Olibanum oil is an essential oil. It’s extracted from resinous oils from trees of the Boswellia genus.

Oil from these trees is also called frankincense oil. Frankincense is a more common name in the Western world, though in the East near its native regions, olibanum is another common name.

Olibanum oil has many uses, most notably for spiritual purposes, perfumes, and aromatherapy. It’s also used in skin and health care.

Let’s take a look at olibanum oil’s health effects past and present, how to use it, and what research has to say.

Olibanum essential oil has many health claims to its name. These come from both alternative medicine and traditional healing practices in its native regions.

In Asia, olibanum was used in the past as an antimicrobial and “blood cleanser.” People still take advantage of these folk uses today.

The commercially produced essential oil claims topical uses for skin care and health in the West. Some people even claim it’s a treatment for cancer or inflammatory diseases, but these claims should be approached with caution due to lack of proof. Learn more about frankincense and cancer.

Olibanum was originally and religiously used as an incense. It’s still used for aromatherapy today. Today, essential oils are still used in aromatherapy. They are diffused into the air and inhaled, or diluted in a carrier oil and applied to the skin or added to a bath.

Anti-inflammatory

Olibanum oil historically was used most often as medicine for soothing inflammation. A 2011 review of studies supports this to some extent today, especially for inflammation and pain.

One 2014 study suggested it could be helpful for arthritis, though the research was performed on animals. Alternative practitioners may use it or recommend using it for either osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis. Learn more about essential oils and arthritis.

To use: A dilution of essential oil can be applied for pain and inflammation topically for unbroken skin. Essential oils must be diluted before applying to the skin. Dilute every 1 drop of essential oil with 1 ounce of a carrier oil.

Topical creams containing olibanum oil are also available for inflammatory issues like arthritis.

Don’t take olibanum essential oils internally.

Antimicrobial

One of olibanum’s oldest uses is as a wound healer.

A 2011 laboratory study showed this to be effective due to its antimicrobial properties. It can kill bacteria and other microbes that might cause infection or illness.

To use: Olibanum essential oil (or frankincense essential oil) can be diluted with a carrier oil and used lightly as an antiseptic for minor wounds. Dilute 1 drop in every 1 ounce of a carrier oil like coconut or sweet almond oil.

If your infection worsens, talk to your doctor. Discuss beforehand with your doctor if using olibanum oil is a good option.

Heart health

Laboratory research suggests that olibanum could have cardioprotective benefits. It appears to do this by lowering blood lipids, reducing plaque, and by working as an anti-inflammatory and antioxidant.

In the long run, this may help reduce the chance of heart disease, though more studies are needed.

To use: Apply diluted essential oils topically, 1 to 3 drops per 1 ounce of a carrier oil. Apply to points like the neck or wrists daily.

Liver health

Olibanum’s antioxidant benefits for the heart may also carry over to the liver.

A 2013 study showed that the oil’s antioxidant effects could help protect liver cells. A 2011 study on mice showed olibanum was effective against hepatitis and liver fibrosis as an anti-inflammatory.

To use: Apply diluted essential oils topically, 1 drop per 1 ounce of a carrier oil. Apply to points like the neck or wrists daily.

Olibanum oil should be safe to use if used correctly.

If using the essential oil, only use it topically or diffused in the air as aromatherapy. Internal use of the essential oil has uncertain and potentially adverse health risks. Some are toxic.

To enjoy olibanum's benefits internally (such as for heart or liver health), try a supplement or extract. Because supplements aren't regulated the same way as prescription medications are, it's best to talk to your doctor about trustworthy sources for supplements.

Internal use of olibanum is different than the essential oil. Do not swallow essential oils. Be sure to check with your doctor before starting any supplements.

When diluted with a carrier oil, topical use of olibanum essential oil poses little to no health risks. Never apply undiluted essential oils to skin. This may cause burns, inflammation, or unwanted skin reactions.

Discontinue use of any olibanum product (and talk to your doctor) if you experience some or all of the following side effects:

  • nausea
  • diarrhea
  • acid reflux
  • skin reactions (topical)

These are possible side effects of the botanical or could be a sign you’re allergic to olibanum.

Topical use, even when diluted in oil, poses its own minor risks, such as allergic reactions or rashes. Patch test with the diluted the essential oil before using it for any health purpose to avoid side effects and to make sure you aren’t allergic.

Interactions with medications are possible. Make sure to discuss medications you take with your doctor before using olibanum oil.

An exciting frontier for olibanum oil and health is its effects on cancer. Research studies have explored the essential oil’s different ways of helping and treating the condition.

On one hand, a 2011 study showed olibanum oil could help slow and inhibit growth of cancer cells. However, this study was conducted on cells outside the human body in a lab environment.

Another 2011 study showed olibanum helping inflammation and pain caused by cancer radiation therapy.

A 2012 cellular-level study also suggested it could induce death of cancer cells. As an antioxidant, olibanum oil may play a small role in reducing cancer risk over the long term if taken daily.

Still, olibanum oil has yet to be proven or considered a cancer cure. More research is needed.

Talk to your doctor about using olibanum oil to complement your prescribed cancer treatment.

How to use

Olibanum oil shouldn’t be used solely as a cancer treatment approach.

However, it may provide small support for the condition, complement your treatment, or help with symptoms of pain and inflammation, studies suggest.

Try use of an internal supplement (not essential oil) daily for cancer benefits and to fight inflammation with approval from your doctor.

Topical creams or application of diluted essential oils may help with specific target points that are painful due to inflammation. Inhaling the essential oil through a diffuser is thought to have similar effects.

Olibanum oil is another common name for frankincense oil. It’s readily available as an essential oil, though you can take it as a supplement or extract.

Studies show it may help enhance heart health, liver health, or soothe pain and inflammation. There may even be cancer benefits, or it may help certain symptoms that occur with inflammatory diseases.

Talk to your doctor about whether olibanum oil makes sense for you. Always make sure you’re taking the oil safely and correctly, and never take the essential oil internally.

Never rely solely on olibanum essential oil to treat any specific condition.