But immunologist Mahmoud Suhail is hoping to open a new chapter in the history of frankincense.
Scientists have observed that there is some agent within frankincense which stops cancer spreading, and which induces cancerous cells to close themselves down. He is trying to find out what this is.
“Cancer starts when the DNA code within the cell’s nucleus becomes corrupted,” he says. “It seems frankincense has a re-set function. It can tell the cell what the right DNA code should be.
“Frankincense separates the ‘brain’ of the cancerous cell – the nucleus – from the ‘body’ – the cytoplasm, and closes down the nucleus to stop it reproducing corrupted DNA codes.”
Working with frankincense could revolutionise the treatment of cancer. Currently, with chemotherapy, doctors blast the area around a tumour to kill the cancer, but that also kills healthy cells, and weakens the patient. Treatment with frankincense could eradicate the cancerous cells alone and let the others live.