Boswellia sacra Flueck

Last updated: 22 June 2017

Scientific Name

Boswellia sacra Flueck


Boswellia carteri Birdw, Boswellia bhaw-dajiana Birdw, Boswellia undulatocrenata (Engl.) Engl, [1]

Vernacular Name

English Frankincense, olibanum-tree [2]
China ru xiang shu [2]
Sweden äkta rökelseträd [2]
Somalia Moxor [2]
Italian Olibano [2]
German Weihrauchbaum, Weihrauchpflanze. [2]
France Oliban, arbre à encens. [2]
Spain Olibán, árbol del incensio. [2]

Geographical Distributions

Boswellia sacra are found in the Middle East and Africa. Most commercial oils are collected from India, Yemen, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya and some from Somalia. The trees have white or pale pink flowers and a gum resin that oozes from the bark and hardens by the sun. Frankincense has an ovoid tear shape and usually a pale yellow colour, sometimes with green, red or blue tinges. [3]  Frankincense has been used since ancient times, even being worth more than gold at some points in history. Some historians believe that the Egyptians travelled by land and sea to collect the frankincense resin as early as 3000 BC. [4]

Botanical Description

B. sacra is a small tree up to 5 m high with 1 or several trunks covered with peeling, papery bark. [5]

The leaves are crowded towards the tips of the thick twigs. Each leaf is divided into 6–8 pairs of oblong leaflets increasing in size towards the top of the leaf which is tipped by a single, largest leaflet. The leaflets all have distinctive, wavy margins and are hairy, very densely so on the underside. [5]

The flowers are also borne at the tips of the twigs. They are loosely grouped into long, slender spikes, have five white petals and a central disc which turns from yellow to red or black as the fruit develops. [5]

The fruit is a capsule with 3–5 longitudinal wings and opens by means of 3–5 valves, each releasing a single seed. [5]


No documentation

Chemical Constituent

The chemical constituents vary depending upon the source, extraction methods used and manner/time of harvesting of the oleoresin. The oil consists primarily of terpene hydrocarbons. In general, the following represent the constituents identified in oils from the Middle East which are α-thujene,
α-pinene, camphene, limonene, verbenone, octanol, octyl acetate, incensol. [6][7]

Plant Part Used

Bark of the trunk and branches of the tree, from which the gum-resin exudes. [8]

Traditional Use

In its resin form, B. sacra has been used to treat wounds and rheumatoid arthritis for centuries. [9][10] This is mostly due to its anti-inflammatory action. [9] Inhalation and topical application are appropriate for stimulating a weakened immune system. Inhalation may also be used for depression. [6]

B. sacra has been used throughout the world, mostly in the Middle East and Africa, for religious purposes and as a beauty treatment. It has been used to treat asthmatic bronchitis, depression, mental fatigue, stress, respiratory and bronchial infections. There is little scientific evidence for these traditional uses, however since the oil has been used and valued so highly for thousands of years, it is likely that the fragrance is suitable for relaxation and/or meditation and possibly a central nervous system stimuli. [7][7]

Preclinical Data


B. sacra have been reported to stimulate the immune system,
as a antimicrobial, antifungal, anti-inflammatory. [9][10][11][12][13]


No documentation

Clinical Data

No documentation


There are not any documented adverse reactions to Frankincense, and it is considered to be safe for various uses. However it should be used with caution in those with sensitive skin as should all essential oils. [14]


No documentation


No documentation

Poisonous Management

No documentation

Line drawing

No documentation


  1. The Plant List. Ver1.1. Boswellia sacra Flueck. [homepage on the Internet]. c2013 [updated 2012 Mar 23; cited 2017 June 22]. Available from:
  2. Catalogue of Life. World Plants: Synonymic Checklists of the Vascular Plants of the World. Boswellia sacra Flueck. (Maingay ex C.B.Clarke) K.M.Wong & Sugumaran. [homepage on the Internet]. c2015 [updated 2017 Feb 14; cited 2017 June 22] Available from:
  3. Greene DA. Gold, frankincense, myrrh and medicine. J N C Med. 1993;54(12):620-622.
  4. Michie CA, Cooper E. Frankincense and myrrh as remedies in children. J R Soc Med. 1991;84(10):602-605.
  5. Encyclopedia of Life. Boswellia sacra Flueck. Frankincense. [homepage on the Internet]. No date [cited 2017 June 22]. Available from:
  6. Schnaubelt K. Advanced aromatherapy: the science of essential oil therapy. Healing Arts Press; 1995.
  7. Lis-Balchin M. Aromatherapy science. London: Pharmaceutical Press; 2006.
  8. Encyclopedia of Life. Boswellia sacra Flueck. Frankincense. [homepage on the Internet]. No date [cited 2017 June 22]. Available from:
  9. Moussaieff A. Incensole acetate: a novel neuroprotective agent isolated from Boswellia carterii. J Cereb Blood Flow Metab. 2008;28(7):1341-1352.
  10. Banno N. Anti-inflammatory activities of the triterpene acids from the resin of Boswellia carterii. J Ethnopharmacol. 2006;107(2):249-253.
  11. Schillaci D. In vitro anti-biofilm activity of Boswellia spp. oleogum resin essential oils. Lett Appl Microbiol. 2008;47(5):433-438.
  12. Camarda L. Chemical composition and antimicrobial activity of some oleogum resin essential oils from Boswellia spp. (Burseraceae). Ann Chim. 2007;97(9):837-844.
  13. Mikhaeil BR. Chemistry and immunomodulatory activity of frankincense oil. Z Naturforsch [C]. 2003;58(3-4):230-238.
  14. McGuffin M, Hobbs C, Upton R, Goldberg A. Botanical safety handbook. Boca Raton: CRC Press; 1997.