Dating back to the days when the world was young, frankincense has a rich and colorful history.
The five species of Boswellia trees that yield this fragrant resin proliferated the lands of the ancient world and they thrive to this day in the harshest environments that are fraught with stifling heat and the endless thrash of burning winds and blowing sands.
Resembling a knotty, aged desert bonsai, the peeling, papery bark glistens when the resin is released.
Today, these special trees can be found in north and Western Africa, India, Oman and Yemen, and their aromatic resin is sought after by many of the world’s finest perfume manufacturers.
Highly coveted, and thought to be, along with myrrh, worth its weight in gold, frankincense was treasured by the ancient Egyptians who used it in their religious and embalming rites and considered it to be “the sweat of the gods.”
They burned it according to prescribed schedules; namely, frankincense in the morning hours; myrrh at noon and a blend known as kypri at night.
There are many recipes for kyphi, but all varieties shared elements of wine and fine resins such as musty, piney frankincense, woody, warm myrrh, spices, bright, earthy grasses, woody conifers, and salty, sweet mastic.
In fact, the ancient Greeks believed that the smoke from this resin held the power to divine the future. As recorded in the Pentateuch, frankincense was a sacred ingredient for the sanctuary incense burned by the early Hebrews.
In Christian tradition, the Book of Matthew records that frankincense was one of the three gifts offered by the Magi to the infant Jesus on the night of his birth (besides gold and myrrh).
The meaning of the name, frankincense, derives from the old French word, franc encens, which translates into pure incense or pure lighting.
The deep tissues of the tree produce the aromatic compounds in the resin as a protection against fungal infection, attacks by insects, desiccation, and acts as a natural sealant for injured tissues.
Light in color, the resin, like tears that flow unchecked down a cheek, leaks and then hardens around wounds in the bark of the tree.
What is The Character of Frankincense And Why Was It Important?
Its elusive and dynamic nature is perhaps the reason this aromatic resin was so sacred and mystical to ancient cultures.
It remains to this day “the secret sauce” in many iconic perfumes; namely, the iconic Channel #5 and Guerlain’s Shalimar, just to name a few.
According to perfumer, Yann Vasnier: “Frankincense can release a very wide range of effect, like an olfactive rainbow…It’s somehow deep and light at the same time. It has citrus, spice, amber and smoke, but it also has a brightness to it.”
Our master perfumers at Alpha Aromatics understand that its potency in perfumery lies in its versatility as raw material.
It can work dazzling wonders with floral head notes as well as when it is used as a dry down when it can release a lingering soft, smooth earthiness.
In the words of Mindy Yang, founder of New York’s fragrance studio, Perfumarie: “It’s a wonderful base note that provides structure without being overwhelming…It makes the whole format more dynamic. You can’t say that about other resins.”
A Few Relevant Facts And Statistics
Frankincense Opened Up Ancient Trade Routes
It was the high demand for frankincense that bolstered the domestication of the camel and propelled the opening up the ancient trade routes connecting southern Arabia to India, the Mediterranean, and the Silk Road in China.
King Tut’s Tomb Retained Traces Of Frankincense
When archaeologist, Howard Carter, opened the tomb of King Tut in 1922, he reported that among its other fantastic golden treasures the 3,000 year old burial chamber contained jars of still-fragrant frankincense-laced perfume oil.
In Ancient Myths Frankincense was Guarded By Dragons
Greek writer, Herodotus, (5th century B.C.) wrote that Arabia’s Boswellia trees were guarded by winged serpents of small size and various colors.
Appleton’s Popular Science Monthly’s 1896 edition records that ancient merchants crafted fantastic tales about these trees in efforts to stave off competitors.
Frankincense Resin Is Edible
In the days of antiquity, the resin was chewed like gum and considered a viable treatment for both digestive problems and to boost the immune system.
Edible varieties are translucent with no dark colored impurities, and can be consumed in both its hardened state and as an oil.
Frankincense as A Toothpaste Ingredient
Ancient cultures included frankincense as an ingredient for toothpaste. Today, some brands include it in their line of tooth care products as well.
Frankincense As Makeup
Egyptian women used frankincense as an ingredient for their intense black kohl eyeliner, which is often depicted prominently in their paintings and murals.
It was first burned, and then ground into a fine powder before it was applied on their eyelids.
Frankincense Oil Is Wonderful For Skin Care
The resin is particularly good for oily skin. It is an excellent moisturizer and is known to reduce the appearance of fine lines.
It should be combined with a carrier oil as is the case with all essential oils.
An Effective Stress Reliever
Just a few drops added to warm bath water or burning a bit of incense can release tension and serve to calm stressed spirits.
A Natural Bug Repellant
Burning frankincense deters mosquitoes and other annoying insects. Early Egyptians fumigated wheat silos with frankincense to repel wheat moths.
Alpha Aromatics And Frankincense Perfumes
We are a family-run enterprise whose roots stretch back to the 1940s. Both a leader and a pioneer within the perfume industry, our many diverse clients hail from all across the globe and represent a myriad of diverse industries.
As such, our professional footprint has a exceedingly far reach and our most prestigious clientele are found among: soap makers; candle manufacturers; product development scientists; skin care and personal care product development researchers; and much more.
They all come in search of that one-of-a-kind fragrance edge that speaks in a language far more mystical and compelling than words. Our continued success is bolstered by our heavy investments in the most innovative scientific tools that money can buy.
Our master perfumers are often asked to bring an ancient slant to modern scented products, and we often turn to the alluring fragrance of frankincense.
The following represent of some of the more popular fragrance formulations developed by our master perfumers that contain this ancient, aromatic ingredient.
Fig Leaf and Thyme
This glorious green fragrance streams with head notes of tart, sweet, balsamic raspberry leaf and mellow, warm saffron.
These facets soon drift flawlessly into a herbal/floral heart note marked by spicy, unexpectedly leathery thyme, earthy, nutty sage, haunting jasmine and green, fresh fig leaf.
A dry down of spicy, piney and earthy frankincense, rich, honeyed and dark amber and soft, erotic suede complete this intriguing fragrance.
Indonesian Patchouli Amber
This compelling fragrance appeals to both men and women and is universally popular. It opens with facets of light, sparkling citrus and the whisper of exotic florals.
These elements soon fold harmoniously into a warm, intimate heart note of velvety, sweet Indonesian patchouli, which melds into a rich, sensual dry down of elegant, lush vanilla, dry cedar wood, creamy sandalwood, clean, musty and aromatic frankincense and woody, warm and pungent myrrh.
Diffuser Oil Fragrances
This fragrance bursts with aspects of fresh, clean lemon, sea-inspired aqua marine and varied herbal green facets.
These head notes soon seamlessly fold into a multi-faceted heart note amalgam of green, sugary fig, woodsy, smoky frankincense, profoundly intense and haunting jasmine, musky, romantic rose, sensual, nutty sage, powerful, herbaceous thyme, warm, light lily pad, rich, honeyed amber and dry, balsamic cedar.
The scent completes with a dry down featuring exotic, smooth and sweet white tea bud, erotic, sugary musk and streams of woody elements.
Give our perfumers at Alpha Aromatics a call today, and let them transform your product, increase traffic, brand loyalty and that all important bottom line with the fragrant power of Frankincense.
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