Introduction of Ru Xiang:Frankincense or Olibanum.

TCM Herbalism:Medicinals and Classifications. ✵The article gives records of the herb Frankincense, its English name, Latin name, property and flavor, its botanical source three plant species, ①.Boswellia carterii Birdw., ②.Boswellia bhawdajiana Birdw., ③.Boswellia neglecta M. Moore., with a detailed introduction to the botanical features of these three plant species, the growth characteristics, and ecological environment of these three plant species, the features of the herb Frankincense, its pharmacological actions, medicinal efficacy, and administration guide.


Olibanum:herb photo Pin Yin Name: Rǔ Xiānɡ.
 English Name: Frankincense.
 Latin Name: Olibanum.
 Property and flavor: warm, pungent, bitter.

 Brief introduction: The herb Olibanum is the gum-resin obtained from Boswellia carterii Birdwood and possibly other species of Boswellia, used to relieve pain and swelling in cases of traumatic injury by activating the local blood circulation. The herb is commonly known as Olibanum, Frankincense, Rǔ Xiānɡ.

 Botanical source: Common herbal classics defined the herb Frankincense (Ru Xiang) as the oleo-gum-resin of the Buseraceae family plant species (1). Boswellia carterii Birdw., (2). Boswellia bhawdajiana Birdw., (3). Boswellia neglecta M. Moore. They are plant species of the Boswellia genus, the Burseraceae family (frankincense family) of the Sapindales order. These 3 commonly used species are introduced:

(1).Boswellia carterii Birdw.

 Boswellia carterii Birdw.:growing tree Botanical description: The Boswellia carterii Birdw., is a plant of the Burseraceae family (frankincense family) and Boswellia genus, it is commonly known as "Boswellia carterii", "Boswellia sacra", or "Ru Xiang Shu", a small tree, grows up to 4~5 meters high and rarely up to 6 meters. Thick trunks, smooth bark, pale brownish yellow, papery, coarse branches.

 Boswellia carterii Birdw.:growing tree The bark scales, gradually exfoliated, young branches are cylindrical. Leaves are alternate, densely formed leaf clusters, or sparsely formed on upper part, odd-pinnately compound leaves, 15~25 cm long, petiole is covered with white hair, 7~9 pairs of lobules, opposite, sessile, base is smallest, upwards gradually, small leaves are long ovate, up to 3.5 cm, apical 7.5 cm long, 1.5 cm wide, apex is obtuse, usually slightly curved, base part is rounded, subcardioid or truncate, irregularly toothed at the margin, or there is no obvious cracking of the teeth to the near whole edge, both sides are covered with white hairs or glabrous at upper part, and the underside is sparsely hairy.

 Flowers are small, arranged into sparse racemes, inflorescences are shorter than leaves; bracts are ovate, apex is pointed; calyx is cupular, apex is 5-lobed, lobes are triangular-ovate; 5 petals, pale yellow, alternate with sepals, ovate, ca. 2 × as long as sepals, apex is pointed; 10 stamens, lateral to disk, anthers are orange, filaments are short, slightly longer than disk; disk is large, hypertrophic, disc-shaped, rose-red, with 5~10 blunt microdentates; ovary is superior, grows on a receptacle, surrounded by a disk below the middle, 3~4 rooms, with 2 vertical ovules per style, styles are slightly thicker, slightly exceeding stamens; stigma is capitate, slightly crack.

 Boswellia carterii Birdw.:bark and resins The fruit is small, about 1 cm long, obovate, trigonal, blunt, base with the torus, disk and filament remain, smooth skin, fleshy, hypertrophic, fold to generate 3 to 4 valves. Each room has 1 seed. Its flowering period is in April.

 The bark of the frankincense tree is like a piece of paper, and in the bark is its juice. When the resin is dripping from the frankincense wood, it is like an emulsion. The frankincense is produced in the wood. When the bark is cut gently a small mouth then milky juice will flow out, and when the juice touches the air it will harden, and then it will become a yellowish red translucent crystal block.

 Ecological Environment: The Boswellia carterii Birdw., grows in tropical coastal mountains. Geographical distribution: This species is mainly distributed in the Red Sea coast to Libya, Sudan, Turkey, and other areas. It is mainly produced in Somalia and the North of Ethiopia on the Red Sea coast. This species ever grew in Fuyang of Anhui province of China during the 14~15th century, in Ming Dynasty, but later it disappeared.

 Boswellia carterii Birdw.:bark and resins Legend: Among Greek mystical islands, there is an island called Chios Island. Legend has it that the ancient poet Homer was born on this island. The beautiful island is covered with large frankincense trees. The precious frankincense was extracted. The local people called it "God's tears". When the worship ceremony of the island began, people always burned frankincense because they believed that the frankincense smoke could bring their prayers to God. Then happiness will come next year.

 Uses: In ancient times, people used chewing gum as a piece of gum to clean their mouths. In modern times, people used Frankincense as an additive to make foods and cosmetics.

 Frankincense Olibanum:herb photo It is obtained from the leafy forest tree Boswellia Thurifera, with leaves deciduous, alternate towards the tops of branches, unequally pinnated; leaflets in about ten pairs with an odd one opposite, oblong, obtuse, serrated, pubescent, sometimes alternate; petioles are short. Flowers, white or pale rose on short pedicels in single axillary racemes are shorter than the leaves. Calyx, small five-toothed, persistent; corolla with five obovate-oblong, very patent petals, pointed at the base, inserted under the margin of the disk, activation is slightly imbricative. 10 stamens, inserted under the disk, are alternately shorter; filaments are subulate, persistent. Anthers, caducous, oblong. Torus is a cup-shaped disk, fleshy, larger than calyx, crenulated margin. Ovary, oblong, sessile. Style, one caducous, the length of the stamens; stigma is capitate, three-lobed. The fruit is capsular, three-angled and three-celled, three-valved, septicidal, valves are hard. Seeds, solitary in each cell is surrounded by a broad membranaceous wing. Cotyledons are intricately folded multifidly.

