Obtained from the Boswellia tree, frankincense is also known as “king of oils.”

Commonly found in African countries like Ethiopia and Somalia and Middle Eastern countries like Yemen and Oman, the sap is said to contain numerous medical benefits, making it the ideal ingredient in many herbal medicines and alternative therapies.

It also finds a mention in the Bible. It was one of the gifts that wise men gifted to infant Jesus, probably because of its’ healing powers.

Benefits of Frankincense Oil

Frankincense oil has been used since time immemorial for not only combating various ailments but also for relaxation and improving personal satisfaction.

The aromatic properties found in the oil is known to promote feelings of peace, relaxation, and overall wellness in a person.

Studies have shown that frankincense also supports cellular function, which has resulted in its use in removing blemishes and soothing skin. Frankincense’s active component, boswellic acid, has also been found to be very useful in treating inflammation.

Over the past few years, researches have also started looking at the use of Boswellia in the treatment of certain cancers like colon, breast, breast cancer.

Role in Inflammation Treatment

Researchers have started focusing on the role of frankincense in the treatment of cancer.

Boswellic acid, the active component has been found to have anti-inflammatory properties. Inflammation results in swelling, redness, and heat. It happens during illness or after an injury.

Whenever inflammation occurs, the body releases white blood cells which fights the inflammation. A 2006 study showed that there are numerous ways through which boswellic acid can fight inflammation.

The study authors noted that boswellic acid targets cytokines, free radicals, and inhibits 5-lipoxygenase, all of which have a role to play in inflammation.

This could have significant implications for cancer treatment. Various studies have also linked inflammation with cancer.

Cancer and Frankincense

Studies conducted over the past few years have shown that frankincense does not just fight inflammation, but it can also tackle cancer cells.

The main challenge in any cancer care is the destruction of healthy cells. Unlike bacteria or viruses, cancer cells are the body’s cells that go rogue attacking healthy tissue.

This makes it very difficult for the present treatment process to target only cancer cells. Treating cancer cells invariably leads to the destruction of healthy cells.

For instance, chemotherapy is known to kill several healthy cells while fighting cancer. This often results in cancer patients to have a weakened immune system, have nausea, lose hair, etc.

There are few studies which have suggested that compounds present in frankincense target only the infected cells and treat them without causing any harm to healthy cells.

Scientific Studies

A 2009 laboratory study for bladder cancer looked at how frankincense affected both cancerous and healthy bladder cells.

The study found that frankincense oil from trees of Boswellia carteri species was able to differentiate between cancerous and healthy bladder cells. It destroyed only cancerous cells, without harming healthy cells. The oil also suppressed cancer cell viability.

A study conducted in 2011 on the use of frankincense oil for breast cancer showed that oil derived from Boswellia sacra trees played a similar role in breast cancer cells.

A 2015 study also showed that frankincense oil did not just destroy the breast cancer cells, but it also disrupted the growth of new cancer cells.

A study conducted by researchers using frankincense oils for skin cancer showed that the essential oil helped in suppressing melanoma cancer while ameliorating hepatotoxicity also downregulates Bcl-2/Bax cascade signaling.

A Lot Needs To Be Done

Though these are very promising, these are mostly early results. One should note that these were results from laboratory trials and there has been very scarce research on humans.

For a compound to be determined as a potential cancer drug, it has to undergo substantial clinical trials, and there are hardly any significant trials being conducted that include frankincense.


While the use of frankincense and other essential oils sounds very promising, you should consult your doctor before you plan on using it in your treatment regimen.

Your doctor will help in ensuring that the frankincense oil or any other won’t interfere with your medications. They will also help in determining the appropriate dosage.

The effects, both short- and long-term, of using frankincense oil is still unclear. While there are researchers who vouch for it, the jury is still out when it comes to assessing the potential benefits as well as risks.