Frankincense: Nature’s psychoactive antidepressant

Many of the conditions that pharmaceutical firms develop drugs for can be treated safely and more effectively with natural solutions, and depression is certainly no exception. Given the many dangers of antidepressant medications, scientists are regularly studying ways nature can address this common problem, and one herb that is showing a lot of promise is frankincense.

Your experience with frankincense might be limited to mentions at Christmastime and possibly burning it in incense form, but it’s far from obscure. In fact, it has been used for thousands of years in religious and cultural ceremonies. Frankincense is actually the resin of the Boswellia tree, and it was often used as a way to reach spiritual exaltation. However, it turns out that its use isn’t just symbolic; it does indeed change people’s moods.

When researchers from Hebrew University and Johns Hopkins University decided to look into the impact of frankincense on a scientific level, they discovered that it influences the areas of the brain that are responsible for emotion regulation. In addition, it had a significant effect on the nerve circuits that are impacted by modern antidepressant and antianxiety drugs.

In particular, it activated a protein known as TRPV3, causing a strong antidepressant effect that leaves people feeling relaxed and open. The protein, which is present in the brain of all mammals, also plays a role in the perception of warmth on your skin. When the researchers exposed mice who were bred to not have this protein to frankincense, it did not affect their brains.

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In other words, frankincense helps the mind to rest, which may be why religious and spiritual practices use the incense to help people relax and reflect. This could prove incredibly valuable at a time when depression affects nearly 15 million American adults and is the top cause of disability in the country. In addition, nearly 40 million America adults are affected by anxiety disorders.

Many people are trying to avoid antidepressants because of their very serious and life-threatening side effects, so this could prove a good alternative – or it could help those who are taking the drugs gain an extra edge to get through times of extreme distress. Even those who don’t suffer from depression can burn some incense when they want to feel more open and relaxed.

Other benefits of frankincense

The ability to help fight depression is significant enough on its own given its prevalence and the shortcomings of current treatments, but frankincense isn’t content to stop there. It can also help kill cancer cells, according to numerous studies. For example, research published in BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine showed that frankincense in herbal form spurred the death of bladder cancer cells, while a different study found that frankincense can kill three different human neuroblastoma cell lines as well as the Epstein-Barr virus.

It has also been shown to target and destroy ovarian cancer cells, and it even has this effect on those who are in the disease’s more advanced stages. In addition, frankincense has the power to mitigate the side effects of cancer treatments such as radiation therapy. It can also boost immunity.

Now that scientists are finally starting to take a serious look at this ancient resin, we could well see better and safer treatments for problems ranging from depression and anxiety to cancer. For now, diffusing frankincense oil is a relatively low-risk way to help alleviate anxiety and depression, and when combined with approaches like proper nutrition and meditation or yoga, it could be all you need to keep these conditions under control.

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