One of the most universally treasured and distinct scents is that of frankincense. This celebrated essential oil is steeped in a rich history and has a deep connection to one of our most valuable senses. It intrigues and fascinates us, so we decided to explore why frankincense is so beloved.
Frankincense's storied past
Revered for its multifaceted aroma, a radiant earthiness, frankincense has been considered as valuable as gold and a desirable ingredient in incense and perfumes for thousands of years. In fact, frankincense oil has played an important role socially and economically, fueling the growth of empires, sparking battles, and even sealing truces.
What is frankincense?
Frankincense, also known as the sacred substance, olibanum, is a resin that comes from the desert-dwelling Boswellia sacra tree. These low, gnarled specimens thrive in the harsh conditions of searing heat and heavy winds. The essential oil we work with for our products is wild Serrata Frankincense (Boswellia serrata from India), which is sustainably grown and harvested from the resin of Indian frankincense trees. This frankincense has a light, complex citrus scent and is the honored frankincense of Ayurveda. We chose Boswellia serrata because it is not under threat of over-harvesting, as some species are.
The aromatics of frankincense
One of the reasons why we work with essential oils is for their aromatherapeutic qualities. It is believed that aromatherapy works because it stimulates receptors in the nose that signal the limbic system, which is part of the brain that is involved in controlling emotion and memory.
We love frankincense for its complex, almost mysterious, aromatics which range from warm and earthy to sweet, with a touch of citrus. The oil of frankincense is often used in meditation because it is believed to promote relaxation and tranquility. We find it’s ideal for cultivating peaceful moments throughout the day.
Scent and memory
There are so many scents that enter our lives and hold space in our consciousness. Of our five senses, the sense of smell is most directly linked to our memory. With a simple sniff, we can recall one memory from millions. The aroma of familiar spices wafting from your favorite meal or the earthy warmth of lit pinon wood on a winter night can spark rumination and a tsunami of emotions. This powerful connection intrigues and inspires our scent creation process.
How is scent tied to memory?
When you inhale, the scents around you go straight to the part of the brain called the olfactory bulb. The olfactory bulb then sends signals to the limbic system, home to the amygdala and hippocampus. These two areas of the brain are responsible for our emotions, memory, and even creativity. In short, this explains why when we smell something familiar, that aroma can immediately prompt a wave of nostalgia.
Beyond the soothing nature of frankincense, we find that there’s something very inviting about its sweet, woody aromatics. Whether each inhale activates a sense of peace or transports you to a special moment in time, its influence is palpable. And we simply can’t get enough of it.
Mayo Clinic. What are the benefits of aromatherapy? June 6, 2020.
The Harvard Gazette. What the nose knows. February 27, 2020.
Medical News Today. Why smells bring back such vivid memories. July 26, 2018.
Town and Country Magazine. Why Frankincense Is Suddenly So Smoking Hot. December 5, 2019.