While all the frankincense species are from the same family of plants, both varieties of essential oil contain different levels of terpene constituents and there is much variability in the levels of incensole diterpenes. Here is a run-down of these two frankincense varieties.

Probably one of the most famous essential oils out there, frankincense is almost legendary. These plants are resin tapped and the essential oil is steamed distilled from the resin. Both varieties are from the burseracea line of plants, but carterii is found in Somalia and Yemen, while sacra is found in Oman. 

Same plant or different?

Some authors contend that they are the same species of plant but from different regions. Indeed, we know that different chemotypes with unique chemical compositions occur based on the geographic regions in which they are grown. This is because the complex make-up of plants is affected by climate, soil, precipitation, and other environmental factors. Whether the frankincense oils are actually the same species or different, I don’t know, however, the chemical natures of these differ.

Carterii is primarily comprised of alpha-pinene with lower amounts of limonene, myrcene, alpha-thujene and good levels of the diterpenes incensole.

Sacra is overwhelmingly alpha-pinene, and high levels of diterpenes incensole. 

So, who cares about incensoles anyways?

Well, research has looked at how incensole acetate interacts with the body and found that it activates certain receptors called the TRPV-3 receptor. This can make carterii feel warm on the skin and interact with different brain channels which produce feelings of calming and spiritual exaltation. 

Enough Science, what about The Smell Test?

The aromas of the oils are distinct. While both carterii and sacra have rich, woodsy aromas, there is definitely a difference between the two. Sacred frank is slightly more pungent, while frankincense is milder with a light citrus undertone.

So how do you pick between them?

Carterii is a bit less expensive than sacra and is more familiar to most people, making it more accessible and understandable for some. Both are perfect for spiritual practices and are great for the skin. Additionally, frankincense supports normal cellular function when taken internally.

If you don’t know where to start, any frankincense can be added to skin care routines or spiritual practice. 

6 ways to use frankincense

1. Add a drop of frankincense carterii to a toothbrush before brushing.

2. Diffuse either variety with cedarwood and vetiver.

3. Create a body butter with orange and carterii.

4. Meditate or do yoga with sacra on the crown of your head.

5. Add sacra to a massage oil for a relaxing, soothing effect.

6. Apply either variety to the third eye or crown chakras.

How about some recipes with frankincense? Check out this DIY Immune Booster, Skin Nourishing Ointment, or Liquid Courage Roll-On!

Which frankincense is your favorite and what are your top ways to use these oils?

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