Of numerous fragrances available today, frankincense is probably the oldest one you will ever know. Its soothing and calming aromatic properties have made it one of the most recognized perfume fixative out there.
But its fragrance still comes as a surprise each time. Sometimes it’s lemony and musky; other times, it’s earthy and woody. It also at times smell fruity for people who love the mild fragrance.
This versatile and ancient perfume additive has a long history and numerous properties we are sure you didn’t know yet.
So let us delve into this charismatic perfume fixative to know more about its origin, fragrance, and properties.
Where Does Frankincense Come From?
Frankincense is one of the oldest ingredients you will ever know. It comes from five species of Boswellia trees.
These trees are found in North Africa, India, Oman, Yemen, and Western Africa.
The tress mostly resembles a deserted bonsai. It is all gnarled and knotty.
Frankincense is collected from these trees through a particular procedure.
Harvesters make incisions into the trunk and scrape out the oozing sap. This oozing sap hardens into frankincense resin. Everything from the bark of the tree to the sap inside has a unique fragrance.
Collecting frankincense from these trees isn’t any less than a task.
The changes in soil and temperature each year change the resin’s quality, quantity, and fragrance extracted from the tree.
This frankincense resin, when held in your hand, looks like a golden resin.
The dried sap is also burned as incense, as it has numerous medicinal properties as well.
Deconstructing Frankincense Scent
Frankincense has a different smell depending on the species of the Boswellia trees it is extracted from.
Omanis who trade frankincense say it has a lemony musky odor. Frankincense from India has a woody and fruity smell.
But all agree to the fact that it has an incredibly powerful fragrance. So when it comes to perfumes and candles, it is used in relatively tiny proportions.
Usually referred to as woody and sweet with lemon notes, frankincense resin is an ingredient that created a lot of curiosity among scientists.
A few years ago, research was carried out to decode the mixed dense fragrance of frankincense.
And it was concluded that frankincense appeared to be rooted in trace amounts of two isomers of rare carboxylic acid. One was cis, and the other was trans-olibanic acid.
Both of these carboxylic acids are very potent and substantive odorants. These acids provide frankincense ancient churchlike fragrance.
Whenever mixed with any other substance, frankincense easily blends with other additives, creating a new fragrance of its own.
What Does Frankincense Mix Well With?
Frankincense is often used as a fixative in perfumes rather than as a critical ingredient. This is because it has a very overpowering smell when used in a larger proportion for bouquets. So it is often blended with the following ingredients to create a different fragrance.
Citrus Oils like Lime, Lemon, and Wild Orange
The mixture of frankincense and citrus oils like lime, lemon, and wild orange creates a mild fruity fragrance. Frankincense blends with citrus oils easily and reduces the sweetness, eventually creating a unique scent. If you are more into soft aromas, this could indeed be your charm.
Cypress has a fresh and clean aroma, sometimes herbaceous, other times spicy and slightly woody. Frankincense mixes well with cypress creating calming therapeutic fragrance used in perfumes and essential oils. This combination is widely used in aromatherapy for its soothing mild scent.
Frankincense blends exceptionally well with lavender creating a mild flowery scent. Frankincense is added as a fixative to avoid overpowering dense musky fragrance. This blend of lavender and frankincense fragrance is gentle and hence relieves stress and anxiety. It is also used in aromatherapy.
If you are more into dense earthy, fruity, and citrus fragrances, a combination of frankincense and Geranium could just be for you. Most of the intense fruity perfumes with green and peppery smells have frankincense and geranium as primary ingredients. Frankincense mixes well with geranium creating a dense and robust scent.
Frankincense mixes easily with rose to create an aroma of tenderness. Rich resin-based frankincense combined with rose creates a sweet floral undertone. The smell of frankincense goes well with rose quite well.
Frankincense and Patchouli have a woody, earthy aroma. Both of these ingredients are used as perfume fixatives. Patchouli easily blends with frankincense and hence is used mostly in perfumes.
Why Does A Scent Smell Differently on Different People?
Every scent smells different on every individual. Whether you share your perfume with your sister or borrow your best friend’s, you are always going to smell a tad bit different.
