On the Frankincense Trail in Oman, Part Two

A NASA photo of Salalah, its port and the Jabal Qar'a mountains in Dhofar Oman. Conditions in this region are just right for Frankincense trees to grow.

Last week, we looked at how Young Living used their Seed to Seal process to bring an essential oil on to the market – specifically the Frankincense from Oman. This week, we’ll check out the Sacred Frankincense (Boswellia Sacra), the kind of environment it grows in, the country that Young Living will be harvesting it from – Oman – and the uses and benefits of using this essential oil.

About the Frankincense Tree

The photo from NASA shows the region of Dhofar. This is the only region in Oman, that Frankincense trees will grow and thrive in.

Frankincense loves limestone and they’ll often be found growing in rock. When near water, it will grow like a tree, but when the area is dry it will resemble more of a bush.

In actual fact, frankincense trees don’t like too much water, as the tree is susceptible to mildew. For that reason you will often find the trees growing high up (as in the Jabal Qar’a mountains in Dhofar) or in the dry wadis (or valleys) at low altitude.

The mountains in Dhofar are also close to the sea, and June to August is the summer monsoon period (known as the Khareef). The trees thrive on the moist air, that comes up in mountain mists.

Frankincense trees have to be at least 6 years old before they can be harvested for their resin. The tree flowers in May (which I’m told is the best time to visit this region and see the trees) with harvesting taking place in the  following months.

The green tree bark is cut down to the red cambrium layer, to release the resin from the tree. In under a minute, a white resin (known as Luban) starts to ooze out from the tree. This first cutting is not collected. The resin from the second and third cuttings is collected, with each tree producing up to a kilo of resin each year. It will take each tree about a year for its scars to heal.

The white resin, Luban, after cutting back the green tree bark. Courtesy of C Woolley

Once the resin has been exposed to the air, it dries. This allows the tree to begin healing. Courtesy of C Woolley

After the resin has dried, it’s cut of from the tree, de-barked, sorted and graded. The very best grade is reserved for the Sultan Qaboos and most of the rest of it will end up being sold to other Arabian princes, sultans and kings.

The dried resin is cut from tree only after the second and third cuttings. Courtesy of C Woolley

Sorting and grading of Frankincense. Courtesy of C Woolley.

Sultan Qaboos and his two treasures

Sultan Qaboos’ two treasures are: his people and his frankincense. Only Omanis are allowed to harvest the resin, with rights to the respective trees being owned by tribes or families. At the top of the season, a kilo of resin will sell for $300-$400 and in the low season, about $100 a kilo. About 99% of all frankincense resin will be used by Omanis to burn in clay burners. To obtain the essential oil of frankincense, we need to steam distill (hydrodistilled) the resin. It takes about 16 hours to process each batch of resin.

Frankincense resin. To obtain the essential oil, this resin is distilled with steam. Courtesy of C Woolley

The Young Living Distillery

In early 2010, Young Living Essential Oils partnered up with Dr Mahmoud Suhail, M.D., and obtained commercial and industrial licences for frankincense oil research and production. Dr Suhail was able to assist Young Living to find local sources of consistent high quality Boswellia Sacra resin and in February 2010, the first batch of Sacred Frankincense essential oil was produced.


Differences in Frankincense.

There are several species of frankincense and they are definitely not the same.

Boswellia Carterii which grows in East Africa (Somalia and Ethiopia) is high in Incensol and Incensol Acetate, and has been found to be beneficial against cancer, depression and anxiety.

Sacred Frankincense from Oman, is very high in boswellic acids, sesquiterpenes and diterpenes (more on why this is important later).

Boswellia Frereana, the other species that grows in East Africa contains no Boswellic acids, Incensol and Incensol Acetate. It has little to no therapeutic value, being mostly used to burn in churches and for use in perfumes.


Benefits of Sacred Frankincense

Being high in boswellic acids, sesquiterpenes and diterpenes, this essential oil is very psycho-active. Sesquiterpenes are molecules which have the capacity to cross the blood-brain barrier, and so assist in more oxygen and nutrients reaching the human brain.

Sacred Frankincense is great for meditation, spiritual healing and emotional healing. It helps:

  • Dissolve negativity, insecurity and fear
  • Helps to ease feelings of bereavement
  • Reduces re-occurring nightmares
  • Guards your feelings of self-worth and purpose.
  • It fights against feelings of depression and assists with moments of anxiety.

How to use it

  • Breathe it in a handkerchief
  • Diffuse it in your environment
  • Spritz it on cloth in the clothes dryer
  • Add it to your massage oil
  • Add it to a foot bath or your bath-water
  • Add a drop to your personal care products, such as skin care creams.

That concludes our report on Dr Cole Woolley’s visit to Australia

Till Next time,

Cheers

Anthony

About Dr Cole Woolley:

Dr Cole Woolley obtained his doctorate in chemistry from Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah. He has spent 20 years working and consulting with Fortune 500 companies to develop products in the areas of foods, pharmaceuticals, flavours, petrochemicals, beverages, and analytical equipment. While living in Pennsylvania, he developed more than 150 devices and inventions in addition to giving hundreds of technical presentations in many different countries. Dr Woolley’s most recent endeavours have involved the development of nutritional products and subsequently marketing these health and wellness products around the world. He has helped formulate over 50 nutritional products, and has created strong product recognition by way of his expert writing skills.

On the Frankincense Trail in Oman Part One

Last week, I outlined the 3 steps to nutritional balance, as put forward by Dr Cole Woolley. This week and next, I’ll share with you Dr Woolley’s experiences with the harvesting and distillation of Sacred Frankincense (Boswellia Sacra) in Oman. Frankincense resin CANNOT be legally shipped out of Oman, therefore Gary Young of Young Living Essential Oils, decided to build a distillery in Oman itself. The Frankincense oil, distilled from the resin, can legally be shipped out. Most of the photos came to me courtesy of Cole Woolley (Thank you Cole.  :-) ).

Sacred Frankincense (Boswellia Sacra) grows in Yemen, Oman and the island of Socotra. The other species of Frankincense, Boswellia Carterii, grows in East Africa. Picture courtesy of C Woolley

Seed to Seal

Dr Woolley explained to us that Young Living Essential Oils (YLEO) utilise a 5-step Seed to Seal process to ensure its essential oils are potent and  therapeutic grade in quality. Throughout his presentation he used Frankincense as an example of this process. The five steps are:

1.  Seed. Plant species are authenticated by YLEO utilising scientific research, field studies and university partnerships
2.  Cultivation. Plants are cultivated on YLEO farms or on partner/co-op farms where these farms meet YLEO’s strict quality standards. If YLEO have to buy from other farms/producers, the guiding principle is that they want them AS IS, nothing added and nothing subtracted – Pure and unadulterated.
3.  Distillation. Essential oils are distilled in the correct manner, utilising a proprietary low-temperature, low-pressure steam distillation process. This ensures beneficial compounds in the plant’s oil remain uncompromised.
4.  Testing. Oils extracted have to go through stringent testing – at least 7 major tests before they are ready for shipping. This ensures that the optimal natural compounds are present in the oil. YLEO uses its own labs, in addition to third-party audits, to check that international purity and potency standards are met and surpassed.
5.  Seal. Each bottle is carefully sealed. Research and testing continue on the finished product to add to the growing knowledge bank on essential oils.

With that explained, let’s see how the process worked with Sacred Frankincense in Oman.

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