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Frankincense Extracted Et-Oh @ 73 deg C

Extracting Frankincense with Ethanol @ 73 deg C 
Armed with a small bag of dried tree resin, I took my frankincense into the perfume range by performing a warm ethanol filtered extraction!

The extraction was done using chemistry gear procured during my college years. At the time I was studying to become an environmental scientist. I made perfume as a hobby back then, and learned about toxic perfume chemicals in widespread use in synthetic perfumes. Ultimately this caused me to major in environmental science, and I ended up learning about pure organic essential oils because of my wife :) 

Today after learning about the pharmacology of essential oils, and considering biblical references to frankincense, I go super catholic, beyond my theological beginnings, to apply chemical processing technologies to make the resin usable in a more tangible way, like a perfume.

The warm ethanol solvent (food grade) was used because it is bio-safe, and no other chemicals were used. This extract is made with dried frankincense resin and ethanol. It contains water, ethanol and the extracted compounds removed from the frankincense resin by the extraction process. 

Next Time 

I will try a oil extraction next, as frankincense oils are used by the church to anoint babies, and this has been practiced for thousands of years! 

~ Prodecure 

Approximately 5 grams of Frankincense resin was added to 40ml of 90% ethanol (food grade) in a 100ml flat bottom boiling flask made of borosilicate.

A glass alcohol thermometer was used to precisely gauge the temperate of the solvent during the extraction.

Heating with agitation was proceeded to slowly raise the temp of the solvent resin batch over the course of 20min to a final temp of 73 deg C, at which point the ethanol just starts to boil. The magnetic stirring operation was not used with a teflon coated stirring magnet, I used it to produce vibration, and manually agitated the solution by hand. I did not want plastic touching the reaction, net even teflon. All glass extraction is important to maintain chemical purity!

The heat was them backed off to maintain a steady 73 deg temp for 20 min, after which heating is discontinued.

With the heating power off, the solution was allowed to cool to 55 deg C, after which it was filtered through a new tea bag filter in a glass funnel into a 25ml volumetric flask made of borosilicate glass.

The solution was rested for 10min to allow particles to settle out of the solution to the bottom of the measuring flask.

A final decant stage of the collected extraction was performed using a glass dropper with rubber bulb. which allows the clean extract to be removed to the final container with minimized particle transfer, as the filter grade used allowed some fine particles to make it into the initial filtered extraction.

The final collected decant volume is about 23ml, kept in a dark brown dropper bottle.

The Setup I used for the Extraction 
Note the 400 watt stir heater with thermometer holder, glass thermometer, glass boiling flask, glass funnel, glass volumetric container, glass dropper bottle with glass dropper. Glass was used because of it is chemically inert and thus does not contaminate the extract by interacting with the resin, solvent or extracted compound! This is particularly important because of the heated extraction technique.

Meg's Idea 

This was technically based on an Idea my beautiful intelligent wife gave me, and a educational video I watched about essential oils that her dad gave us on DVD. Inspired by my all french press borosilicate kettle setup, I grabbed the everclear, my bag of catholic resin frankincense, some equipment from storage, and promptly went to making some. Meg was performing a quad oil extracting of biologics of a similar nature, and upon seeing this I became motivate to perform the warm ethanol extraction :) Its a nice perfume!

Frankincense (from Wikipedia

Traded for more than 5000 years, it is a tree resin obtained by slashing the bark and collecting the tearing resin drops; dried, they are hand sorted for quality, the more opaque varieties have more of the quality components that make it smell amazing. Used in skincare, perfume, and aromatherapy, the smoke smells different than resin extracts, due to the chemicals formed during pyrolysis. It was given to baby Jesus by one of the Magi! 

Medical (from Wikipedia

Antidepressant + antianxiety activity was noted because of the incensol acetate  
Shown to help people with arthritis in as little as 7 days! 
Shown to have anti-cancer properties 
Via modulation of the HPA axis, influencing gene expression, a novel antidepressant! 
Selectively targets cancer cell division via DNA effects via NRF-2 to arrest the dysfunctional cell cycle! 

Noted Chemical Components (Boswellia sacra) (from Wikipedia)

Acid resin (56 %), soluble in alcohol : Formula C20H32O4

Gum  30–36%

3-acetyl-beta-boswellic acid 

Alpha-boswellic acid 

4-O-methyl-glucuronic acid 

Incensole acetate


The Frankincense + the Final Product Dropper Bottle

Extensions to God

Thinking about solute solubility in solvent more tells a very deep story that goes back into history eons, to when people started playing with plant chemistry, long before the word chemistry existed, long before atomic physic, before the periodic table, before our modern understanding.

People started putting tree resin in plant oils a long time ago, thousands of years ago! Early people figured out that Frankincense contained bioactive compounds that help people! This has been enshrined in the cultural institutions of Roman Catholic religious practices, something I am intimately familiar with.

The smell of indirectly heated frankincense brings me back to my earliest complex thoughts about faith, ethics, society, my place in the universe, in God's amazing kingdom of all that is seen and unseen, of all existence in every dimension, Lord God reigning supreme as one above all other beings, all powerful, ever present, all knowing, a creative and beautiful God, our only God, the one who created all of existence as an outward expression of his Divine Glory Creativity and Brilliance, Praise be unto You Holy God, God the Father, my Lord and Savior, I kneel before you, humbling my self to the incredible subtle beautiful complexity in life, in all life, your existence reflected, God you are amazing! Thank you for my life, for all that I have, for all that I am, for all that I will be!

I pray that you will unite all people as one, in your kingdom, united in a shared ideology of faith in you Lord God, as one, together, resonating your kindness and love, your knowledge and power, life prevailing over death as a testament of who you are God!

Life, even that of the Boswella Sacra, is sacred, unique, powerful and look at what life does in the world for examples of what I am talking about. The extraction of resin from Boswella Sacra is part of human activity that changes the extent and impact of that species on earth. Now with intentional agricultural technologies, people are growing the tress that render Frankincense in a variety of different places across the globe, at one point the trade of Frankincense ceased because of global economic and trade changes, but the Roman Catholic Church kept the use of Somali (best quality) frankincense alive by the cultural traditions of using it as an incense in ceremonial practices. The smell of the pyrolyzes resin is an amazing perfume like mixture of chemicals that have medicinal properties, psychoactive and cellular properties, the smoke of frankincense resin similar to tobacco smoke, or coffee, as a rich mixture of compounds!

The Boswellia tree is amazing in its ability to grow on rocky slopes, with little if any soil, a pervasive powerful lifeform like the other plants that keep humans alive on earth, the foundation of all life in nature, in other life forms, we eat life to keep life going.

Boswellia sacra

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