Biblical Aromatherapy

A Comprehensive Guide to
Buying, Blending and Using Essential Oils
For Healing
With Plants Mentioned in the Bible

Robert Bike, LMT

Reiki Master
Massage Therapy


Boswellia Carterii

This is taken from the frankincense chapter of the book Biblical Aromatherapy, A Comprehensive Guide to Buying, Blending and Using Essential Oils For Healing With Plants Mentioned in the Bible, by Robert L. Bike.

Copyright 1999 & 2013

Read an excerpt from the Introduction.

Frankincense is one of the most important oils in the Bible, with 24 citings, all but two in the Old Testament. The Greek libanos is derived from the Hebrew levohnah, which comes from a root word meaning white, evidently from its milky color. Related to the terebinth (turpentine) tree and to trees producing balsam and myrrh, bushes and trees of genus Boswellia produce a milky juice.

The frankincense tree grows to about 25 feet high. The flowers are star-shaped, white or green with a red tip. The leaves are compound, seven to nine serrated glossy leaflets. Frankincense gum is harvested by making successive cuts in the bark or by peeling off the bark at intervals, causing a white milk-like juice to flow and form into tears about one inch long. When exposed to air, the frankincense milk dries into a fragrant gum resin that has a bitter taste but a wonderful aromatic aroma when burned (Song of Solomon 3:6). The essential oil is extracted by steam distillation of the gum resin, which is about 10% oil. The oil is pale yellow to green with a spicy lemony top note and a warm, rich, sweet, balsamic undertone.

Frankincense was a principal item carried by the caravans of Asian traders who traveled the spice routes out of Arabia to Gaza and Damascus. Isaiah 60:6 and Jeremiah 6:20 state that it was imported in this way into Palestine from Sheba. Sheba was a wealthy kingdom located in the eastern portion of the Yemen Arab Republic known for its gold, frankincense, myrrh, precious stones and ivory. Sheba dominated the caravan routes from Arabia and India. Jesus commented that the Queen of Sheba who visited Solomon was "the queen of the south" and that she "came from the ends of the earth" (Matthew 12:42). Harib, the old capital of Sheba, was about 1,300 miles southeast of Jerusalem. Jesus said that the Queen of Sheba, who made a very long and difficult journey to hear Solomon's wisdom, would rise up in the judgment and condemn the men of his generation (Luke 11:31) because the Jews who did not recognize who Jesus was, but claimed to be servants of Jehovah, did not pay attention to him.

Solomon mentions "the hill of frankincense" (Song of Solomon 4:6), possibly in a figurative way, but he may have indicated the cultivation of frankincense trees in his royal parks (Ecclesiastes 2:5; Song of Solomon 4:12-16).

Frankincense was an ingredient of the Holy Incense used at the sanctuary. "And YHWH went on to say to Moses: 'Take to yourself perfumes: stacte drops and onycha and perfumed galbanum and pure frankincense. There should be the same portion of each. And you must make it into an incense, a spice mixture, the work of an ointment maker, salted, pure, something holy. And you must pound some of it into fine powder and put some of it before the Testimony in the tent of meeting, where I shall present myself to you. It should be most holy to you people. And the incense that you will make with this composition, you must not make for yourselves. For it is to continue as something holy to YHWH. Whoever makes any like it to enjoy its smell must be cut off from his people'" (Exodus 30:34-38).

Stacte, from the Greek verb stazo, 'drip,' was a balsam that dropped from resinous trees, probably a plant in the myrrh family. Since onycha was used for a sacred purpose, it probably was a vegetable product, though what was meant is unknown. Galbanum increases the intensity of the fragrance and makes the fragrance last longer. The incense was salted under the Mosaic Law not because of flavor but because salt represented freedom from corruption or decay (Leviticus 2:13; Ezekial 43:24). Large quantities of salt evidently were stored on the temple grounds for this purpose (Ezra 6:9; 7:21-22).

