It’s well known, throughout the history of religion, that burning incense acts as a “psychopomp” – i.e. if you do it every time you practice any kind of religious rite/ritual, your subconscious then associates it with that special purpose, and then when you burn the incense your subconscious automatically takes over and you achieve an altered state of consciousness much more easily.
But according to this news article, studies are being done (incidentally, on mice, which is abbhorent – there is no reason this study can’t be done on people) that indicate that incense made from frankincense resin – a scent long associated with religious practice, and still widely used in Catholic and Orthodox rituals today – actually physically affects channels in the brain:
“…burning frankincense (resin from the Boswellia plant) activates poorly understood ion channels in the brain to alleviate anxiety or depression… They found that the compound significantly affected areas in brain areas known to be involved in emotions as well as in nerve circuits that are affected by current anxiety and depression drugs…”
Of course, this effect has largely been well documented in numerous ancient texts, as reflected in contemporary NeoPagan knowledge. Scott Cunningham, for example, who is well known for his extensive writing on herbalism and aromatherapy, describes the properties of the scent of frankincense thus:
“The aroma of frankincense also reduces stress and tension… (by pointing out that our lives are bound up with more than one “reality”.) This knowledge is soothing in the face of adversity and hardship.” (Magical Aromatherapy, 1989.)
(A brief note on part of that extract – the idea of multiple realities is in accordance with contemporary psychological views that disorders such as depression and anxiety often represent the individual being trapped within their own (bleak) perspective.)
So, it’s nice to see that modern medicine has once again made a catch up with ancient religious knowledge! But sarcasm aside, it’s interesting.