This ancient solution to depression works like modern drugs — but it's safer

August 19, 2008
Volume 05    |   Issue 31

Here's an answer to depression that dates back to biblical times. We?re just beginning to understand how and why it works. And researchers are finding it?s both safe and effective.

It?s a good thing, too. Major depression is becoming epidemic. It affects around 14.8 million adults in this country between the ages of 15 and 44. Another 3.3 million people are anxious and experience less severe depression. Some of these depression sufferers find their antidepressants don?t work as well as they would like. And the side effects can be intolerable.

So what is this ancient treatment? Well, it begins with incense.

Religious ceremonies have burnt incense for centuries. Now it looks like one particular incense, works wonders for your mood. Scientists from Johns Hopkins University and the Hebrew University in Jerusalem discovered the connection. They found that Boswellia resin turns on the same part of the brain modern anxiety and depression drugs activate. You may have heard of Boswellia. But you?re probably more familiar with the name used in the Bible - frankincense.

In the study published, scientists extracted a chemical in Boswellia called incensole acetate. Then they tested it on mice. They found that it significantly affects areas of the brain that control emotions. It also influences the same nerve circuits as current antidepressant drugs.

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Don?t be surprised if drug companies try to use incensole acetate in antidepressants. But that?s likely years away. Personally, I think we?ll find incense can help with many other health issues, such as Alzheimer?s disease. Why? Because this chemical also acts as an anti-inflammatory.

Meanwhile, if you?re taking any antidepressant medications, either prescription or over-the-counter, don?t stop taking them. They may be just what you need. Instead, you may want to get some frankincense and burn a little of it each day. If you notice that it reduces your anxiety or depression, discuss this with your doctor and show him or her this article. Frankincense may be worth adding to your daily protocol, especially if you like the way it smells. Over time, you might be able to reduce your dosage of the drug.

Your voice of reason in Women's Health,


Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology, May 20, 2008.

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