Spirituality, Yoga, & Conscious Living

The Science Of Incense And The Brain

The Science Of Incense And The Brain

The Power of Incense

If you’ve ever used incense, it may be doing more than just giving you a pleasant smell…

For many thousands of years, incense, and particularly frankincense, have been used in many religious and spiritual practices around the world. In fact, many ceremonies would be incomplete without it. But the use of incense extends far beyond just its ceremonial purposes; science has shown that incense does amazing things to the brain.

SEE ALSO: Is It Wrong To Wear Om?

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A Calming Effect

For years, scientists have been curious about what incense does do us. After all, many ancient texts refer to incense being used to help those that are agitated or upset. Frequently, priests and doctors would use the smell of incense, or even its resin, to calm a patient down. Intrigued by this, a group of researchers located primarily in Jerusalem began to put incense under the microscope. And what they found shocked them.

Incense, the Positive Drug

Through experimentation, scientists figured out there was an active compound in incense known as incensole acetate. This compound was then given to mice in a controlled setting. Researchers noticed that the incense compound actually had a dual effect: it was an anti-inflammatory, and it boosted their mood significantly. Armed with this information, they began to probe a little deeper. If it was true that incense had these positive effects on the brain and body, what is the actual mechanism?

It turns out that incense activates areas in the brain that were almost unknown until that point.

From Haaretz.com

“There are opiate plants and there are plants that affect dopamine, serotonin and similar substances that regulate the brain’s activity. The substances in these plants work using special receptors. It turns out that the active component in frankincense acts via a receptor that is hardly known in brain science. What is known is that this receptor, known as TRPV3, is found in nerves located beneath the skin and responds to a sensation of warmth.”

This receptor plays an important role in mood regulation and interplays with the active compounds in incense.


This discovery certainly made waves, and had many people excited about the potential for incense’s medicinal properties. This discovery also made us excited at Sivana, because we realize that incense is another tool to use when you’re looking to relax after a long day, or to sink into a relaxed state before meditating.

It’s amazing to think that science is finally beginning to confirm the ancient wisdom of the east!

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Matt Caron
Matt is the content manager of the Sivana blog, an enthusiastic Yoga teacher, and life voyager. He strives to inspire conscious living and conscious dialogue- not only for others but for himself. He's the founder of TheYogaBlog.com. You can find him on Facebook.

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