• Sunday, May 25, 2008

    Burning Incense May Moderate Depression

    As a retailer, one of my favorite items to sell was incense . . . yet another excuse to burn my beloved mulberry scented incense. Since my "back in the day" hippie days, incense and candles have been a part of my life. There is something soothing about the atmosphere it creates for me. Little did I know that my very inexpensive indulgence is also therapeutic.

    Here is an article that links burning incense to aiding in moderating depression . . . very interesting theory!

    By: Rick Nauert, Ph.D.
    Senior News Editor

    Reviewed by: John M. Grohol, Psy.D.
    on May 21, 2008

    Wednesday, May 21 (Psych Central)

    Burning incense is a practice that has been a part of religious ceremonies for many millennia.

    In a new study an international team of scientists have discovered how burning frankincense (resin from the Boswellia plant) activates poorly understood ion channels in the brain that alleviate anxiety or depression.

    The finding 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.

    The study appears online in The Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB) Journal (http://www.fasebj.org).

    “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.

    Source: Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology

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