October 12, 2013
Frankincense: Sacra, Carteri or Seratta? The Science and Scents
With Frankincense from three Boswellia tree species, and three distillation methods, which one do you choose? Boswellia Sacra, Boswellia Carteri or Boswellia Seratta? Steam, Hydro, or Supercritical CO2 distilled? What are the differences and similarities? Well, here's the scoop!
'Frankincense' itself is the dried resin or 'sap' from one of several species of Boswellia trees: Boswellia Sacra, Boswellia Carteri and Seratta (there are others, though these make up the vast majority of the world's trade of Frankincense). When the resin is dried, it forms drops called 'tears'.
The essential oil, no matter the method used, is distilled from these tears. One can imagine a giant vat of Frankincense, which is 'washed' in a 'solvent'.
- Steam distillation: Steam is passed through the tears from below, captured and cooled back to (liquid) water. The essential oil floats on top of this water (this water is actually a 'hydrosol')...the oil and water are separated by draining the water from below.This is the highest-temperature method of distilling Frankincense oil, producing the 'highest-noted' aroma. The molecular 'spectrum' contains the smallest aromatic molecules of the distillation methods. One of our Boswellia carteri varieties is steam distilled, and represents a magnificent SD Frankincense.
- Hydro-distillation: This is similar to steam distillation in that water is used as the 'solvent' to extract the essential oil - however, because the Frankincense is 'boiled' rather than 'steamed', the distillation happens at no higher than 212 degrees Fahrenheit.
This produces an oil with a broader-spectrum of molecular constituents, and more middle notes than high, as in steam distillation. This process is used for our Sacred Frankincense.
- CO2 distillation: Rather than using steam or water as the 'solvent', pressurized carbon dioxide is made liquid and passed through the Frankincense resin. When the pressure is released, the CO2 turns to gas and is released. This is a totally 'clean' process, which is certified organic.
The CO2 oils contain the highest amount of middle and lower notes, and hence the greatest amount of larger molecules that are found in Frankincense resin itself. Our Frankincense Cateri and Seratta oils are available using this distillation process.
Depending on the source of the Frankincense resin, which is all wild grown and ethically-harvested (leaving the trees unharmed), the aroma of the final oil is different. The Carteri has a lovely citrus-woody aroma. The Seratta has deep, smokey notes not found in other Frankincense varieties. The Sacra has incredible brilliance, with a rich aroma of sweet high notes and complex middle tones.
The Science of Frankincense
Each of these oils has been successfully scientifically investigated for its anti-cancer properties. To see this research, go to pubmed.gov and search 'Frankincense and Cancer' You will find pages of research publications noting the anti-caner actions in each and every cell line for which it has been tested: Blood, brain, breast, bladder, prostate and more.
In many of this research, Frankincense oils and extracts have shown to induce natural cell death in cancer cells, at concentrations which have left healthy cells unaffected.
So, the research notes it does not matter which Frankincense one uses for this purpose, as they all show the same anti-cancer action.
Which Frankincense is Best for You?
We believe it best to choose the Frankincense oil which has an aroma which you most appreciate. Frankincense is considered THE immune-system modulator, assisting the immune system in whatever way it needs. Further, Frankincense is used for its anti-anxiety properties, and in topical formulas for inflammation reduction.
So really, ANY of the Frankincense oils at Ananda will do what you'd like it to - experience the one you enjoy most!