Probably best known from the Nativity story, Frankincense derived from the resin of a tree called Boswellia. It has an interesting history. In Hebrew, its name is levonah, meaning "white;" in Arabic, a closely-related language, it is 'al-luban, a term referring to milk; the name of the modern country of Lebanon is derived from both. However, it came to be known as "frankincense" when crusaders - many of whom were French or "Frankish" - introduced it as incense to Europe during the Middle Ages.
Frankincense is an aromatic resin hardened from exuded gums obtained from trees of the genus Boswellia (Burseraceae family). The resin has been used in incense, medicine, and fumigants, as well as a fixative in perfumes. Aroma from these resins is valued for its superior qualities for religious rituals since before the time of ancient Egyptians.
Frankincense derived from the gummy sap that oozes out of the Boswellia trees. When their bark is cut, the leaking resin is allowed to harden and scraped off the trunk in tear-shaped droplets.
Frankincense resin drying on tree.
Frankincense resin used for centuries in cosmetics, medicine, and religious ritual.
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