Many stories had been told about the frankincense, or Luban as it is called locally. These stories vary — some backed by historical evidence while others just folk tales passed down from generation to generation.
Even from a long time ago, Egyptians and some Arab countries already called it frankincense and in this part of the world, frankincense and masculinity has a special relationship — one that is about power and dominance.
Historical sources indicate that the Egyptian queen Hatshepsut (1500 BC) brought sacred frankincense from Puntland (believed by historians to be somewhere in the northeastern Somalia or Dhofar in Oman). It was documented that Hatshepsut used grounded charred frankincense as kohl eyeliner.
Other historical evidence indicated that the demand for frankincense dates back to the 6th century BC and its use has been widespread, capturing the then powerful Greece and even the formidable Levant and Iraq.
With the monsoon season in full swing in Salalah, frankincense is in demand as gift to friends and loved ones’ back home. Stalls selling these priced items can be seen fully packed with interested buyers who asked a lot of questions regarding the origin of the products.
Luban tree is the symbol of the Dhofar province. While this information is known by many, there are still a lot of information that evade people’s attention.
Example of this is the types of frankincense.
To the uninitiated, the resins from the Luban tree may all look the same, but it’s not always the case. A closer inspection of resins would yield different results. Experts on frankincense know that quality, texture and colour varies.
That means that a trained frankincense buyer would know the difference between a Vajudha or Dakar, a Hogar that is often taken from Mount Samhan, the Najdi and the Shazri — this being the lowest quality and the most popular.
For the majority of people in Oman, those that you see in stores might actually be Shazri — which is taken from trees that grow in high, dry areas and do not have fog, humidity or seasonal rains and away from the sea.
The quality of frankincense is measured by their purity with white usually being the purest. As the colour grows darker, the quality also goes lower and so does the price. If you are buying frankincense that are coloured red or are already impure, for sure you will be buying them at a cheaper price.
The prices of Dakar are pegged at OMR 14 for one small packet but can get more expensive depending on its level of purity.
Another thing not most people known is that frankincense trees differ in size, shape and the quality of frankincense extracted from the tree. These variations are due to the different climatic and environmental conditions of each region where the trees can be found. For good quality resins, the trees require special climactic and environmental conditions often requiring high relative humidity, high temperature and areas with stone and calcareous soil.
Frankincense trees also grow better in gravel soil than clay soil and thrive most on slopes of mountains and on fertile valleys.
Even the experience of workers in harvesting the resins are big factors on the quality of frankincense.
For Frankincense farmers, not all people can harvest the resins. One quality they look for a farm hand is that the person must have experience in dealing with the tree.
To get the resins, the tree must be properly tapped. In simple terms, that means leaving the right size and the right angled scratches on the tree. Once a tree farm worker creates a scratch mark, they often leave it for a couple of days collecting the resins by then.
Yes, those priced items that you use in your homes are technically the tears of the trees where it was taken from.
Benefits of Frankincense
Researches made in Japan showed that chewing frankincense has beneficial effects in treating rheumatic diseases and joint pains. A most recent study has also shown that pure oil of frankincense stops cancer cells from developing and growing.
In 2011, a master’s thesis presented by researcher Asma Ibrahim, Assistant Lecturer at the Department of Drugs of the Egypt International University, demonstrated the ability of the water extract prepared from frankincense to activate the immune system by increasing the efficiency of some white blood cells.
Scientists discovered that frankincense contains an abundant amount of cortisone that works against all inflammation and serve as analgesic from pain.
Frankincense has also been considered as a tonic and antiseptic for the cells. It is a general disinfectant for the whole body both internally and externally. It has been used for the prevention of buildup of gases in the body and also works as a regulator of gastrointestinal functions.
Its other medical use include: diuretic and antiseptic tonic for the uterus and an antiseptic for the reproductive system; it calms the nerves; destroys harmful bacteria and cleanses wounds without side effects; prevents gum problems and strengthen the gums; cleanses the mouth and tongue from bacteria and microbes; a remedy for dental pain and is used as a perfect disinfectant mouthwash and is also a cure for bad breath; regulates and strengthens the hormone estrogen and reduces the incidence of uterine tumors after menopause and prevents the formation of cancer in the uterus and; it protects the uterus and regulates menstrual periods for all ages of women.
To achieve this beneficial results, experts recommended that a teaspoon of kandar powder (which is the best type of Frankincense) must be dissolved in the water. This can be prepared in the evening and then taken in in the morning every day.
Abdulla Nasser al Abdusalam, a visitor in Salalah from the United Arab Emirates, has always known of the benefit of taking in kandar.
“Oman is lucking that the kandar can be found and originated here. It is truly a remarkable tree with a lot of benefits for a person’s health. It’s the first thing that I looked for after arriving here,” he said.
“I would personally love to have my own tree back at home but unfortunately, frankincense trees do not just grow anywhere,” he said.
SIHAM AL SAIDI