Thursday, July 17, 2008

Frankincense: It's what's good for you

Frankincense and Mirth

Many ancient cultures knew of the healing and spiritual benefits of Frankincense. There's now tentative scientific confirmation of the healing power of this remarkable tree resin.

...Pharmacologists in Israel have found that frankincense... relieves anxiety and depression, at least in mice...researchers from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and elsewhere report that the active ingredient in frankincense lights up brain receptors that play a role in the perception of warmth on the skin and might help...

Many of us use frankincense (often combined with other ingredients) in our rituals and magic. I fondly remember buying my first sizable quantity of frankincense (and myrrh) from Enchantments in NYC; when I made my request of the proprietor, he instantly pronounced me a 'frankincense and myrrh man'. He was right:

...spiritual adepts greeted the news with knowing nods...“I’m not surprised,” Stacy Rapp and Cat Cabral said in unison last Friday behind the cluttered apothecary counter at Enchantments, an occult supply shop in the East Village...“Any kind of magic you’re doing,” Ms. Cabral said, “frankincense would be great for...happiness, or success, or attention, even.” Ms. Rapp, the store’s owner...noted that frankincense is also a “solar scent” and therefore linked to joy and to life-giving forces...

Some researchers are questioning the studies findings, as mice are certainly not a perfect analogies for humans. But one of the studies co-authors is Rapheal Mechoulam, who has considerable clout in the field of psychoactive substances, as he's one of the people who discovered the active ingredient of marijuana, tetrahydrocannabinol. Dr. Mechoulam defends his study:

“...There is a complete parallelism between this test and human tests in other drugs,” Dr. Mechoulam said. “Valium will do exactly the same...”

Wow! Frankincense is as good as valium! I nearly just fell over on the dash to the censor. But not everyone like the incense. Ms. Rapp of Enchantments said:

" makes me think of church, which is not a good association...”

How true. Last year I burned a little at a Christmas party. The people who hosted the party had their place done-up in typical seasonal fashion. Just about everyone seemed of an earthy, older hippie persuasion. Of course, I asked if it was OK to light some up. After a few minutes, a couple people there were completely freaking out. I'm talking shear panic. Turns out a big chunk of the people there were hard-core Atheists. One said the smell reminded them of church, which caused a holiday bunch of "not good association" to descend on the crowd. I brought the censor outside.

A few days later, I went to another Christmas party. This one was hosted by a friend of mine who happens to be very politically conservative. (For example, car of the fellow hosting the party sported 'GW' and "NRA" bumperstickers.) Most of the crowd lean to my friends persuasion. Playing guitar at the gathering was a local Xtain pastor. I could not resist, and struck up a coal and plopped on some frankincense and myrrh. The scent generated immediate interest, people asking what it was. Everyone seemed to like it. When the pastor got a good whiff, he asked "Is that what I think it is?" I told him, and he jokingly asked "So where's the gold leaf?"

I'm fascinated by the two different reactions. Here's a direct link to the abstract for the paper: "Incensole acetate, an incense component, elicits psychoactivity by activating TRPV3 channels in the brain".


green_ghost113 said...

Cool Gene!
I think I'll go light up some Frankincense now! And I'll meditate on the Valium effect! :)

genexs said...

I love the scent, too. Maybe I should post something of a 'how to'? That might help those not on the Wiccan/Pagan path to join in the fun.