English: Frankincense

Chinese: 乳香

Parts used: An aromatic resin obtained from boswellia trees

TCM category: Herbs that invigorate the Blood

TCM nature: Warm

TCM taste(s): BitterPungent

Organ affinity: Spleen Heart Liver

Scientific name: Boswellia sacra resin, Boswellia serrata resin

Use of Ru Xiang (frankincense) in TCM

Please note that you should never self-prescribe TCM ingredients. A TCM ingredient is almost never eaten on its own but as part of a formula containing several ingredients that act together. Please consult a professional TCM practitioner, they will be best able to guide you.

Preparation: Cut the tree barks and wait for the resin to appear. Dry the obtained resin.

Dosage: 3 - 9 grams

Main actions according to TCM*: Moves Blood and Qi and relieves pain. Disperses Wind-Damp from the Meridians and relaxes the sinews. Reduces swelling and aids in wound healing.

Primary conditions or symptoms for which Ru Xiang may be prescribed by TCM doctors*: traumatic bleeding Traumatic swelling Sores Carbuncles Ulcers Dysmenorrhea Abdominal pain

Contraindications*: This herb should not be used by pregnant women and should be used with caution by those with Spleen Deficiency.

Common TCM formulas in which Ru Xiang is used*

Gua Lou San

Source date: 1826 AD

Number of ingredients: 8 herbs

Formula key actions: Remove breast carbuncle (mastitis) after birth giving.

In Gua Lou San, Ru Xiang invigorates Blood and eliminates Stagnation

Read more about Gua Lou San

Key TCM concepts behind Ru Xiang's properties

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), Ru Xiang belongs to the 'Herbs that invigorate the Blood' category. Like the name indicates these herbs tend to stimulate the Blood flow. In TCM they're used to help the circulation of Blood in cardiovascular conditions or menstrual irregularities as well as to treat acute pains caused by Blood Stagnation. They can also be used to treat Blood Stagnation when it causes certain tumors, cysts and hardened clots.

Furthermore Ru Xiang is Warm in nature. This means that Ru Xiang tends to help people who have too much 'Cold' in their body, although with less effect than a plant that would be Hot in nature. Balance between Yin and Yang is a key health concept in TCM. Those who have too much Cold in their body are said to either have a Yin Excess (because Yin is Cold in nature) or a Yang Deficiency (Yang is Hot in Nature). Depending on your condition Ru Xiang can help restore a harmonious balance between Yin and Yang.

Ru Xiang also tastes Bitter and Pungent. The so-called 'Five Phases' theory in Chinese Medicine states that the taste of TCM ingredients is a key determinant of their action in the body. Bitter ingredients like Ru Xiang tends to have a cleansing action on the body by clearing Heat, drying Dampness and promoting elimination via urination or bowel movements. On the other hand Pungent ingredients tend to promote the circulations of Qi and Body Fluids. That's why for instance someone tends to sweat a lot when they eat spicy/pungent food.

The tastes of ingredients in TCM also determine what Organs and Meridians they target. As such Ru Xiang is thought to target the Spleen, the Heart and the Liver. In TCM the Spleen assists with digestion, Blood coagulation and Fluids metabolism in the body. In addition to regulating Blood flow, the Heart is believed to be the store of the 'Mind' which basically refers to someone's vitality. The Liver is often referred as the body's "general" because it is in charge of regulating the movements of Qi and the Body Fluids. It also takes a leading role in balancing our emotions.

Research on Ru Xiang

Frankincense was shown to exert significant anti‐inflammatory and pro‐apoptotic activity in many assays: in vitro, in vivo and in clinical trials. Furthermore incensole acetate, a major components of Boswellia resin, exerts a robust neuroprotective effect after brain trauma and has anti‐depressive and anxiolytic effects in mice.1

A veterinary clinical trial on dogs showed that Frankincense had evident efficacy in the treatment of chronic joint and spinal disease with osteoarthritis and degenerative conditions.2


1. Moussaieff, A. and Mechoulam, R. (2009), Boswellia resin: from religious ceremonies to medical uses; a review of in‐vitro, in‐vivo and clinical trials. Journal of Pharmacy and Pharmacology, 61: 1281-1293. doi:10.1211/jpp.61.10.0003

2. J. Reichling, H. Schmökel, J. Fitzi, S. Bucher, R. Saller (2004). Dietary support with Boswellia resin in canine inflammatory joint and spinal disease. Schweizer Archiv für Tierheilkunde, 146, pp. 71-79. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1024/0036-7281.146.2.71.