Posted on 16 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.

********

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.

*********

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 7 Comments

Cowboy boots, Frankincense and fragrant tips for travellers

Since travelling in the Middle east and Africa, I haven’t been writing as much as I should. My apologies.

Lots of great new business opportunities, connections and relationships, especially around free trade, sustainability of resources, ethics of commerce, and general free and happy exchanges for all in the Frankincense trade, my favourite topics.

While travelling, I am setting up a new website  and online store that specializes in ethical, sustainable and free trade Frankincense and Myrrh varieties.  Not as easy to source as one might think. I may throw in some hand harvested Labdanum and mastic along the way, but first, I am aiming for 6 types of Frankincense  and at least three types of medicinal and fragrant Myrrh. Oleoresins and essential oils. One can aspire..

Dealing directly with cooperative managers who are actively reinvesting profits into improving living standards for the harvesting families and clans is exiting and inspiring. I will be sure to fill in the details once wi-fi is more consistent.

Black Western cowboy boots on a white background
Black Western cowboy boots on a white background (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The long row of cowboy boots portrayed in a photo that you will find in my “About” gallery to the right, is a fairly accurate account of how many cowboy boots I usually have in use at the same time. I rotate, have favourites and standbys, replace them with new or used pairs as they each in turn, transcend to the great beyond where holey boots go.  High , or low Cuban heels, but pointy evil toes are the best.

Travelling in hot Mediterranean and African climates, wearing cowboy boots, may seem impractical,  but, did I bring any other type of footwear with me?

No.

Will I be remembered in far away places as the gentleman with the twirly moustache? Or the silly foreigner who wore cowboy boots in the hot sun?

Only time will tell..

What I won’t be however, is the silly foreigner who wore smelly cowboy boots in the hot sun.

I discovered that a few drops of Frankincense Rivae essential oil on socks or between toes, works miracles. This should be considered the sacred Frankincense as far as I’m concerned.  A lifesaver for those one travels with.  My feet, socks, boots, and probably my breath, are always fragrant!! None of the usual Cedar, Tea Tree and other essential oils have had any positive effect.

Summer boots used to come off in private only, with plenty of ventilation and fresh air. Not anymore.

Today, the little lightbulb in my brain finally went off, when I suddenly “Got” what that extra, sweet fragrance is, that  distinguishes Boswellia Rivae  from all other types of Frankincense.  I think my feet or boots had sucked up all the actual “Frankincense” fragrance, and what was left was pure Palo Santo. Yes! Palo Santo! That is the perfect description that has waited on the tip of my tongue all along.

Mind you the Frankincense has likely been increasing blood circulation to my brain cells, leading to improved mental function and concentration, and this very kind of “Ahah” scenario.

Of course I have read umpteen times that the Palo Santo tree is of the  Burseraceae, the same family as the Frankincense trees. But till today, could not name that extra fragrance in B. Rivae as Palo Santo. Sweet, sacred, yummy Palo Santo and rich warm Frankincense mingled and mixed, and dancing a little  dervish together in the deserts of Ethiopia.  Now there is a sexy spring image. Birds and bees and resins in the trees. Now perhaps you can understand why I go on so about “Sweet Frankincense Rivae” in my posts and in the store.

On the subject already, it is important to note that, (at this time), among the 3 types of Frankincense that are indigenous to Ethiopia, only Boswellia Rivae is collected through a cooperative. Thus guaranteeing a fair price to the collectors, many of whom have family traditions of caring for and harvesting from the trees for generations, and who rely on  much of their yearly income from the fragrant resins they collect.

Boswellia Frankincense Rivae Resin- Ethhiopia. Freshly collected
Boswellia Frankincense Rivae Resin- Ethhiopia. Freshly collected

Collectives are one of the most effective grassroots mechanisms for social, economic, ecological and even political change. There is nothing like people working together for their mutual benefit. I think it’s a beautiful thing, makes the world a more beautiful, fragrant, abundant and peaceful place. One plant at a time. And I like to support them anyway I can.