 The trees on the somali coast grow, without soil, out of polished marble rocks, to which they are attached by a thick oval mass of substances resembling a mixture of lime and mortar. The young trees furnish the most valuable gum, the older yielding merely a clear, glutinous fluid, resembling copal varnish.

 Boswellia Carterii:drawing of whole plant To obtain the Frankincense, a deep, longitudinal incision is made in the trunk of the tree and below it, a narrow strip of bark 5 inches (12.7 cm) in length is peeled off. When the milk-like juice which exudes has hardened by exposure to the air, the incision is deepened. In about three months the resin has attained the required degree of consistency, hardening into yellowish 'tears'. The large, clear globules are scraped off into baskets and the inferior quality that has run down the tree is collected separately. The season for gathering lasts from May till the middle of September, when the first shower of rain puts a close to the gathering for that year.

 As with all essential oils, do not use undiluted. Do not take internally unless working with a qualified and expert practitioner. Keep away from children. Not for those with epilepsy or subject to seizures. Always conduct a skin patch test before using any oil on your skin.

 A dry gum: resin obtained from Boswellia Carterii, Birdwood, with its varieties, and several other species of Boswellia.

 Frankincense:herb photo Characters of herbs: The herb is spherical or teardrop-like particles, or irregular small blocks, 0.5~2 cm long, some of which are conglutinated into lumps, light yellow, with slightly blue-green or brown-red, and translucent. The texture of the herb is crisp, the fracture surface is waxy. The herb has an aromatic fragrance, it tastes extremely bitter, when it is chewed then softened into the gum. The herb of better grade is light yellow, granular, translucent, free of impurities such as sand and bark, the powder is sticky and has an aromatic fragrance.

 Pharmacological actions: ①.analgesic and anti-inflammatory effects; ②.promote the increase of multinucleated white blood cells, accelerate the absorption of inflammation exudate, promote wound healing; ③.reduce pyloric ligation ulcer index and free acidity of gastric juice, reduce the gastric mucosa injury.

 Medicinal efficacy: Activate blood circulation, analgesic therapy, promoting the circulation of Qi, regulating the qi flowing in the channels, restoring menstrual flow, detumescence and promoting granulation, dispel poison. It is indicated for chest pain and cardialgia, epigastric pain, stagnation of Qi and blood, abdominal pain, dysmenorrhea (abdominal pain after menstruation), amenorrhea, postpartum blood stasis, postpartum stabbing pain due to blood stasis, abdominal mass and abdominal pain, rheumatism pain, carbuncle swelling and sore, pyogenic infections, acute appendicitis (periappendicular abscess), unhealing ulcer (ruptured abscess resistant to healing), muscular constricture and spasm, traumatic injury.

 Administration of Olibanum (Rǔ Xiānɡ): 
Reference: Administration Guide of Olibanum (Rǔ Xiānɡ)
TCM Books: ①.Internally:3~5 grams, water decoction, or prepare to pill, powder. Externally:proper amount, prepare to finely ground herb powder, mixed and apply stick; ②.Internally:water decoction, 1~3 qian (about 3~9 grams), or prepare to pill, powder. Externally:prepare to finely ground herb powder, apply stick; ③.Internally:water decoction, 3~10 grams, or prepared to pill, powder. Externally:proper amount, prepare to finely ground herb powder, mixed and apply stick.
 Contraindications,Precautions and Adverse Reactions:the herb Olibanum should be used cautiously during pregnancy, in condition weakness of stomach. Should forbidden using during pregnancy. Should better not use in conditon ulcer and sore broken yet, or with much pus. Should not be used in condition weakness of stomach.

(2).Boswellia bhawdajiana Birdw.

 Botanical description: The Boswellia bhawdajiana Birdw., is a plant of the Burseraceae family (frankincense family) and Boswellia genus, it is commonly known as "Boswellia bhawdajiana", "Bao Da Ru Xiang Shu", small trees, branches are covered with white hair or hairless. 15~21 leaflets, oblong-lanceolate to oblong, 2~4 cm long, 1~1.5 cm wide, the base is rounded or truncate, entire or serrate, white hairs grow on both surfaces, or gray felted only below. Racemes; flowers are white or green, with shallow bell-like hairy discs, half surrounded by the ovary. When the fruit is immature, it is almost hammer-shaped, and the bases become narrow-stalked.

 Ecological Environment: The Boswellia bhawdajiana Birdw., grows in mountainous and limestone rocky lands. Geographical distribution: This species is mainly distributed along the coast of the Red Sea.

(3).Boswellia neglecta M. Moore.

 Boswellia neglecta.:growing plant Botanical description: The Boswellia neglecta M. Moore., is a plant of the Burseraceae family (frankincense family) and Boswellia genus, it is commonly known as "Boswellia neglecta", "Wild Boswellia Tree", or "Ye Ru Xiang Shu", small trees, the tree grows up to 5~6 meters high. The bark is gray. 17~21 leaflets, leathery, oblong, 1.5~4 cm long, blunt, hirsute. Panicles; flowers are very small, pale blood, outside the mask hair; filaments are suddenly widened into a scale-like lower half.

 Ecological Environment: The Boswellia neglecta M. Moore., grows in mountainous and limestone rocky lands. Geographical distribution: This species is mainly distributed along the coast of the Red Sea.
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