tree saps for our skin

Most of these tree saps have toning and tightening effects on the skin. Many of them help heal our skin from chaffing, chapping, burns and minor cuts, while some have a long history of use in the field of cosmetics and beauty. The most well-known skin “rejuvenatives” used in beauty cremes are Elemi and Frankincense oleoresins. I have found that Spruce, Pine and Fir oleoresins have similar effects on the skin, adding softness,  suppleness and a feeling of youthfulness. Note that these are whole oleoresins. The essential oils in my experience, do not have the same effect.

As an experiment, try rubbing a teaspoon of olive oil mixed with a drop or 2 of essential oil on your skin. Leave it on for a short while, wash it off with warm water and dish soap. How does your skin feel? Now do the same with a bit of fresh sap dissolved in olive oil. I find the difference striking and speaks for itself.

 How to make a rejuvenating skin creme from Frankincense.

To make a rejuvenative skin creme from any oleoresin, please see my recipe and instructions here-

How to make a Frankincense creme from an oleo extract

Frankincense rejuvenative creme using whole oleo-resins
Frankincense rejuvenative creme using whole oleo-resins

In my Etsy shop, you will find some of my own medicinal oleo-resin products.

Frankincense oleo-resin extracted from Boswellia Neglecta.
Frankincense oleo-resin extracted from Boswellia Neglecta. A potent anti anxiety and stress releiving chest rub.
Great Northern Cough & Chest Balm-Spruce-Pine & Fir sap salve
Great Northern Cough & Chest Balm-Spruce-Pine & Fir sap salve

Apothecary's Garden Muscle Rub 2012
Apothecary’s Garden St. John’s Wort-Spruce Muscle Rub

 

If you would like to create your own oleo extracts or tinctures from these oleoresins, but don’t have access to fresh material, you can find a growing selection of fresh Fairtrade exotic and local oleoresins here in my Etsy shop.

Apothecaries at work
APOTHECARY’S GARDEN SHOP

If you have any questions, please feel free to leave a comment or contact me via email at dnriegler@gmail.com.

If you try any of these recipes, or develop your own oleoresin product,

remember to always,

always, take clear notes!

Your future self will thank you.

Well, back to packing for my big move. Wishing everyone a bright holiday season and a year of inspiration and abundance in 2015.

Dan

Posted on 122 Comments

How to make an oil extract of Frankincense and other oleoresins

Frankincense oleo-resin extracted from Boswellia Neglecta.

  How to extract the healing properties of Frankincense and other oleo-resins

There is increasing information online about the healing properties of the different types of Frankincense. Notably, the Boswellic acid family including AKBA which make up a large proportion of the resin in these oleo-gum-resins. In general, they all share anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory properties which make them ideal for many external and internal applications. Phytochemicals in Frankincense have been proven useful for arthritis,  rheumatism, cancer, ulcers, colitis, brain injuries, depression, and much more. They are especially useful in cremes, oils and salves to help rejuvenate the skin, increase elasticity, reduce wrinkles and signs of aging. Many of these healing compounds can be absorbed through the skin and are able to cross the blood-brain barrier.

Oleo-resins are composed of volatile oils, or essential oils, and resins which are not volatile and cannot be separated via water or steam distillation. Though we rely heavily on essential oils to deliver the therapeutic properties of  plants in our medicine and cosmetics,  many of  Frankincense’s therapeutic properties reside in its resin portion. Boswellic acid, lately researched and promoted heavily for its anti-cancer properties is one of many heavier therapeutic compounds that are not naturally present in the distilled essential oils

Frankincense Sacra/Carterii and Frankincense Papyrifera
Frankincense Sacra/Carterii, top, and Frankincense Papyrifera

The whole oleo-resin provides a broader spectrum of phytochemicals, and from a holistic and synergistic point of view more effective than the isolated essential oils.

There is not much information on processing oleo-resins online, nor is there an abundance of research available on the many types of Frankincense compared to other medicinal Herbs.  This is slowly changing as the interest in therapeutic properties of oleo-resins increases.

A great number of the tree oleo-resins in our little garden world hold therapeutic properties that we have used for thousands of years, long before distilled essential oils were commonly available. Mastic, Spruce, Pine, Fir, Opoponax, Myrrh, Frankincense and many others have been highly valued for their healing properties. We are only beginning to appreciate the degree of their healing potential.

Extracting Oleo-resins

Finely ground Frankincense oleoresins for extractions
Finely ground Frankincense oleo-resins for extraction. From left-Boswellia Papyrifera, Boswellia Neglecta, Boswellia Rivae.

Oleo-resins are usually extracted via volatile solvents.  The most common are ethanol and petroleum distillates. Once the oleo-resin is separated from any water-soluble gum and foreign material, the solvent is evaporated and the remaining sticky mass utilized.

Another approach is to use non-volatile solvents such as vegetable oils and animal fats to extract the therapeutic compounds from oleoresins. They are much gentler than many volatile solvents, do not harm the environment in their production, use and disposal and pose no threat to our health in topical or internal applications. They are easy to make, purchase and use, they break down and decompose without adding toxins to the environment, and are safe and easy enough to use in any kitchen and home. Using non-volatile solvents creates new opportunities for self care and making our own medicine.

