Frankincense is an example of an amazing medicinal herb, esteemed in antiquity but almost unknown today. Unlike other herbs, what makes Frankincense special is the fact that it is cultivated for its resin which is made by making incisions into its trunk a few times a year.
The tree then secretes a milky like sap which hardens into "tears' which are then scraped off and allowed to dry. The appearance of the milky sap probably explains the ancient Semitic names "Levona' in Hebrew which is close to the word "white" and Lubban in Arabic.
In ancient Rome the plant was known as "Olibanum" and the plant was already one of the most important trade commodities of the Near East. Although Frankincense grows in hot desert areas near the Red Sea, the best Frankincense appears to come from Oman where the ancient trade routes for bringing it to the West began.
Frankincense was used by the ancient Egyptians for medicine, cosmetics and perfume. For the Israelite's it became a sacred plant and was the base of holy incense used in the Temple in Jerusalem. Today, Frankincense is still used in the Catholic Church and other Eastern Churches.
Frankincense has been used throughout the ages for a wide variety of physical ailments, such as rheumatism, respiratory and digestive problems and in rejuvenating skin treatments. Perhaps the fact that it grows in such a harsh climate gives the resin protective qualities.
The most interesting recent scientific research corroborates its usage in houses of worship. Frankincense was found to have measurable physiological effects on the slowing the rate of breathing thus making it relaxing and enhancing prayer and meditation.