Frankincense essential oil is obtained from the sap of the Boswellia tree. In ancient Arabia, frankincense resin was often used in traditional health practices.1 In a recent study, doTERRA scientists investigated the effect of Frankincense essential oil on human skin cells using the BioMAP® dermal fibroblast system.
The BioMAP system is a molecular biology method that the researchers used to examine how healthy cellular activity was supported by Frankincense essential oil in human skin cells.3,4 By adding certain factors to cultured skin cells, the researchers induced a cellular response in vitro that was designed to imitate a cellular inflammation response in vivo.3,4 Some of the pre-inflamed skin cells were exposed to Frankincense essential oil while others were left alone.
Cells from both groups were burst open and the lysate (cellular contents) was analyzed using two methods. One method was an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA), a test that measures the levels of a specific protein. The proteins of interest in this study were biomarkers known to be upregulated (produced in excess) in a cell during inflammatory conditions. Han and his associates discovered that the cells exposed to Frankincense had significantly lower levels of three biomarkers compared to cells not exposed to the essential oil.2 Cells exposed to Frankincense had significantly reduced levels of interferon gamma-induced protein 10 (IP-104), collagen III, and intracellular cell adhesion molecule 1 (ICAM-1), all of which are involved in inflammation and tissue remodeling.2 They also had slightly lower levels of PAI-I, serine proteinase inhibitor, and inhibitor of tissue plasminogen activator (tPA) and urokinase (uPA), which are both involved in tissue remodeling.2 Cell proliferation also decreased significantly in cells exposed to Frankincense essential oil.2
RNA microarray analysis is a powerful tool that allows researchers to measure the levels of different messenger RNA transcripts. RNA levels give a rough estimate of the levels of different proteins. Messenger RNA sequences are created directly from genes in a cell’s DNA. RNA contains instructions for ribosomes, the molecular machines that synthesize the cell’s proteins. Since each different protein is encoded by a different messenger RNA sequence, levels of a specific RNA sequence usually correlate with levels of the protein. For example, high levels of VCAM-1 RNA transcripts would be present in a cell with high levels of the VCAM-1 protein. In this experiment, the levels of 21,224 RNA sequences were measured. The genes identified from the RNA microarray results indicated that signaling pathways related to inflammation, wound healing, and immune response were robustly affected in cells exposed to Frankincense essential oil.2
Taken together, the results from these experiments suggest that Frankincense essential oil supports a healthy immune response, promotes overall skin health, and supports a healthy inflammatory response in skin cells.*
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