I imagine I will likely ask you to join me in supporting these Frankincense cooperatives in the near future. Abundance for all I say!

Unfortunately, due to the great demand,  expanding roads and agriculture, fires, overgrazing, improper harvesting methods, and over harvesting, the more famous Ethiopian Frankincense, Boswellia Papyrifera, has suffered, and the numbers of healthy resin bearing trees has been steadily dropping. Stressed trees are yielding only 16% seed viability as opposed to 80% in healthy trees.

This has not gone unnoticed and one has to admire the many and varied efforts, the ongoing investment of resources and manpower the Ethiopian government, research institutions and conservation authorities are committing to correct this trend. From educating growers and harvesters, to propagating, supplying, planting and protecting viable nursery stock, and funding ongoing research into ways of maintaining the sustainability of this ancient and treasured crop, they continue to come up with new and improved methods to reverse the downward trend.

Frankincense Papyrifera is used extensively by orthodox churches around the world, it is a traditional incense used daily by Ethiopians in their coffee ceremonies, (which means it is used A LOT),  and a major natural resource traded globally. Boswellia Papyrifera is a pretty special Frankincense.

It doesn’t yield a lot of essential oil when distilled, often less than 5%, and it is hard to find it on the market, but it is one oleoresin and essential oil that everyone should experience at least once in their lives. It is the most mellow, inspiring, dignified, self-assured and lofty  Frankincense…   B. Papyrifera has the highest content of incensole and incensole acetate of all the Frankincense family, which are its own special identifying markers in the laboratory, those psychoactive compounds that can create feelings of heightened spirituality and wellbeing, reduce depression and anxiety in laboratory studies.

So from an ethical and sustainable point of view we have covered 2 out of 3 of Ethiopia’s unique Frankincense types. We have one left. ( No I won’t neglect the Neglecta, if that’s what you were thinking,,) Though B. Neglecta may not have the fame and market demand of its brothers in the perfume world, it is a valuable medicinal. Its most obvious properties are as a decongestant and rubificant. Though seemingly neglected, there have been almost no studies done on this unique medicinal, and references used here are from my own use, and experience of its effects on myself and others.

Perhaps neglected for not being as exotic, conspicuous or just for its name. I believe Frankincense Neglecta is actually holding its own in the background of the local ecology, safely hidden from the limelight and over harvesting.

Essential Oils of Boswellia-Frankincense Rivae and Neglecta
Essential Oils of Boswellia-Frankincense Rivae and Neglecta-In the Etsy store.

Similar to Fir and Spruce oleoresins, the fragrance of B. Neglecta is grounding and elevating, it leaves one inhaling easily and deeply. It rounds out the sharp corners of anxiety and panic in the chest, calming the heart and the pangs associated with stress,while it helps break up phlegm, and expel it.

Not a bad days work for an unappreciated tree.  There is no Frankincense type that is better for coughs, colds and congestion than Frankincense Neglecta.  For instructions on how to make your own Frankincense Neglecta whole oleoresin medicated chest rub, please see my post“Frankincense oil, a cough, cold and chest rub.

So, travelling tips, consider sandals next time you travel, and take some exhilarating brain boosting Boswellia Rivae with you.  Disinfectant and definitely a mood elevator. It is almost a complete perfume on its own. I have no doubt that if you try it, you too will fall in love with it. Especially if you have a weakness for Palo Santo.

Travelling with a cold, cough or congestion? Frankincense Neglecta oil in a steam inhalation, or mixed with olive oil 20 drops essential oil to 1/2 cup Olive or any vegetable oil, is an effective and fragrant item to keep in your first aid kit and rub on your chest day and night.

Frankincense Papyrifera? Well, if you have the opportunity to smell it fresh, burned or as an essential oil, don’t pass on it . You won’t know what you are missing!

And buy some sandals already!

