The End of Frankincense

“Concerted conservation and restoration efforts are urgently needed to secure the long-term availability of this iconic product.”Nature, International Journal of Science. 

“…That leaves overtapped trees that are weak and vulnerable to pests and early death before a new generation can replace them. Despite adult trees producing plenty of seeds, researchers seldom found any new saplings, let alone newly matured trees. Others are too weak to produce enough quality seeds.”New York Times

Will our generation witness the end of Frankincense? Several specialists in the field are concerned this might well be true. And you shouldn’t be surprised. You’ve seen it happen to oud, to sandalwood, to rubies, to salmon, hornbill, tigers, and a plethora of now extinct species and rarities.

In the early nineties, the pioneers who first entered the Papuan agarwood jungles thought they’ve discovered treasure that would last them a lifetime. Look where we are today (how many batches like Royal Jaya have you seen lately?) French perfumers thought they were set with sandalwood for life, until their supply chains across India dropped like a brick practically overnight. The plantations of Trat were supposed to let agarwood flourish… until farmers realized growing palm and durian made more sense. Those who thought Encens Royale 1985 would be around until next Ramadan are now pleading with us to double check—there must be a bottle somewhere.

So, a fateful end to frankincense (or at least a sudden decline in medicinal, quality frankincense) shouldn’t come as a surprise. Due to natural and unnatural causes, frankincense tree populations are declining. Research has shown that seeds from heavily tapped trees germinate at a rate of only 16% as opposed to 80% for untapped trees. And ‘heavily tapped’ has become the norm.

But, the verdict is still out. So, for now we should all hope for the best…… and strive to support people on the ground.

‘Support’ doesn’t just fall on producers, but on frankincense users equally. It falls on us. Overwhelming demand for ‘cheap’ has wreaked havoc on the availability of fine aromatics and the ability to pursue quality. Fast Food, Fast Fashion, Fast Fragrance… Earth is starting to reject these trends and doesn’t want to keep up no more.

If you’ve visited the Emirates (where frankincense gets used like sugar) recently, you’ll know that a trick that haunts any oud lover has become widespread. Much of the ‘Omani’ frankincense sold is in fact from Somalia, Ethiopia, and elsewhere. A seasoned luban lover can instantly tell by the look, smell, and taste what he’s getting, but masses of people are clueless and overpay big time for inferior goods… which legitimizes ‘cheap’ production practices. When you start to see practices like this become common, the claims made in recently published articles about the future of this famed resin don’t seem far-fetched. In fact, the signs are eerily familiar.

We work in direct collaboration with Omani physicians and farmers to bring you the pinnacle of the frankincense experience—and we’d love to continue this journey. A few of our oils have already sold out a while ago, so we’re happy to offer new essential oils that’s on par with Hojari Supreme—medicinal-grade, top notch frankincense oil. This is what frankincense can be, but in the market at large is not.

Time will tell what’s in store for the fate of Frankincense. For now, drip a drop in your drink and enjoy!

Shop Frankincense at Zaza.Haus >


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