Incense Proves Psychoactive | Chemical & Engineering News
Volume 86 Issue 22 | p. 44 | Concentrates
Issue Date: June 2, 2008

Incense Proves Psychoactive

Department: Science & Technology

Frankincense, which is often burned in religious and cultural ceremonies, may offer more punch to participants than just smoke and scent. Israeli researchers report that incensole acetate (IA), which was isolated from frankincense resin, is psychoactive in mice, specifically showing antidepressive and antianxiety effects (FASEB, DOI: 10.1096/fj.07-101865). In addition to the mice studies, Arieh Moussaieff, Raphael Mechoulam, Esther Shohami, and their colleagues at Hebrew University of Jerusalem also found that IA activated an ion channel called TRPV3, which is involved in warmth perception in the skin. TRPV3 channels are also present in neurons, but nobody has been able to figure out the ion channel's role in the brain, Moussaieff says. "Frankincense has been used in religious ceremonies in most major civilizations over the past 4,000 years," including ancient Egypt, Greece, and Judea, Moussaieff notes. "Our results imply that TRPV3 channels in the brain may play a role in emotional regulation. Furthermore, the biochemical and pharmacological effects of IA may provide a biological basis for deeply rooted cultural and religious traditions."

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