Proven Effects of Frankincense

The Recent Findings on the Beneficial Effects of Frankincense

"Incense is Psychoactive" article

From "Think Gene" - posted by Josh hill

- “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. In a new study appearing online in The FASEB Journal (http://www.fasebj.org), 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 Boswellia 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.”

From the The FASEB Journal. 2008

Burning of Boswellia resin as incense has been part of religious and cultural ceremonies for millennia and is believed to contribute to the spiritual exaltation associated with such events. RESEARCH ON PLANTS ELICITING psychoactive effects, such as Cannabis sativa, Papaver species, and Nicotiana tabacum, has provided important insights into neurochemical processes and diseases of the central nervous system (CNS) (1) . Psychoactive plant drugs have also played a major role in religious customs in many ancient cultures, as they exert a profound effect on human consciousness, emotions and cognition. Notable examples of plants that were used in religious rituals are the mythological Aryan soma, Ipomoea linnaeus (the source of South American ololiuqui), Cannabis sativa, Salvia divinorum (the source of divinorin) (2) , Nicotiana tabacum (3) , and several Boswellia species. The resin of Boswellia species (Burseraceae; "frankincense" and "olibanum") is mentioned in numerous ancient texts as incense by itself or as a major component of incense (4) . In the ancient Middle East, Boswellia resin was considered a highly precious commodity, carried in caravans from sub-Sahara regions, where it is still a major export product (5) . In ancient Egypt, incense burning signified a manifestation of the presence of the gods and a gratification to them. In ancient Judea, it was a central ceremony in the temple. The ancient Greeks used incense burning as an oblation. In Christendom, its use in worship has continued since the fourth or fifth century C.E (6) . 

The psychoactivity of Boswellia was already recognized in ancient times. Dioscorides (first century C.E.) writes that it causes madness (7) . In the Jewish Talmud (300–600 C.E.), Boswellia resin is mentioned as a potion (in wine) given to prisoners condemned to death to "benumb the senses" (8) . In Ethiopia, where Boswellia trees are indigenous, it is believed to have a tranquilizing effect .

In view of the prolonged use of Boswellia, its historical importance, and its significance in cultural and religious rituals along with its purported pharmacological effects, we investigated the biochemical profile and psychoactivity of purified components of Boswellia resin. We assumed that the spiritual exaltation caused by incense burning in religious ceremonies would be enhanced by putative pharmacological effects of its constituents, particularly on the conductors of the ceremonies, who presumably inhale large amounts of smoke. We are unaware of any attempt to identify constituents with an effect on sensation or emotion. Menon and Kar (10) have reported that an ether extract of Boswellia serrata resin produces analgesic and sedative effects in rats, but the compounds causing these effects have not been isolated.

We examined Boswellia extract for the presence of novel bioactive components and isolated incensole acetate (IA) as a major active constituent of Boswellia resin. 

Molecular image of Frankincense Resin - a very beauiful and revealing photo


This article was published on Thursday 29 March, 2012.