For thousands of years, Frankincense has been an essential aspect of various cultural and religious ceremonies. Made from the resin of the Boswellia tree – native to the Arabian Peninsula and Northeastern Africa – Frankincense can be purposed into oil, incense, or burned in its raw form to be used in spiritual practice, meditation, or medical application.
While valued highly by ancient civilizations like the Romans, Greeks, and Egyptians, Frankincense is still used today as a keystone of holistic healing and spiritual wellness. What was once a gift for gods and kings can now be accessed with relative ease by anyone who wishes to take advantage of its benefits.
But what exactly can this precious substance do for us today? While considered highly precious to the ancients, how does it hold up in today’s modern climate of medicine?
Frankincense And Its Uses
Frankincense is primarily credited with having the ability to soothe and calm the mind, as well as center the spirit. Perhaps its association with spiritual practice contributed to it being used for this purpose, as having a calm and open mind is often considered essential to meditation and other forms of spiritual connection.
Today, Frankincense is being called on as a natural solution to one of the nations most prominent conditions: depression. As one of the leading causes of disability in the United States, depression reportedly affects around 16.2 million adults as of 2016. (2) Standard treatment of depression usually consists of psychoactive antidepressant medications, which tend to come partnered with a host of undesirable side effects, such as: (3)
- Strange dreams
- Increased appetite and weight gain
- Loss of sexual desire and other sexual problems
- Fatigue and drowsiness
- Dry mouth
- Blurred vision
Frankincense has begun to be used on the scene of modern natural healing as a compliment or even alternative to these kinds of medications for a side-effect-free treatment for depression. But what science do we have to stand behind this application? According to researcher Raphael Mechoulam, “In spite of information stemming from ancient texts, constituents of Bosweilla (Frankincense) had not been investigated for psychoactivity.” He and the research teams of Johns Hopkins University and the Hebrew University in Jerusalem decided to put these claims to the test for the first time.
Frankincense And Depression: The Proof In The Science
The study the researchers of these universities conducted focused primarily on a poorly understood ion channel found in the human brain. Transient receptor potential vanilloid 3 (TRPV3) is an ion channel typically responsible for the sensory reception of warmth in the skin, but its role in brain neurons had yet to be identified. In this study, it was discovered that TRPV3 had a direct and active reaction to incensole acetate, a component of Frankincense resin, in a way that “causes anxiolytic-like and antidepressive-like behavioral effects in wild-type (WT) mice.” (4)
Raphael Mechoulam remarked that “most present day worshipers assume that incense burning has only a symbolic meaning.” However, the results of this study may show that the ancients may have used Frankincense for more concrete and measurable reasons. They may have acknowledged its soothing effects themselves, and picked it as an ideal addition to rituals to help support a calmer and more spiritual state in practice.
This incredible substance has withstood time itself as a staple of healing, and the discoveries of Raphael Mechoulam and his teams of researchers only reinforces the powerful role Frankincense can play in our wellness and lives.
What are your thoughts? Have you tried using Frankincense for mental health or other reasons? Share your thoughts with us, we’d love to hear from you.