Nature has its ways of healing wounds and the ability to turn scars into stars and excel in life. If this is true in human lives, all the living creatures too have their ways of turning the unpleasant into happiness and make the best of unfavourable times.
The frankincense tree, for example, exudes its healing gum resin to heal and protect its wounds from insects, bacteria, and outside elements and once the resin is hardened, it is removed manually and marked the Sultanate’s name in the global map of medicinal plants.
Trust me, the best and the most expensive frankincense in the world is produced in Oman and the Hojari frankincense Boswellia sacra which comes from the Eastern part of Dhofar is the most sought-after medicinal plant across the world. While the most prized grade of frankincense is named to be Green Royal Hojari, White Royal Hojari is an ethereal frankincense is considered to be sacred and so precious.
Historically, Oman had strong trade relations in terms of frankincense with the ancient and medieval world for many centuries and is evident in the frankincense trees found in Khor Rori and Al-Baleed besides Wadi Dawkah and Shisr/Wubar which vividly illustrate the past.
Since times immemorial, people in countries like Oman, Yemen, North and Western Africa and India used to believe that burning of frankincense in places of worship for spiritual purposes and contemplation is a unique way of increasing concentration and piety besides refining the smell and reducing contagion by purifying the indoor air.
Later on, science too has proved that burning frankincense has some hygienic functions and medicinal values such as help fighting arthritis and several other diseases. Frankincense has anti-inflammatory effects that may help reduce joint inflammation caused by osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis, it can help abdominal function, fight asthma, improve oral health, and is good against certain types of cancers.
Inspired by the exuding fragrance and its medicinal values, a team of Japanese scientists researched Omani frankincense.
A study on the roles of ethylene, jasmonic acid, and salicylic acid and their interactions in frankincense resin production in Boswellia sacra trees growing in the drylands of Oman was conducted in three phases.
“We conducted different experiment in different phases on the 32-year-old B. sacra trees with multiple trunks selected at the Agricultural Experiment Station, Sultan Qaboos University, Oman,” one of the Japanese researchers said.
Several conclusions were drawn from the studies which were duly submitted to the concerned authorities.
“In the Dhofar Governorate, frankincense is harvested by tapping the trunks and branches of B. sacra trees between November and May. However, under current conditions, this tapping is frequently too aggressive, often leading to irreversible degradation of the tree and this needs to be revised.”
Also, experts suggested optimising the size, intensity and timing of tapping treatments for a given tree size to enable sustainable frankincense farming in Dhofar.
Also, it is essential to establish efficient frankincense production techniques to achieve stable yields, rapid damage repair, and reduction of aftereffects on the entire tree. Given the above factors, the roles of phytohormones, which are involved in the physiological mechanisms of plant defence responses, should be elucidated, and a technology for the artificial control of resin secretion should be developed by using these signalling molecules.
Frankincense and its various by-products are considered a highly sought after products in the local market as well as international markets. Any local souq or traditional as well as modern market is incomplete without this simple yet revered tree discharge that has both spiritual as well as material benefits.
BY KABEER YOUSUF