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More than Just a Festive Scent: 6 Surprising Frankincense Benefits

Anyone who has heard the story of the Three Wise Men know that frankincense plays an important part in the nativity story. But there's more to frankincense than the sweet, woody aroma that has become synonymous with Christmas. Frankincense is a wonderfully diverse natural substance with some surprising applications and benefits.

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Frankincense is a powerful healer

What is frankincense? In its raw form frankincense is an aromatic resin obtained from trees of the Boswelliea genus. The powerful resin is steam-distilled to produce an aromatic essential oil with many benefits, and a powdered form that is regarded to have healing properties. The powder of dried frankincense resin is a common ingredient used in herbal pastes to treat wounds, and the resin can also be burned in order to purify the air and ward off infection.

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A natural beauty product

One of the more surprising frankincense benefits is the fact that it can be used as a beauty product. Since frankincense oil is astringent, it may have natural beauty-enhancing properties, including strengthening the roots of the hair and helping to tone and lift your skin.

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A treatment for the common cold

Frankincense may also help speed up the recovery process if you're suffering from a cold. It can help to break up phlegm deposits in the lungs and respiratory tract, and its anti-inflammatory properties can help to reduce swelling in the nasal passageways, making breathing easier. As a result, frankincense can also help provide some temporary relief from bronchitis-related congestion. If you're suffering from a cold, you can also check out other natural cold remedies to help relieve symptoms.

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Aids with digestion

Frankincense oil is claimed to aid with digestive health. When ingested in small amounts, frankincense oil speeds up the secretion of digestive juices in the stomach, and aids with the movement of food through the gut by stimulating the muscles of the intestines. It is also claimed that frankincense can help to detox the body. In the book Reference Guide for Essential Oils authors Connie and Alan Higley assert that monotoprenes (molecules which are present in frankincense) help to discharge toxins from the liver and kidneys. If you have an upset stomach, it might be worth using frankincense. Check out these other home remedies to cure an upset stomach.

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A natural mood elevator

Frankincense has been used in religious ceremonies and as an anointing oil for thousands of years, especially in the Middle East. It has spiritual roots, and when inhaled as a vapor in aromatherapy is purported to have stress-relieving properties. It is also believed to be a natural sedative, helping to induce a feeling of relaxation and reduce symptoms of anxiety and stress.

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Helps with oral health

The antiseptic properties of frankincense oil have been shown to help prevent bad breath, tooth cavities, and other oral infections. It can also be used as a natural reliever for tooth ache (much like clove oil) due to its anti-inflammatory and mild analgesic properties. To experience any of these benefits, you can easily create your own natural toothpaste using frankincense oil and baking soda - just one drop added to a cup of baking soda works wonders. (Related: Find out which foods whiten teeth naturally.)

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A natural household cleaner

If you're worried about using harsh chemicals around your home, then frankincense could be the answer. Since frankincense is a natural antiseptic, it can help to eliminate bacteria when used as part of a natural household cleaner. Simply adding a few drops of frankincense oil to a spray bottle filled with water creates a powerful antibacterial cleanser that will leave your home germ-free and smells amazing. (Related: Check out these six DIY household cleansers that really work.)

Originally Published in Reader's Digest