Burning Incense Is Psychoactive:

This may be an older article, but I am glad, that science is FINALLLLLY catching up to ancient – and shamanic knowledge 🙂

Article from Science Daily:

Burning Incense Is Psychoactive: New Class Of Antidepressants Might Be Right Under Our Noses

May 20, 2008
Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology
Burning frankincense (resin from the Boswellia plant) activates poorly understood ion channels in the brain to alleviate anxiety or depression. This suggests that an entirely new class of depression and anxiety drugs might be right under our noses.
incense burner in Nepal.

incense burner in Nepal.

Religious leaders have contended for millennia that burning incense is good for the soul. Now, biologists have learned that it is good for our brains too. An international team of scientists, including researchers from Johns Hopkins University and the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, describe how burning frankincense (resin from the Boswellia plant) activates poorly understood ion channels in the brain to alleviate anxiety or depression. This suggests that an entirely new class of depression and anxiety drugs might be right under our noses.

“In spite of information stemming from ancient texts, constituents of Bosweilla had not been investigated for psychoactivity,” said Raphael Mechoulam, one of the research study’s co-authors. “We found that incensole acetate, a Boswellia resin constituent, when tested in mice lowers anxiety and causes antidepressive-like behavior. Apparently, most present day worshipers assume that incense burning has only a symbolic meaning.”

To determine incense’s psychoactive effects, the researchers administered incensole acetate to mice. They found that the compound significantly affected areas in brain areas known to be involved in emotions as well as in nerve circuits that are affected by current anxiety and depression drugs. Specifically, incensole acetate activated a protein called TRPV3, which is present in mammalian brains and also known to play a role in the perception of warmth of the skin. When mice bred without this protein were exposed to incensole acetate, the compound had no effect on their brains.

“Perhaps Marx wasn’t too wrong when he called religion the opium of the people: morphine comes from poppies, cannabinoids from marijuana, and LSD from mushrooms; each of these has been used in one or another religious ceremony.” said Gerald Weissmann, M.D., Editor-in-Chief of The FASEB Journal. “Studies of how those psychoactive drugs work have helped us understand modern neurobiology. The discovery of how incensole acetate, purified from frankincense, works on specific targets in the brain should also help us understand diseases of the nervous system. This study also provides a biological explanation for millennia-old spiritual practices that have persisted across time, distance, culture, language, and religion–burning incense really does make you feel warm and tingly all over!”

According to the National Institutes of Health, major depressive disorder is the leading cause of disability in the United States for people ages 15–44, affecting approximately 14.8 million American adults. A less severe form of depression, dysthymic disorder, affects approximately 3.3 million American adults. Anxiety disorders affect 40 million American adults, and frequently co-occur with depressive disorders.




4 thoughts on “Burning Incense Is Psychoactive:

  1. Interesting article.
    The world (as you know) is full of a plethora of ant-depressant drugs, which many over & over seem to have no effect in alleviating the depression from the sufferer(s) , many with aweful side effects too.
    My own father who was soldier in WWII in Papua New Guinea, serving frontline action for nearly 4 years… well, in his latter years of life, clinical depression set in big time. He spent a lot of time in & out of a repat hospital for returned soldiers (which he hated) eventually agreeing to ECT, as none of the medications worked, He did not drink alcohol, though he did say he would be happy to take the medicine… if it worked. The ECT did not help either.
    PTSD was not even yet a word when that war was over & he returned home.

  2. Fascinating 🙂 Scent memory is powerful too – it can transport us to points in our lives. Like the smell of fresh cut grass reminds me of my childhood. It will be interesting to see if any new treatments or medications arise from this.

  3. That’s brilliant! I mean, I know how smudging with sage, OR smoking with Eucalyptus leaves, OR simply atomising pure essential oils shifts my mood and draws me in to a more sacred space… How lovely that science is on side with this one… for what that is worth… but how much better to simply smudge, rather than down heaps of tablets, with all their attendant side effects… 🙂

  4. Hi guys! 🙂
    I am glad, you appreciated the article. I at times, when i feel “down” use some Frankincense essential oil , dab s few drops on the insights of my wrists. I am always surprised how quickly that helps. smudging with Frankincense resin often lifts the mood of depressed clients and just as often I show them how to use it at home. I have a few addresses on hand, where they can get it.

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