« Is This The End of The Indie Beauty Products Boom as We Know It? | Main | Struggles of Honest Aromatic Crops Businessmen in Afghanistan »

June 04, 2008

New Study Confirms psychoactive effect of [Frank]incense

A new study published in the The FASEB Journal, a journal of experimental biology

"found that incensole acetate, a Boswellia resin constituent, when tested in mice lowers anxiety and causes antidepressive-like behavior.” 

The press release goes on to cite this study as an explanation of how burning incense may have had a spiritual effect--a fact that is obvious to holistic aromatherapists. The significance of this study is that the study the mechanism that causes the effect was discovered.

There is an earlier study (2) on the anti-inflammatory effects of  Boswellia by the same authors that isolated the compound from Boswellia carterii, the common frankincense. The study authors suggest that the exact mechanism of the effect may be by activating TRPV3 that is found in neurons throughout the brain. TRPV3 is an ion channel implicated in the perception of warmth in the skin, as well as in the brain.

For this study, the incensole acetate was injected intraperitoneally into the mice, and then the mice were subjected to behavioral tests. A control group of mice that were known to be insensitive to TRPV3 stimulation was also used.

The psychoactive effects of frankincense are well known to aromatherapists, who are also aware that the the burnt resin has entirely different chemical composition than the essential oil components(3). Since the administration in this case was by injection and because incensole acetate is a (relatively minor - 2.3%) constituent of the essential oil there may be a different effect through inhalation of the essential oil; in any case this study did not address that. Reference (4) studied the Pyrolysates (burnt products) and found that insensole rises to 22% and incensyl acetate to 15.5%, so the effect may be greater when incense is used.

The study has been widely reported on in the scientific media, but as usual the press release was used as the major source and no one appears to have asked any interesting questions, which are answered in the full paper.

It would be interesting to see this study repeated using the essential oil.


(1) Arieh Moussaieff et al. Incensole acetate, an incense component, elicits psychoactivity by activating TRPV3 channels in the brain, Published online before print May 20, 2008 as doi: 10.1096/fj.07-101865. Abstract at http://www.fasebj.org/cgi/content/abstract/fj.07-101865v1

(2) Arieh Moussaieff et al. Incensole acetate: a novel neuroprotective agent isolated from Boswellia carterii, Journal of Cerebral Blood Flow & Metabolism advance online publication 16 April 2008; doi: 10.1038/jcbfm.2008.28. Abstract at http://www.nature.com/jcbfm/journal/vaop/ncurrent/abs/jcbfm200828a.html

(3) Lis-Balchin, Maria.  Aromatherapy Science: A guide for healthcare professionals. Pharmaceutical Press: 2006. p. 193.

(4)  Basar, Simla. Phytochemical Investigations on Boswellia Species. Dr. dissertation. University of Hamberg 2005. Online at http://deposit.ddb.de/cgi-bin/dokserv?idn=975255932&dok_var=d1&dok_ext=pdf&filename=975255932.pdf

Posted by Rob on June 4, 2008 in Aromatherapy, Essential Oils/Plant Extractions, Incense, Research | Permalink


TrackBack URL for this entry:

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference New Study Confirms psychoactive effect of [Frank]incense:


Great article!

In fact since ages incense and aromatic products were used in Indian and tibetan meditation to help in conventrating. And the whole of aromatherapy is based on this.

You have more such details on http://aurovillesaroma.wordpress.com/

Posted by: aurovillesaroma | Aug 22, 2010 8:06:10 AM

The comments to this entry are closed.