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. Anxiety disorders affect 40 million American adults, and frequently co-occur with depressive disorders.
Burning incense has been used for millenniums as a way to appease the spirits, pleasure the senses, heighten the vibration, heal the body and sooth the soul. In a new study, biologists have found that it’s good for our brain and mood too.
An international team of scientists and researchers from Johns Hopkins University and the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, state that burning frankincense (resin from the Boswellia plant) activates ion channels in the brain to alleviate anxiety or depression.
This may be the new “psychoactive drug” that has been right under our noses the whole time.
Rachel Mechoulam, one of the research co-authors, said, “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.”
“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!”
Here are some common incenses and their properties:
Amber – knowledge, meditation, love
Cedarwood – strength, power, clearing
Cinnamon – protection, passion, lust, aphrodisiac, raises energy
Copal – clearing, purification
Clove – wealth, healing, divination, clairvoyance
Frankincense – luck, calm, peace, stress and anxiety relief
Jasmine – love, beauty, aphrodesiac, friendship
Lavender – beauty, magic, healing, calming
Lotus – mental clarity, increased focus, heightened intelligence
Musk – restoring balance and order, realigning ones energies, sealing portals, creating barriers and protection
Myrrh – heavenly purification and exorcism
Nag Champa – sacred, purification, spiritual enlightenment, evolution
Patchouli – happiness, joy
Rose –love, sex, desire, clairvoyance
Sandalwood – purification
Sweetgrass – positive energy, clearing, purification
Vanilla – love, lust, intelligence