Calm and uplift your spirits during the hectic holiday season with frankincense (Boswellia sacra spp.), an aromatic resin harvested from desert shrubs native to Oman. One of the most highly valued commodities of ancient times, frankincense was traded for porcelain by the Chinese, employed by Egyptians for embalming, presented to the infant Jesus as a symbolic gift and burned copiously by emperors during the height of the Roman Empire. In numerous religious traditions, frankincense's spiritual scent was believed to confer divine blessing.
Today, frankincense continues to be revered for its aromatherapeutic properties; its applications include easing dry skin and wounds, respiratory-system distress, and emotional turmoil, especially tension and anxiety. "Above all other essential oils, frankincense soothes the spirit," says Valerie Cooksley, RN, author of Aromatherapy: A Lifetime Guide to Healing with Essential Oils (Prentice Hall, 1996). "I've never known anyone who didn't like it, especially anxious people, because it slows down breathing and brings them to a grounded place."
Using frankincense is simple: Toss a few resin granules (available where incense is sold) in your hot fireplace and savor the spicy, woody aroma; or add three drops each of frankincense and lavender essential oils to your bathwater for heavenly relaxation. One caution: Because it may contain uterine-stimulant properties, don't use frankincense if you're pregnant.