Frankincense, the resin from Boswellia trees, has been a significant export since biblical times. Already a rare commodity, the demand for frankincense from the essential oil industry has pushed frankincense species to a near threatened level.


Boswellia is primarily grown in Somalia, Southern Arabia, Ethiopia, Sudan, and other African countries. Each species has a unique chemical profile when distilled, as well as distinguishing botanical factors.


Each species of Boswellia has a different harvesting cycle. Resin is harvested by making cuts into the bark of the tree and collecting the resin that seeps out.


The harvesters of frankincense have multiple buyers across the world. Sustainability of the species is dependent on buyers demanding sustainable practices from their suppliers.


Boswellia forests in Somaliland face the challenge of decreasing trees and an increase demand in frankincense. In many communities throughout the growing region, frankincense harvesting is the only, or by far the dominant, industry. Taking pressure off the frankincense trees will require alternative opportunities in the long term.

Our Work

Dr. DeCarlo has worked with growers in Somaliland and Ethiopia to determine the issues that face the frankincense trees and the opportunities for growth. Finding several over-harvested trees, Dr. DeCarlo saw that the trees are dying due to the increased demand for the resin. Her proposal for sustainable frankincense requires implementing forest protection and enforcement.

Other Resources