Non-volatile solvents for Frankincense oleo-resins

 Frankincense oleo-resin extracted from Boswellia Neglecta.
Frankincense oleo-resin extracted from Boswellia Neglecta with Olive oil.  Originally made as a chest rub for respitory releif. After using it for a year and collecting feedback from other users, I am forced to change its description and application. Rubbed on the chest, it is a surprisingly effective treatment for anxiety, panic attacks and tightness of the chest. It quickly removes the sharp physical pangs of anxiety, lifts and lightens the chest, eases and deepens breathing even during an Asthma attack and brings about a deep feeling of calm. I keep wondering if I am projecting here, but reports from others who use it confirm my description. Pretty amazing. Pine, Spruce and Fir saps still have the lead for coughs, colds and releif of respiratory congestion.

The use of vegetable oils as solvents and carriers for oleo-resins makes these products eminently suitable for external use as oils, liniments, cremes and salves. It can also provide an option for a more readily digestible and easily assimilated product for internal use.

This type of extraction requires no special laboratory chemicals or equipment, and can be performed in any kitchen or field with a simple water bath, mortar and pestle or electric coffee grinder. Oh, and a pillow case..

Solvent/carrier oils for whole oleo-resins

I have found 2 vegetable oils work particularly well with most oleo-resins. They are Jojoba oil and Olive oil. I stick to cold pressed extra virgin Olive oil even though it often has a more bitter flavour and scent.

Jojoba works well if the finished product is for external application only. Jojoba is really a wax and not a true oil. It keeps extremely  well on its own, though if making an emulsion type crème, a broad spectrum preservative is needed due to the presence of water.

Oleoresins are natural preservatives. Hence their extensive use historically for embalming and preserving corpses…. However, I can find no studies that show exactly what percent of oleoresins will preserve vegetable oils or aqueous solutions, and for how long. So for the time being some type of preservative is called for.

Olive oil is an ideal carrier and solvent. It has been used for centuries for its therapeutic effects on skin, hair and  GI tract. If you plan to keep any vegetable oil or animal fat product longer than 6 months unrefrigerated, Vitamin E will greatly delay rancidity and extend its shelf life.

Any vegetable type oil, (not mineral-based), or animal fat such as tallow or lard will work as a solvent for most oleoresins.This includes Coconut oil, nut oils such as Almond, Hazelnut and Macadamia and any of the exotics such as Argan oil, Baobab oil etc. Choose an oil based on your needs and preferences. Some oils keep longer than others though Vitamin E will extend the life of most oils.

 Instructions for making an oleo-resin extract

  • If you are using any type of Frankincense, Mastic, Myrrh, Elemi or other hard brittle oleo-resins, grind them to a fine powder first. (See the post on how to grind Frankincense & Myrrh. ). The finer you grind them, the more readily  and quickly they will dissolve in the oil.
  • 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 at home.
  • 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 no more oleo-resin can be dissolved.
Water bath with multiple vessels and ingredients warming to the same temperature.
Water bath with multiple vessels and ingredients warming to the same temperature.
Frankincense Papyrifera ground in a steel mortar in preparation for extraction.
Frankincense Papyrifera ground in a steel mortar in preparation for extraction.

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 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.
  • 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 back or side of the spoon against the mesh will 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.

For internal use I suggest starting with 1/2 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 relatively easy on the body and I believe likely more effective.
For external use, apply to face, joints etc as often as desired. Again, listen to your body….

To make a Frankincense or oleoresin cosmetic crème

I am not an expert in cosmetics formulation. 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 at the moment.

  • Set up a fresh water bath with one jar for oil and a large jar for distilled water.
  • Put the filtered and sedimented 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.
  •  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 weight of the oil based portion  of your product in emulsifying wax.
  • Blend the wax in the oil completely.
  • Remove from the bath and add the water slowly to your oil/wax mixture in a large enough bowl or jar to hold both materials comfortably.
  •  Stir or blend 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 cooldown period is the time to add your essential oils and any other products that are heat sensitive. the weight of essential oils is added to the overall weight of the oil when you calculate how much wax to add.
  • 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 moulds are “suitcase in hand”,  just waiting to move in. Liquid Germal Plus works well as a broad spectrum preservative and seems relatively benign.
  • Add during the “Cooldown” stage and follow the directions that come with the product. It is considered one of your oil soluble ingredients and should be added to your calculation of how much wax needs to be added to your formula.
  • 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.
  • For an excellent an excellent website dedicated to all facets of lotion and creme making, recipes, instructions, and tutorials, please visit Makingskincare.com.

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.

And always, always keep clear notes!

Your future self will thank you.

Dan

Muscle & joint rub from a whole extract of Spruce and Pine oleo-resins
Muscle & joint rub from a whole extract of Spruce and Pine oleo-resins
 Therapeutic Chest Rub from whole Spruce and Pine extract
Therapeutic Chest Rub from whole Spruce and Pine extract
 A wonderful rejuvenative skin creme Simply Frankincense with no added fragrances or extra ingredients.e made from the whole oleo-resin of Maydi-Frankincense Frereana.
A wonderful rejuvenative skin creme Simply made from the whole oleo-resin of Maydi-Frankincense Frereana extracted with Jojoba oil. No added ingredients or  essential oils.