The reason is no mystery for people who know biology and chemistry. But if you don’t, here’s what you should know about perfumes.
Every individual has a different pH level, skin acidity, and hormone balance. These factors influence how the perfume you use smells. These can either strengthen the notes of perfume or can weaken it.
Also, if your skin is dry, combination or oily as well matters the most when it comes to perfumes.
The soaps, lotion, body oil, beard wash and shower gell you use get deep into your skin and react with the perfume’s fragrance.
Even the food that you have had before applying the perfume can impact its smell. Your skin throws out the glucose or the acids you consumed through the skin pores. It reacts with the perfume constituents creating a unique scent for each individual.
So these are all the factors that make each perfume smell different on each individual. It is one of the reasons why many people consider investing in customized perfumes.
The next time you go shopping for perfume, make sure you have not used any body oil or lotion.
Also, don’t just invest all your money in a perfume that your best friend uses because you loved its fragrance. Try scents on yourself before buying them.
History of Frankincense
By now, you already know a lot about this golden resin and its aromatic characteristics. But there is a broader history all over the world related to frankincense.
Though best known for its use in incense and perfumes, frankincense is considered as a wise man’s cure. It is one of the offerings to Christ after his birth and thus is often found in the church these days.
Others believe Babylonians and Assyrians burned it during their religious ceremonies.
The ancient Greeks burned them during cremations and used them for a wide variety of ailments.
People soon realized the medical properties of frankincense and began using it as a medicine.
Later on, in the first century A.D. Roman historian and botanist Pliny, the Elder, wrote that frankincense is an antidote to hemlock poisoning.
She also considered it one of the reasons why Southern Arabians are the wealthiest people on the earth. Southern Arabians started creating and exporting magnificent perfumes with frankincense in the world.
This broader history signifies why frankincense is one of the most expensive additives to perfumes even today.
But later on, this substance fell out of Europe and started being exported to all the parts of the world. The fall of the Roman Empire led to the export of frankincense across the globe.
Does frankincense smell like patchouli?
No frankincense and patchouli do not smell similar. Frankincense gives a sweet woody smell with notes of lemons. At the same time, patchouli has a natural, earthy scent that smells like dark black mud.
But both of these additives create a unique aroma when mixed together. They blend well and are one of the few essential ingredients in perfumes, aromatherapy, and candles.
What is frankincense scent good for?
Frankincense has few exceptional aromatic properties. The scent of frankincense is good to promote the feeling of relaxation, peace, and overall wellness.
It also improves cellular functioning. The slightly woodsy aroma of frankincense is used mainly for meditation and other spiritual yogic practices.
What are the spiritual benefits of Frankincense?
Frankincense is a symbol of deity given to baby Jesus. Frankincense is burned at places of worship for spiritual purposes and contemplation.
It is also used to refine the smell and reduce contagion by purifying the indoor air. Apart from that, it is used during various yogic practices.
With a broader history across the globe, frankincense is used for various spiritual practices.
Why is frankincense so expensive?
The number of Boswellia Sacra trees decreases due to overharvesting and over-extraction of the frankincense resins. There are a fewer number of trees producing frankincense, but the demand is continuously increasing.
This makes it an expensive additive to perfumes.
The baby Jesus loved frankincense for its therapeutic aroma, and so did we humans. The aromatic musty pine with citrus notes and spice makes it even more appealing as a perfume fixative.
So whether you love a mild fragrance with a flowery scent or dense, dark, and musky notes, frankincense can be used for all.
Widely used in aromatherapy for its soothing and calming nature, we are sure this ancient additive will surely be a part of your life.
Maximo is the ideator behind Getastylehub.com. He graduated from the Grasse Institute of Perfumery (GIP) in France in the year 2003. His learnings in the field of perfumery have been immensely educative and helpful in creating new fragrances at a creative centre in Manhattan where Maximo works as a perfumer. He has a fine appreciation for incense’s art, and his colossal passion for perfumery reflects in his discussions. He has managed and led teams in his past working experience researching scents with its key clients.