Origins, tradition and composition
Incense, or olibanum, is the resin of the of the boswellia tree, which is used primarily for religious purposes, but now also increasingly for medical purposes once more. Boswellia (incense) was recognised centuries ago for its positive effects in the treatment of inflammatory disorders. In Ancient Egypt, incense was also called “fragrance of the gods” or “divine substance”. The boswellia tree belongs to the Burseraceae family. The stock plant is primarily found throughout India. African boswellia is native to Somalia, Eritrea and Ethiopia, while the Arabian boswellia tree is found in South Arabia.
Boswellia serrata is a species of boswellia native to India. Most scientific investigations have been conducted using the incense resin from Boswellia serrata (Indian incense). Boswellia serrata is therefore regarded as the best-studied species of boswellia. The resin is obtained by making an incision into the bark of the trunk and thick branches of boswellia trees, causing a milky sap to emerge, which hardens to form gum resin. The resin contains essential oils (5–9 %), resin acid (15–16 %), ether-insoluble constituents(25–30 %), ether-soluble constituents (45– 55 %).
Facts & figures