Dan

 

 

 

 

Enhanced by Zemanta
Posted on 11 Comments

Frankincense Oil, a Cough,Cold and Chest Rub

An oleo extract of Frankincense Neglecta from Ethiopia.

I have, over the past few days, slowly succumbed to a head/chest cold. Stuffed up, scratchy rough throat, and a cough. Yuch!! On the bright side, it motivated me to finally make a Frankincense Oil, or rather a Frankincense Neglecta Cough and Chest Rub.

Frankincense-Boswellia Neglecta
Frankincense oil-Boswellia Neglecta

Since My first whiff of the rare and unusual Frankincense Neglecta last winter in the Mercado market of Addis Ababa Ethiopia, I have been itching to work with it and explore its therapeutic properties.

Local transport in the narrow allies of Addis Mercado.
Local transport in the narrow allies of Addis Mercado.Large trucks fit through narrow allies teeming with people. The resin vendors are on the other side of the vehicle. Ethiopian photophobia left me with very few shots of the bustling Mercado

The Mercado is considered Africa‘s largest outdoor market and covers hundreds of  square kilometers. It is like a sub-city of Addis and takes days to even scratch the surface of it. After spending the best part of a day hunting,  feet sore from unpaved, rock strewn paths, exhausted, discouraged and ready to go home, I finally came upon  a “quarter” in the market, that specialized in local resins, barks and dried herbs. Jackpot! Frankincense, Myrrh, Opoponax and everything else I had hoped to find.

My inspiration for working with Frankincense Neglecta, is its similarity in fragrance and substance to our local conifer saps, from which I make a wonderful winter chest “balm”, and a muscle and joint rub. Products which draw their healing powers from the use of  their wholes saps, (Oleoresins), not just the essential oils of the trees.

I call my sap based respiratory product, the “Great Northern Cough and Chest Rub”. Anyone who knows me, knows I have been making it since my son Nathan was a toddler. At the time I had to come up with something that a child would, (willingly), allow one to administer, so it had to be pleasant, effective and smell nothing at all like Vicks!

Great Northern Cough& Chest Balm
Great Northern Cough& Chest Balm

The great northern “C&CR” or “Cough Balm” as we call it, has been a great success for over 15 years. It not only helps to break up phlegm, open and clear breathing passages, reduce coughing in young and old alike, but  it also has the effect of calming and grounding, soothing those cranky sick kid nerves and promoting a sound sleep. Parents know how important it is for everyone to get a good nights sleep when there is a sick kid in the house. All in all, The Great northern Cough & Chest Rub has been one of my most successful formulas. Beyond minor tweaks, I haven’t changed the recipe or method of making it in over a decade and a half.

While Boswellia Neglecta is obviously a Frankincense, and has the distinguished warm, rich, fragrance that we associate with Frankincense, Neglecta has an extra “set” of terpene notes, reminiscent of our own temperate evergreens. It has a penetrating sweet Fir like scent. A scent that implies it likely shares similar phytochemical compounds and healing effects to our conifers, which are excellent decongestants and respiratory medicines.  From what I can gather, Boswellia, or Frankincense Neglecta, has been used medicinally much more than the other types of Frankincense native to the region. Since all the species of Frankincense share anti aging, anti wrinkle and skin rejuvenating  properties, I also look forward to seeing what B. Neglecta can do for the skin.

Spring Spruce 2013
Spring Spruce 2013

Two days ago, I prepared an oleo extraction of the whole oleo-resin, separating the volatile oils and resin, from the water-soluble gum. (All types of Frankincense and many other fragrant saps are oleo-gum-resins, with varying proportions of water-soluble gum, resins and essential oils, (see photo below)). I have since, been applying this fragrant medicated oil to my chest and neck areas regularly. The effect is an immediate opening up and easing of my breathing passages. A lightening and relaxing of a heavy and tight chest, with a loosening of phlegm which in turn creates productive coughs. The effect consistently lasts 4-5 hours before I feel the need to apply more, and it does not diminish with use. It works every time. My nose is still a little runny, but not as stuffed up as it was 2 days ago. I  have a lingering headache, but the scratchiness in my throat is gone, and I am experiencing no accompanying soreness after 2 days of use.

