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Study: Frankincense Oil — A Remedy For Headaches And Migraines

Via: unpict | Shutterstock

 
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by Luke Sumpter

on February 27, 2016

Headaches can be extremely painful, especially in the form of migraines and cluster headaches. These more extreme forms of this debilitating and disturbing condition occur independently of an underlying disease; their roots are found in the chemical activity of the brain, within the nerves and blood vessels of the head, or in the muscles of the head and neck.

Those who find themselves afflicted might be conditioned to bust open the door of the medicine cabinet, pop the top off of a pill jar, and neck enough aspirin to dull the pain of such conditions. However such chemical relief may come with a price. Aspirin doesn’t mitigate pain in isolation; its side effects include heartburn, stomach irritation, anemia, and seizures, among other things.

Photo: Boswellia (frankincense) tree, Socotra island. Via: Vladimir Melnik | Shutterstock.

Photo: Boswellia (frankincense) tree, Socotra island. Via: Vladimir Melnik | Shutterstock.

This seems like a game of roulette that isn’t worth playing — especially when one explores other viable natural alternatives. By far the most effective of these is frankincense essential oil, an age old antiseptic, disinfectant, digestive, and anti-inflammatory agent. Derived from the gum or resin of the Boswellia genus of trees (Boswellia Carteri, Boswellia Sacra, and Boswellia Frereana), this oil has maintained a revered status for centuries.

Completely natural compounds are very often met with stern skepticism. How could anything not tweaked by the hand of man and a multi-billion dollar drug industry have any empirical effect? Thankfully, there is adequate science available to tell us exactly why and how this ancient remedy wields such power over headaches. (It should also be noted that the active ingredient in aspirin, salicin, is completely natural, being sourced from the bark of the white willow tree).

Photo: Flowers and branches of the Boswellia sacra tree, the species from which most frankincense oil is derived. Via: Florida International University | Licensed under Creative Commons 2.0.

Photo: Flowers and branches of the Boswellia sacra tree, the species from which most frankincense oil is derived. Via: Florida International University | Licensed under Creative Commons 2.0.

The potent effects of frankincense oil in the treatment of headaches is likely due to a collection of compounds found within this botanical essence known as monoterpenes. A research paper titled “A Review on Anti-Inflammatory Activity of Monoterpenes,” published in the journal Molecules, discusses the anti-inflammatory activity of 32 bioactive monoterpenes found in essential oils (frankincense oil contains a colossal 34 monoterpenes). Many of these have powerful anti-inflammatory properties which, much like conventional painkillers, reduce the swelling of blood vessels that initiate the chin reaction that leads to pain. The authors of the paper state: “The data demonstrate the pharmacological potential of this group of natural chemicals to act as anti-inflammatory drugs.”

More scientific investigation that lends credit to the use of frankincense oil in the treatment of headaches was published in Cephalalgia, a journal published on behalf of the International Headache Society. This study tested oral frankincense on a small sample size of four patients that suffered from cluster headaches and disturbed sleep cycles. The authors of the paper state that: “The results provide Class IV evidence that oral B. serrata [frankincense] reduces the intensity and frequency of headaches in patients with CCH.”

Frankincense oil is easy to administer to ease headache pain. Its recommended that the sufferer place a drop of high quality, pure frankincense oil on a finger or thumb and apply it directly to the roof of the mouth for instant relief. However, if the sufferer maintains the view many share that anything that is healthy tastes bad, they can apply a couple of drops of the oil to the temples and gently massage until the essential oil is  absorbed.

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