Information about incense resin and instructions for use
Table of Contents
Oliban resin or Frankincense
Other significant tree species
Frankincense resin usage instructions
Incense resins are natural hardened resins produced by rubber trees. In its pure form, resin is the size of a small pearl and often teardrop-shaped grains. When fresh, the resins are fragrant, although some resins do not produce much fragrance before burning.
Incense resin is obtained from living trees by running, after which the resin is dried. Leaching is done according to the principle of sustainable development, which ensures the preservation of the tree's vitality. Incense resin is incense in its purest form, as it is obtained directly from the tree without adding anything extra to it.
The most well-known incense resins are, for example, benzoin, frankincense, copal and myrrh. The dried resin can be burned either as is or mixed with other fragrant substances such as essential oils, dried flower petals or small pieces of wood.
The history of incense resin
Natural incense have been used all over the world for thousands of years. Incense is classified as an aromatic substance that, when burned, spreads a fragrance into the environment. Naturally, the invention of fire gave the impetus to the use of various incenses.
Resin incense has a unique fragrant history and has been used for many millennia for many purposes. The fragrance of burnt resin is associated with purification, religious rituals, increased spiritual awareness, and experiences of pure pleasure. Today's commercial incense sticks do not match the exotic and mysterious fragrance produced by incense resin.
In Europe, the most well-known use of resin is probably during church ceremonies, while in Arabia, resin is burned for example during weddings, the birth of a child, and funerals. In Oman, it is quite common to burn olibanum resin at home when receiving guests.
In Arab countries, especially Bakhoor incense is still highly valued in the 21st century both for religious purposes and for home use. Bakhoor is wood chips dipped in fragrant oils, mixed with other fragrant ingredients such as resins, essential oils and pieces of fragrant trees such as sandalwood and agarwood. There is an almost unlimited number of different fragranted mixes, so there is sure to be a pleasant fragrance for everyone.
In some Arab countries, it has been a tradition for the host of the party to arrange a large censer filled with bakhoor for the party, from which the guests can release the incense smoke towards themselves. This is considered a sign of the host's hospitality.
Oliban resin or Frankincense
Frankincense is one of the oldest commercial commodities dating back more than 5000 years. Its woody and sweet aromatic fragrance is a sought after item; thousands of tons of it are sold every year, and buyers include e.g. the Roman Catholic Church, the perfume industry and manufacturers of natural medicines and essential oils.
Frankincense essential oil has several properties beneficial to health. The oil is an effective antiseptic that has been applied to wounds to prevent infections. In addition, it promotes digestion, helps in the treatment of insomnia, relieves stress and promotes healing from diseases. Burnt frankincense is popular as a support for prayers and meditation, as its aromatic fragrance is grounding and promotes spiritual balance.
Frankincense resin production
Frankincense resin comes from Boswellia trees belonging to the Burseraceae family, also called the olibanum tree. The trees start producing resin when they are about eight years old, and the resin is collected two to three times a year. A shallow incision is made in the tree and part of the bark is removed. The resin oozing from the incision is drained into a container where the resin hardens under the influence of oxygen into small balls (i.e. "to tears"). The resin is collected after two to three weeks and sorted by hand according to quality.
The value of the resin is determined by its color, the size of the tear and the composition of the oil. The resin harvested from the tree varies by species and also within the same species according to local climatic conditions. In general, the lightest, opaque small grains are the most valuable.
Boswellia sacra growing on the steep slopes of Oman is more like a bush than a tree. The tree grows to a height of about 2-2.5 meters even in stony soil, and often the most unforgiving soil gives the tree the best resin. The best quality resin is obtained from the tree, which is called hojari. This kind of thing is created in the microclimate of the Dhofar Mountains when the area is covered in fog before the start of the summer monsoon.
Boswellia sacra also commonly grows in eastern and northern Somalia, where the tree reaches a height of up to eight meters. Somalia is one of the biggest producers of resin, and incense resin is produced here in abundance for the needs of the Roman Catholic Church. The resin produced in Somalia is of high quality, but cheaper than that produced in Oman.
Other notable tree species that produce frankincense resin are Boswellia carterii and Boswellia frereana trees growing in the Horn of Africa, boswellia serrata growing in India and boswellia serrata growing in Ethiopia, Eritrea and Sudan Boswellia papyrifera.
The vitality of frankincense trees
The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) warned in 1998 that one of the most important frankincense species Boswellia sacra is “near threatened”. Frankincense trees are not covered by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, but experts say Boswellia species meet the criteria for protection.
In a 2006 study, an ecologist from Wageningen University & Research claimed that by the late 1990s Boswellia papyriferia trees were hard to find in Eritrea. In 2019, National geographic magazine predicted a 50% decline in Boswellia papyrifera over the next two decades. This species, found mainly in Ethiopia, Eritrea and Sudan, accounts for about two-thirds of global incense production.
The paper warns that all Boswellia species are threatened by habitat loss and overexploitation. Most Boswellias grow in harsh, arid regions plagued by poverty and conflict. Harvesting and selling tree resin is one of the residents' only sources of income, which leads to overcapacity.
Other significant tree species
Benzoin resin is a common ingredient in mixed incense fragrances and in the perfume industry. Benzoin is also one of the ingredients in Bakhoor incense popular in Arab countries. The resin of the resin thorax has a cinnamon-like scent, while the tonkin styrax has a sweet vanilla scent.
Benzoin softens the skin and heals wounds. It can be used to support regular skin care and is also suitable for healing eczema, ulcers and pigmentation disorders. In aromatherapy, benzoin is relaxing and harmonizing, but also euphoric and sensual.
The most common copal tree resins come from the Protium copal tree growing in Central America and the Hymenaea verrucosa tree growing in East Africa. The white, hard, milky and sticky resin is the most prized, while the yellow-like resin is more affordable. The copal tree grows in a tropical rain forest, preferably in a shady place to a height of about 30 meters.