Frankincense Papyrifera-Separated into its 3 basic components. Gum, Resin and essential oils.
Frankincense Papyrifera-Separated into its 3 basic components. Gum, Resin and essential oils.

The fragrance of this oil is calming and relaxing,  grounding and elevating, comforting too, like Spruce. The fragrance on its own, has obvious benefits from an aromatherapeutic perspective, promoting a sense of peace and calm without diminishing mental acuity. I was experiencing some distress from feeling ill and under physical duress, (That Yuchi sick feeling). Whether it was absorbed through my skin or lungs, its calming effect on my nervous system was direct and immediate.

I think most of us realize on some level, that our emotional, physical and mental states are all tied together, affected by, and affecting each other. I can always feel an emotional and mental shift before I experience the physical symptoms of a cold or virus. For a medication to address and alleviate the emotional discord that comes with being ill, while it helps heal the body physically, is a great added benefit! I think it qualifies as a sign of a more holistic remedy and indicates a synergy to the product.

  When it comes to sharing formulas, There are those who counsel not to reveal recipes or methods. They caution against giving away trade secrets that unscrupulous others may use to mass produce competing products and cut into my “Market share”.   I understand their concerns, but,,,I don’t make millions from my salves and cremes, or hundreds of thousands, or even tens of thousands of dollars from them. I doubt I ever will. I make small amounts, for a local, small community that appreciates and need them.  ( And with a small online community of like minded individuals)                                                                                                                                                                            More to the point, I don’t want to set up a factory and produce  thousands of  jars of healing salves a month. Way too stressful. I would rather see thousands of people around the world, nurturing personal relationships with Nature, using these methods to produce small quantities of finely crafted, high quality remedies for their own families and local communities. So, the more, the merrier!  That being said, I also have to point out , that methods are only a small part of what makes these or any natural products exceptional. If you read through my blog you will see that there is much more to producing a fine or sublimated natural medicine, than just a formula or knowing how to physically process plant material. Much, much more. Anyone can do that.

    So here is my recipe for making a simple extraction of  the resins and essential oils of Frankincense Neglecta.  It is applicable to other saps and oleoresins. This is a medicinal or medicated oil that can be used for respiratory problems and muscle / joint pain.  It can be used as is, with added essential oils, or as the base for a salve.

    I am very happy with the healing effects of this oil. It works extremely well. I hope that if you try to make some for yourself, or for those  in your family and community, you will all experience equally gratifying results.

 

A Recipe for Frankincense oil, a cough and chest rub.

  • 1 part fresh Boswellia Neglecta oleoresin. The fresher and more pliable it is, the better your extraction will be.
  • 2 parts Cold Pressed Extra Virgin Olive oil. You can use any oil of your choice. You can use a different amount of Frankincense, but,  in general a ratio of 1:2 by weight is what I aim for and works best for me.
  • In a water bath,(See “A Solid Mustache Wax Recipe” for instructions on making and using a water-bath), combine oil and oleoresins in a container that holds double the volume of the products.
  • Clamp container to the wall of the water-bath.
  • Bring water bath to a boil.
  • Stir, press, agitate oleoresins with a clean wooden spoon or other clean utensil , break up any chunks or lumps as best you can.
  • Leave in simmering water bath for an hour at least, longer if using old, dry or hard material. Stir and break down the Frankincense periodically. Using a large mason jar works well. This way you can keep a lid on it when you are not stirring, I believe this will help retain more of the essential oils since the heat will make the volatile oils fly out of the oleo resin.
  • After an hour or so, when you feel the Frankincense has broken up as much as it will, and when it seems the oil and resin are homogeneously mixed. Put the lid on tight, turn off the heat and let cool to room temperature.
  • Take a clean, washed pillowcase, you may have to rinse it well with hot water and re-dry it so there is no residual odor of laundry detergent or any other aroma. Lay the open pillowcase in a bowl, corner at the bottom, and pour the contents of the jar into the corner of the pillowcase. Scrape out as much of the jar contents as you can.
  • Collect the sides of the pillowcase, (keeping unneeded parts of the pillowcase from being saturated with oil), and twist it so the mixture starts filtering out of the pillowcase corner into the bowl. Squeeze as much as you can by hand, twist it as if wringing out a towel to dry, then if you have one, cram the pillowcase into an herb press and press out the rest of the liquid.
  • Pour all your liquid into another jar or vessel you can close. Let it settle for a day or two, then very carefully pour off, or siphon off the clearer liquid, leaving the sediment on the bottom.
  • A small Herb press. Handy for  making extracts and tinctures.
    A small Herb press. Handy for making extracts and tinctures.

