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Organic Certification is Not Enough: The Case of the Methoxydecane Frankincense

1
Aromatic Plant Research Center, 230 N 1200 E, Suite 100, Lehi, UT 84043, USA
2
Department of Chemistry, University of Alabama in Huntsville, Huntsville, AL 35899, USA
*
Authors to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Plants 2019, 8(4), 88; https://doi.org/10.3390/plants8040088
Received: 14 March 2019 / Revised: 1 April 2019 / Accepted: 3 April 2019 / Published: 4 April 2019
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Abstract

Frankincense, the oleo-gum-resin of Boswellia trees, has been an important religious and medicinal element for thousands of years, and today is used extensively for essential oils. One of the most popular frankincense species is Boswellia sacra Flueck. (syn. Boswellia carteri Birdw.) from Somalia and Somaliland. Recent increases in demand have led to many areas being overharvested, emphasizing the need for incentives and monitoring for sustainable harvesting, such as certification schemes. Concurrently, a new chemical component, called methoxydecane, has emerged in oils claimed to be B. carteri, suggesting the possibility of a chemical marker of overharvesting or other stress that could aid in monitoring. To find the source of this new chemical component, we sampled resin directly from trees in areas producing the new methoxydecane chemotype. This revealed that methoxydecane comes not from Boswellia carteri, but from a newly described frankincense species, Boswellia occulta. The presence of Boswellia occulta oil in essential oil sold as pure B. carteri, including certified organic oil, emphasizes the current lack of traceability in the supply chain and the ineffectiveness of organic certification to secure purity and sustainable harvesting in wildcrafted species. View Full-Text
Keywords: methoxydecane; decyl methyl ether; octyl methyl ether; frankincense; Boswellia carteri; Boswellia sacra; Boswellia occulta; olibanum; organic certification; non-timber forest products methoxydecane; decyl methyl ether; octyl methyl ether; frankincense; Boswellia carteri; Boswellia sacra; Boswellia occulta; olibanum; organic certification; non-timber forest products
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This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited (CC BY 4.0).
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Johnson, S.; DeCarlo, A.; Satyal, P.; Dosoky, N.S.; Sorensen, A.; Setzer, W.N. Organic Certification is Not Enough: The Case of the Methoxydecane Frankincense. Plants 2019, 8, 88.

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