Copal is still used as an incense during sacred ceremonies by several indigenous peoples of Mexico and other Central America. In the 1700s and 1900s, the resin obtained from the copal tree was a valued ingredient in the production of good wood varnish, when it was widely used in the manufacture of furniture and carriages.
As an incense, Copal is used to relieve stress and remove feelings of depression, anxiety and stagnation. In sacred ceremonies it is used to purify the energy of spaces, places and objects. Copal incense has a clean, light and woody fragrance that is slightly reminiscent of frankincense.
Copal incense is popular as an aid to meditation. It connects to the crown chakra, deepens the connection with the mystical and encourages positive thoughts. The fragrance helps strengthen the solar body and remove stagnant energy.
Dragon's blood is a bright red resin that has been used since ancient times as a medicine, incense, and dye. Incense resin comes mainly from plants of the genus Croton, Dracaena, Daemonorops and Dracaena cinnabari.
Dragon blood's fragrance is sweet and soft, and is masculine in nature. Its rich fragrance is perfect for creating a soothing and relaxing atmosphere. For centuries, dragon's blood has been used for protection, cleaning of spaces and objects, combating negative energies and raising sexual energy.
Myrrh is most commonly known as one of the gifts that the three wise men gave to Jesus. Myrrh was an important herb in the Bible as it was used as a spice, natural medicine and to cleanse the dead. In the Bible, myrrh is mentioned more than a hundred times.
The myrrh used as incense most commonly comes from Commiphora myrrha trees. Myrrh comes from East Africa and the southern parts of the Arabian Peninsula and belongs to the Burseraceae family of trees that produce resins that smell like frankincense. Aromatic resin is obtained from the myrrh tree by making an incision in the bark of the tree, from which the resin flows out.
Myrrh has already been highly valued in biblical times, especially in the Middle East and the Mediterranean region. The hard-to-find myrrh was only used as an ingredient in the most valuable incenses, perfumes and cosmetics. Today, myrrh is popular in church ceremonies, and most of the myrrh imported to Europe is used as incense in Catholic and Orthodox church ceremonies.
Myrrh has been used for thousands of years in traditional healing treatments and in religious ceremonies. In addition to incense, the most common uses of myrrh have been as a spice and as an antiseptic for cleaning and treating wounds. In ancient times, myrrh was also mixed with different oils and anointed on the body.
Instructions for using resin incense
There are many ways to release the aromas stored in the incense resin. The common thing, however, is that the incense resin itself does not burn, but an external heat source is always needed to burn it. The methods of use are somewhat different from each other and it is good to familiarize yourself with the matter before starting to use it.
Burning resin with coals
The most popular way to burn incense resin is to place the resin on a red-hot coal. The aromatic fragrance is quickly released into the environment, but somewhat more smoke is also produced. It is easy to adjust the intensity of the fragrance by the amount of burning resin. Due to the formation of smoke, a sufficient supply of replacement air must be ensured. In addition, glowing coal produces a high temperature, so special attention must also be paid to fire safety.
- Fire-safe platform
- Small stones or fine sand
- Coal handling equipment
- Incense charcoal
- Incense resin
A flat, bowl-like, heat-resistant dish is best suited as a base. Cast iron pots are available from the Suitsukekauppa, which are well suited for the task.
Fill about ¾ of the base with small stones or fine sand. The purpose of the sand or stones is to absorb part of the heat produced by the charcoal. After this, place the tray on a heat-resistant surface, as the bottom of the tray heats up during use and can damage sensitive surfaces.
Ignite the charcoal from the edge by holding the charcoal with tongs. The charcoal sparks slightly when lit, place the charcoal on a fire-proof surface and let the charcoal ignite all over for about 5-15 minutes. The charcoal is properly ignited when it is covered with a thin layer of gray ash.
Place the incense resin on the hot charcoal. First, start with a small amount, for example one grain or a small scoop of fine powder. Larger pieces release aromas longer, while finely ground resin releases aromas faster. Incense resin can be ground smaller in a mortar, for example.
When enough incense resin has been burned, you can leave the charcoal on the base to fade away. Please note, however, that depending on the size of the charcoal, the charcoal can still release heat after several hours! If there is no time to guard the hot coal, you can wet the charcoal with water.
Vaporizing resin using a scent lantern
The aromas contained in incense resin can also be released with the help of a aroma oil burner. The process is a little simpler, but the control of the strength of the fragrance improves after several uses.
- Ceramic aroma oil burner
- Vegetable oil
- Small candle
- Incense resin
Any ceramic aroma oil burner is suitable for vaporizing incense resin. Pour about 1-2 tablespoons of plant-based oil into the cup of the aroma oil burner. Olive oil is also suitable, but it has a slight fragrance itself. Thicker oils such as jojoba and coconut oil are not suitable for the purpose. Also avoid using water as it evaporates faster.
Add about a teaspoon of grounded incense resin to the oil. If the resin is in larger pieces, you can add a few pieces of the same size to the oil. After that, light the candle and place it in the lower part of the aroma oil burner.
If you haven't tried burning incense resin yet, I strongly recommend you to try it. Burning resin can seem awkward at first, but after a couple of experiences, the use becomes smoother. The Suitsukekauppa's selection includes the most important incense resins and accessories for a smooth user experience.
At its best, burning incense is a ritual-like delivery, where the haste shines through its absence. Lighting the charcoal and waiting a moment for it to get glowing hot creates a solid foundation for an unhurried moment. When the incense resin is finally sprinkled on the red glowing charcoal and the exotic and pure aromas released from it are released into the environment, rush and stress give way to relaxation.
Enjoyable fragrance moments with incense resin!