Frankincense "tears" are clumps of sap from the Boswellia tree, a small, thorny desert plant that is native to India, Arabia and northern Africa. The resin is collected by cutting into the tree bark and collecting the milky substance after it has hardened. Tears with the highest amount of volatile oils remain sticky and opaque in the centre and are considered to be the highest grade. Frankincense is burnt during traditional Catholic services and was one of the three gifts offered to the infant Christ, according to Christian religious tradition.
Grind frankincense tears into a fine powder with a mortar and pestle or an electric spice grinder. Add the powder to homemade soaps and lotions or sprinkle a small amount into a carrier oil, such as almond or jojoba, and use it as perfume.
Burn whole or crushed tears as incense. Light an incense charcoal and place it in a heat-safe container. Place a small amount of frankincense on the burning coal to use for spiritual purposes, as an insect repellent or to enjoy the resin's rich perfume.
Inhale the vapours of frankincense resin to clear your nasal passages and ease the respiratory congestion associated with the common cold. Pour a kettle of boiling water into a large bowl and sprinkle a teaspoon of lightly crushed tears into the water. Lean over the bowl with a towel over your head to trap the steam. Breathe deeply and slowly and allow the vapour to loosen clogged sinuses.
Place frankincense tears inside protective amulets or talismans or pass these sacred objects through the smoke of burning frankincense. In many spiritual traditions, frankincense is believed to have the power to protect, purify and aid in spiritual enlightenment.
Use caution when burning frankincense. A small amount of resin creates an abundance of thick smoke. Start by burning only one small tear or one pinch of powdered resin and increase the amount if desired.