Masha is Guest-Posting today. It’s comin’ on Christmas and she’s the Queen of Frankincense! All Hail MASHA!!!
The Gifts of the Magi have a long and hallowed history in perfumery. Of the three, frankincense is my
hands-down favorite. I’ve got a frankincense collection that is frankly embarrassing. I keep essential
oils from every species of Boswellia ever harvested, and resin nuggets of every type. I also collect many
varieties of frankincense incense from Asia and the Middle East. So when the lovely Musette asked me
to post about glorious frank, I asked myself, where do I start?
First off, frankincense is good for you. In May, 2008, Johns Hopkins University and the Hebrew
University of Jerusalem found that frankincense smoke relieves depression and anxiety. The researchers
found that incensole acetate, found in Boswellia resin, activates a protein in the mammalian brain
called TRPV3, which decreases anxiety and alleviates depression. Now I know why we’re constantly
burning the stuff. And why religious authorities like it so much. I feel especially happy, spiritually and
neurochemically, when I wear frankincense-based perfumes. Like CDG Avignon and Heeley’s Cardinal.
I’m blissing out just thinking about them.
Sadly, many species of Boswellia are endangered in their native Africa. They are being over- tapped
for resin, and the land they live on is being cleared to make way for food crops, or housing for our
ever-increasing population. Scientists are working hard to hybridize several species, so they can be
successfully grown by farmers in Arizona, California, and other hot, dry regions.
Peppery, sweet, and pungent, frankincense absolute is not as easy to work with as the essential oil, but
you can dilute either in jojoba oil or perfumer’s alcohol. For those who don’t want their frank straight
up, there are many perfumes to choose from. Some are cold, austere scents, others warm and cuddly.
Let’s start with a few of the cold ones.
Olivier Durbano is a French jeweler who created a series of scents to match gems. Several have some
strong frank: Amethyst, Rock Crystal, and Black Tourmaline. I prefer Rock Crystal. This one is almost
medicinal, but in a good way. Black Tourmaline is very similar, but sharper and smokier. Cartier’s Les
Heures de Parfum XII: Mysterieuse is cool, yet surprisingly soft, frankincense. And I quite like Serge
Lutens’ L’Eau Froide, a very chilly, contemporary frankincense.
Now on to soft, warm, cuddly incense. Heeley’s Cardinal is delightful, just pure, warm, high-quality
frankincense absolute, warmed with a little this and that. Amouage makes any number of warm, frank-
infused perfumes, so you can pretty much take your pick (Epic Woman is my favorite). For cuddling-in-
front-of-the-fireplace frankincense, try Sonoma Scent Studio’s Incense Pure. It’s a frankincense lover’s
delight, and features labdanum, another calming resin. Abdes Salaam Attar has created highly sniffable,
frankincense-based perfumes, including one called simply…Frankincense.
If you’d rather your home smelled like frankincense, there is actual incense. Shoyeido, the centuries-
old Japanese incense house, makes a western-style incense called Diamond. Moving up the price scale is
Tennendo’s Frankincense, which features the highest grade Omani Boswellia resin with its strong citrus
vibe. Minorien, another famous Japanese house, makes benzoin-warm, Catholic-style frankincense. All
can be purchased through JapanIncense.com (a wonderful store in San Francisco with a huge inventory),
Essence of the Ages (web), or through Tom’s Incense via Amazon. (I have no connection to these stores;
I’m just a happy customer.) Raw incense nuggets of many grades and species can be found at Katlyn
Breene’s Mermade Magickal Arts web shop, and eos and absolutes through Eden Botanicals, Trygve
Harris’ Enfleurage in NYC, and Liberty Natural in Oregon, among others. I recently found a wonderful co-
extraction of frankincense with Virginia Cedar at White Lotus Aromatics. There’s always something new
to enjoy in Frankincense World! What are some of your favorite ways to enjoy the sacred resin?