The Holy Incense was not a substance that would smolder and smoke; it was a special incense for the Ark of the Covenant, the meeting tent, for special offerings and in the temple (Exodus 30:7; 40:27; Leviticus 16:12; 2 Chronicles 2:4). The incense was carefully blended, finely powdered and sifted to obtain a uniform substance. Private use was a capital crime (Exodus 30:38; Leviticus 24:16; Numbers 15:35).

At a later time, rabbinic Jews added other ingredients to the temple incense. Josephus (37-100 C.E.), a Jewish general and historian said it was made from 13 sweet-smelling spices. According to the Spanish-born Jewish philosopher Maimonides (1135-1204 C.E.), some of these extra items included amber, cassia, cinnamon, costus, myrrh, saffron, spikenard, sweet bark and an herb called "the smoke-raiser," known only to a few, a secret passed down by the priesthood. Almost two pounds of incense were burned every day in the temple.

Frankincense was used on offerings (Leviticus 2:1-2, 15-16), as it was "a pleasing odor to YHWH." The people put it on grain offerings (Jeremiah 17:26).

Frankincense was added to each row of the showbread of the sanctuary (Leviticus 24:7). The bread was stacked in two piles consisting of six loaves or layers each. Pure frankincense was put on each stack. Jewish tradition says that the frankincense was put in golden vessels and not directly on the bread. When the showbread was removed on the Sabbath, the frankincense is said to have burned on the altar. Frankincense was not to be included on sin offerings (Leviticus 5:11) or on the "cereal offering of jealousy" (Numbers 5:15), because they were for sin or error, and were not offered up as a sacrifice of praise or thanksgiving to Jehovah.

Frankincense was stored in the rebuilt temple buildings following the return from Babylonian exile (Nehemiah 13:5, 9; 1 Chronicles 9:29).

Isaiah records Jehovah's displeasure and disapproval of gifts and the use of frankincense when offered by those who reject his Word (Isaiah 66:3).

The "wise men from the East" who visited the child Jesus brought frankincense with them (Matthew 2:11). Legend says that there were three of them, and they had three kinds of gifts: gold, frankincense and myrrh. The Bible does not say that there were three, nor does it say that they were 'wise,' 'kings,' 'magicians,' nor 'astrologers.' Rather, it calls them magoi (Matthew 2:1). The word is derived from 'magu,' a Persian word for Zoroastrian priests. These priests of Babylon studied the stars and their influences on human events. They were master astrologers. Their names were Melchior, Gasper and Balthazar. According to medieval legend, after their death their bodies were taken by Helena, the mother of the first Christian emperor Constantine I, to Constantinople. From there, the bodies were moved to Milan and still later to Cologne, Germany. The bodies are now buried in the Cologne Cathedral and they are sometimes referred to as the 'Three Kings of Cologne.'

Matthew 2:11 tells us that when the magoi "went into the house they saw the young child." Apparently by the time they got there, Joseph, Mary and Jesus were living in a house, not in the stable scene we so often see at Christmas. Matthew used the Greek word paidion, which can refer an older child, such as one able to speak and play games in the marketplace (Luke 7:32). Another indication that Jesus was no longer a newborn is that when the magoi did not return, Herod ordered the killing of "all the male children in Bethlehem and in all that region who were two years old or under" (Matthew 2:16).

1 Infancy 3:1-2 tells a similar story. "And it came to pass, when the Lord Jesus was born at Bethlehem, a city of Judea, in the time of Herod the King; the wise men came from the East to Jerusalem, according to the prophecy of Zoroaster, and brought with them offerings: namely, gold, frankincense, and myrrh, and worshipped him, offering their gifts to him. Then the Lady Mary took one of his swaddling clothes in which the infant was wrapped, and gave it to them instead of a blessing, which they received from her as a most noble present."

Paul spoke of "the fragrance of the knowledge of" Jesus (2 Corinthians 2:14-16).

