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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..



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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?


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!






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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.


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