The oldest of all incense ingredients is frankincense which also called gum olibanum. It is really hard to find this kind of tree because if it’s found, the locations are carefully guarded and very secret. We can consider this tree as treasure because for a thousand of years of its use, they are still invaluable part of the incense world. This tree is originating in southern Arabia and harvested from trees that are often grown in groves.
Frankincense is tapped by slashing the bark or stripping and allows the exuded resins to bleed out and harden. The hardened resin is called tears, the unprocessed form in pea sized pellets. There are numerous grades of frankincense but even the lowest quality is a true treasure.
The use of frankincense in incense is well suited in cone, sticks, cylinders, coils, cutouts, powdered incense and loose incense. You don’t need too much of this kind of ingredients because too much can produce heavy smoke. The scent is sweet and even small quantities are enough for making incense. What is usually done by incorporating frankincense tears as ingredients is mortar and pestle along with hand sifter.
It was known many years ago that incense would refer to frankincense. In the 5th Century BCE, it was imported to Rome. The one bringing this precious resins to the waiting people living in Europe and Asia who will buy this fragrant gift from the earth as precious as gold were the perilous caravan traveling more than a thousand miles.
In Christianity, frankincense is famous as one of the tree gifts of Jesus Christ born on the manger. By including frankincense with gold and myrrh, it shows how frankincense was valuable to the ancient world. Not only Christians and Jewish traditions valued frankincense as part of their religious ceremonies and rites, but also pagans by associating frankincense with the sun and masculine influences that has numerous positive associations. Buddhists are also using frankincense especially China and Japan as aromatic for their rites as a great gift from nature and offering to Gods and Goddesses.
What is really present in frankincense that makes it important in religious rites and ceremonies? According to the ancient world, the plant spirits of these resins is said to invoke the Devine. It creates atmosphere that enhance meditation, reduces stress and tension, and uplifts one spiritually. The presence of frankincense aromas heightens spiritual realm hidden physically. Thus, real incense is with frankincense combined with essential oils and finely ground woods such as sandalwood.