The Greek term for the censer (Revelation 8:3, 5), an incense vessel, is libanotos, derived from the Hebrew word for frankincense. Frankincense is mentioned as one of the items of commerce sold to Babylon the Great before her destruction (Revelation 18:11-13).

Frankincense was used as an incense by ancient civilizations in India, China, the Middle East and Egypt since the beginning of recorded time. Frankincense is still used during the Catholic mass. Egypt also used it in a rejuvenating face mask, cosmetics, perfumes and for fumigating and embalming. It has been used medicinally both in the East and the West for a wide range of conditions, including digestion, the nervous system, respiratory infections, rheumatism, skin diseases, syphilis and urinary tract infections.

Frankincense was one of the Seven Sacred Oils of Egypt. The other six are chamomile, jasmine, lavender, lotus, myrrh and rose.

Chemical Constituents

Frankincense consists of monoterpenes: pinene, limonene; sesquiterpenes: gurjunene; and terpene alcohol.


Frankincense has a high frequency. Tests have shown that it has the frequency of the pineal gland, the location of the third eye, the gland associated with spiritual communication. Through biofeedback tests, frankincense has been found to be an inhalation-specific stimulus to the pineal and pituitary glands.


Frankincense is anti-depressant, anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, astringent, carminative, cytophylactic, digestive, diuretic, expectorant, hemostatic, relaxing, sedative, tonic, uterine, vulnerary and warming.


Frankincense is helpful for acne, anxiety, asthma, blemishes, boils, breast abscesses, bronchitis, catarrh, colds, coughs, cystitis, digestion, dry complexion, dysmenorrhea, expectorant, flu, hemorrhage, immune deficiency, laryngitis, leukorrhea, lung congestion, mature skin, metrorrhagia, mucus, nervous tension, pneumonia, respiratory congestion, respiratory infections, rheumatism, scars, skin diseases, sore throat, stress, syphilis, urinary tract infections, wounds and wrinkles.
Long associated with use in temples, frankincense has the ability to deepen and slow the breath, which helps the individual ease into prayer or meditation. It increases concentration and uplifts.
High in sesquiterpenes, frankincense works in the pineal gland with an activity that opens the crown chakra, which leads to greater spiritual communication. It works on a spiritual immuno-deficiency level. It lifts a depressing mood. It helps emotional trauma. It motivates the user into action. When mentally stuck out of fear, it aids the user to overcome the fear.


Frankincense is an enhancer, a middle note. Frankincense blends well with basil, bergamot, camphor, cinnamon, geranium, lavender, mimosa, myrrh, neroli, orange, pepper, pine, sandalwood, vetiver and spice oils. It modifies the sweetness of citrus oils in an interesting way.


Do not take internally. Frankincense is often adulterated with SD40, propylene glycol, and fermented fruit oils that take oxygen from the essential oil but extend the aroma. When pure and unadulterated, it is non-toxic, non-irritant and non-sensitizing.

Several pages are devoted to each of the 24 aromatic plants. There is a comprehensive list of conditions and the biblical plant historically used to treat it. Biblical Aromatherapy is completely indexed, including more than 250 Bible quotes.

Biblical Aromatherapy
by Robert Bike

Biblical Aromatherapy

The Bible mentions about 232 plants by name, or closely enough to figure out what plant is meant. Of these, 24 are aromatic plants; that is, parts of the plants can be pressed or distilled to get an essential oil. Essential oils are the lifeblood of plants and have tremendous healing capabilities.

The healing power of plants is the basis for modern medicines. Biblical Aromatherapy discusses how the plants were used in biblical days and how you can use the essential oils from biblical plants.

Originally published in manuscript form in 1999, I completely revised the book and added illustrations.

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Robert Bike, LMT, Teaching Reiki Master, Webmaster
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I am an Oregon Licensed Massage Therapist (#5473) in Eugene, Oregon.

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