With the festive season just wrapping up, the seasonal scent of frankincense is likely to be leaving most homes. However, new research has indicated that those who burn frankincense on a regular basis are less likely to suffer from depression.

A new study conducted by researchers at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem and John Hopkins University has found that when rats ingested the primary component of frankincense, generally known under its chemical name of boswella, the brains of the rats were modified. It created a feeling of mood balance and acted as an anti-depressant of sorts.

Raphael Mechoulam, one of the researchers and authors of the findings, commented: “In spite of information stemming from ancient texts, constituents of Boswellia had not been investigated for psychoactivity.”

He also commented upon the research, suggesting that incensole acetate, the forementioned main component of the boswellia resin (also known as frankincense), can help lower levels of anxiety and promote feelings of positive mood.

As the team at NoortropicMind explain: “One of the main neuro-active components of frankincense is the incensole acetate. Incensole acetate is a compound that stimulates the transient receptor potential vanilloid (TRPV3). The stimulation of this ion channel has been shown to relieve anxiety and depression in animal studies. TRPV3 falls within a class of ion channels that are not relatively understood by researchers as of now but have gained attention in the past few years for their connection to mood states.”

Depression is one of the most debilitating illnesses on the planet — an estimated 11 million Americans suffer from major depressive disorder, and another 40 million Americans have reported that they suffer from anxiety in varying degrees in their daily lives. While the burning of incense has been a staple of religious ceremonies almost since the dawn of organized religion itself, the evidence that burning frankincense can actually have a beneficial effect on the mind is something that’s been only recently explored in the realm of scientific research. In fact, given the popularity of incense in the majority of major religions’ rituals, it could be that burning frankincense as part of a ritual leads to an association of positive feeling and mood enhancement with being in the place of worship itself, and so increases the positive feelings toward the place of worship and religion in question.

Gerald Weissmann, MD and Editor-in-Chief of The FASEB (Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology) Journal, commented on the discovery: “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!”

This can be positive news for the millions of individuals around the world who suffer from major depressive disorder and anxiety on a daily basis to whatever extent. Even though it in no way is a suitable substitute for therapy or prescribed medication, the idea of burning a pleasant-smelling frankincense candle on a daily basis to help soothe depression and anxiety is a small, but potentially important, comfort and a worthwhile avenue for future research. So, if you’re feeling down or want something to help you combat any ongoing depression or anxiety issues you may be having, it may be useful to invest in some frankincense candles, which, while certainly not a cure for the disease, is a manageable element of self-care and potentially beneficial for anyone suffering with these conditions.

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