Nearly everyone has heard of frankincense – after all, it has a prominent role in one of the most famous stories ever told. Religious leaders, healers, and others have been using frankincense for thousands of years. But what does frankincense actually smell like? The answer might surprise you.
What is Frankincense?
Originating in the Arabian Peninsula, frankincense is a resin extracted from the trunk of the Boswellia tree, which features papery, peeling bark and leaves clustered at the ends of tangled branches. The tree grows in the Middle East, in locations with arid soil and very low humidity. The resin protects the tree, leaking out of cuts or gashes in the bark and forming a thick barrier that acts somewhat like a scab to protect the wound as it heals.
The Boswellia tree does not give up its precious resin easily, though. Releasing the resin requires cutting or tapping a mature Boswellia tree that is at least 10 years old. The resin then appears as droplets that harden naturally when they contact air. Darker frankincense resins have more intense aromas compared with frankincense resins of a lighter color.
Often referred to as the “king of oils,” frankincense is one of the most specific and recognizable scents on earth. In fact, you have likely smelled it before without realizing what it was. Churches, healers, aromatherapy and essential oils enthusiasts, and perfume and fragrance makers all prize frankincense for its aroma.
What Does Frankincense Smell Like?
Frankincense has a very pleasant earthy scent that features musty pine notes, along with citrus, peppery and spicy undertones with a slightly smoky odor. The citrusy scent of frankincense makes it smell uplifting; the citrus aroma also smells cool, which is probably why it has been so popular in the Middle East for thousands of years. Pure frankincense is smokey, rather than woody, which makes it perfect for religious practices. The aroma of frankincense is quite similar to rosemary, with its piney, sharp scent.
Since it is a natural product derived from a variety of trees included in the Boswellia tree species, the scent of frankincense can vary, someone likes the flavor of a fine wine from one year to the next. Many factors, such as local soil conditions and changes in weather, can affect the scent of frankincense. Despite these factors, the overall distinct aroma of frankincense remains the same.
What About Burning Frankincense?
When burned, frankincense smells like you would expect it to – it smells like incense. Distilling frankincense into essential oil causes the resin to give off a slightly sweeter, brighter aroma, which makes frankincense a good addition to perfumes and other scented items.
Frankincense Aromatherapy Uses
The aromas and undertones of frankincense make it perfect for a variety of uses, including aromatherapy. Frankincense aromatherapy uses include promoting feelings of relaxation, peace, and overall wellness. When combined with other ingredients to create a salve, frankincense can also soothe soreness and achy joints associated with an active lifestyle. Frankincense CBD salve creates a soothing action on a cellular level, all while smelling exotic and familiar at the same time.