 You now have a potent,  fragrant, whole oleo-resin, medicated oil that works effectively “as is” ,or, if you like,  you can use it as a base for a salve. It will probably settle further so be prepared to separate it from more sediment. You could let it sit in a glass separatory funnel and drain off the sediment again later, or if you have a vacuum filtering system, you can use it to remove all resin particles. Then again, you could just leave some of the sediment in your oil.

If you like, you can add some essential oil of Frankincense Neglecta to make up for what may have been lost due to the age of your Frankincense, or through the extraction process. Also, if you like, you can add essential oils that compliment the application you are using it for, such as Rosemary, Eucalyptus and Peppermint essential oils for respiratory issues, Chamomile for sleep,  Wintergreen, Birch etc. for use as a muscle rub. Plan to add about 2% essential oils at the most.
It will keep for years, as oleo resins, (saps), do, and the oleo resins will help keep the vegetable oils from going rancid.  If you like you can add 400 IU, (one gel cap), of vitamin E. to each cup or 250 ml. of medicated oil as an extra precaution against rancidity down the road, or add a small amount of Benzoin essential oil. Both these additives have skin healing properties.

To Make A Salve

To turn your oil into a salve,

  • Pour the Frankincense oil you made into a vessel that  holds at least twice the volume of the oil.
  • clamp it in to the water bath wall.
  • In a separate jar, break, scrape, grind or shave, raw Beeswax. About 1/4 – 1/3 of the volume of oil you are working with.
  • Bring the water bath to a boil.
  • When the beeswax is completely melted and both materials are at the same temperature, pour a little beeswax into the oil and mix well. (Or use a bulb type baster to transfer the hot liquids).
  • Put a drop or two of the hot, well mixed, oil and wax, on a cold plate.
  • When it cools to room temperature, test the consistency. If it is too soft or liquid, add a little more beeswax.
  • Test again and repeat until your salve is exactly the consistency you desire. If  by chance you add too much wax and your salve is too hard you can add a small amount of room temperature oil to your salve, test and adjust it.
  • If you are adding essential oils to your salve, do so during the cooling down point, after removing the salve from the water bath. It is easier to measure and pre-mix the essential oils before you make the salve, just put them aside and add them at the end.
A water-bath, Bain Marie, or double boiler at work regulating the temperature of all the ingredients
A water-bath, Bain Marie, or double boiler at work regulating the temperature of all the ingredients
Separatory funnel with essential oil of Frankincense Papyrifera-2013
Separatory funnel with essential oil of Frankincense Papyrifera distilled in the lab 2013

Remember to keep clear notes, especially on the quantities of essential oils you are adding. If it is a success you will want to reproduce it as precisely as possible in the future and avoid disappointments .

Make sure you have closeable containers ready to receive your salve. Pour it in carefully. When it is cool and solid, put your caps or lids on.
That’s it. Your salve will keep for years. Hopefully it will not last that long, and it will get used quickly for its wonderful healing properties.
It will make a great gift, providing comfort through the worst parts of colds and flus, to family and friends.

Remember to always keep notes.
Your future self will than you.

Dan

Enhanced by Zemanta