Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Ha!!! I knew it.... I just knew it...

From blogger and Lutheran Pastor Todd Peperkorn:

Bethesda, MD—Religious leaders have contended for millennia that burning incense is good for the soul. Now, biologists have learned that it is good for our brains too. In a new study appearing online in The FASEB Journal (http://www.fasebj.org), an international team of scientists, including researchers from the United States and Israel, describe how burning frankincense (resin from the Boswellia plant) activates poorly understood ion channels in the brain to alleviate anxiety or depression. This suggests that an entirely new class of depression and anxiety drugs might be right under our noses.

Just a thought... this could explain why those who do not like incense are so, well, surly...  And, I am thinking of one person in particular here, if that person is reading this now... gotcha!


Kurt Onken said...

If it wasn't for my asthma, I would gladly inhale. If I'm sitting with the congregation, I'm fine. At the chancel is another story altogether.

mlorfeld said...

If you get the good stuff, it doesn't affect asthma nearly as much (or at all).

I do think part of it is psychosomatic. Especially since pure Frankincense actually relieves asthmatic bronchial constriction and other asthmas symptoms.

The big problem is when the cheap stuff that has many impurities. An easy way to increase the quality is to pick out the dark chunks and only use the light chunks.

Carl Vehse said...

From his October 29, 2010, blog, I knew it! Incence [sic] IS the cure for depression!, Rev. Peperkorn referenced the quoted text (from a now defunct news release) of a journal article from 2008. Rev. Peperkorn then states:

"I will have to digest this a little bit, but it does make a lot of sense to me. Incense or sulfur. I know which I would choose… My only question is, should this be categorized under “natural remedies” or “divine remedies” or something else?"

So let's look at the article, "Incensole acetate, an incense component, elicits psychoactivity by activating TRPV3 channels in the brain", Arieh Moussaieff, et al., The Journal of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology, Vol. 22 No. 8, August 1, 2008, pp. 3024-3034.

What we find is that the research article discusses the psychoactivity of incensole acetate, a specific component of the Boswellia resin incense. After separation and purification, the psychoactivity of incensole acetate was tested on... female mice! The tests were behavioral assays before and after "injection" of the chemical compound, and included an elevated maze, forced swimming, open field behavior, cataleptic effect, and other assays of cells removed from deeply anesthetized mice (no tests under liturgical were apparently performed). From this maze of tests (so to speak) the researchers concluded that "our data support our original contention, namely that Boswellia resin may [weasel word!] affect sensation and emotional states."

I will leave it to biotheological experts on the application of incensole acetate injections altering mice emotions to Boswellia resin burning under Christian liturgical settings.

Chris said...

Even in spite of this scientific evidence, most Lutherans will still continue to oppose the use of incense because "the Catholics do it and we're against everything they do!"

Carl Vehse said...

The FASEBJ article also has a Supplemental data file, "Incensole acetate, an incense component, elicits psychoactivity by activating TRPV3 channels in the brain," which includes this Supplementary Historical and Background Material:

"In the ancient Middle East Boswellia resin was considered a highly precious commodity imported from Somalia and Abyssinia (1). Pliny writes that only 3000 families of the Sabei tribe behold the trees which produce it; the trees were considered sacred and while pruning the trees or gathering the resin men were forbidden to be poluted by sexual intercourse (2). Herodotus writes that 'Whenever a man of Babylon has intercourse with his wife, he sits before an offering of incense, and the woman sits opposite him…' (3).

"The Bible mentions that the smell of incense ‘makes the heart glad’ (4). In the original Hebrew Talmudic text the correct statement about the use of Boswellia resin administered to prisoners condemned to death is that the wine with frankincense is administered 'to confuse' or 'lose' one’s mind, rather than 'to benumb the senses' as mentioned in the present article, which is cited from the English translation. Rashi – a major medieval Talmudic scholar - comments that Boswellia resin was given to the condemned person, so that 'he will not worry' (5). Based on the Talmudic text some scholars assume that wine with frankincense was the drink given to Jesus before the crucifixion (6).

"The use of Boswellia resin for its psychoactive properties extends beyond the Near East and Europe. In Ayurveda, an Indian medical tradition, Boswellia resin is reported to have a 'strong action on the nervous system' (7)."

Assuming this information is correct, there may be some regulatory concerns about burning such a psychoactive incense in the presence of minors within a religious setting, especially since the psychoactive effect is the acknowledged intent of the incense burning.

Anonymous said...

Oh, puleeeeze... it was an attempt at humor over something that some folks have taken way too seriously. Plus, a little incense ain't gonna cause your kids to get high. We need to get a grip...

Steve said...

Pastor Peters,
Thanks for three great articles. I won't say they were all entertaining but certainly worth reading.

I resonated significantly with (yesterday's?) article on speach and reading. I work with fairly educated people who can't put three words together without one being profane or vulgar. I long for wonderful clean, intellectually stimulating conversations with someone, I think I'll go get some incense now and destress my brain;)

Carl Vehse said...

"Especially since pure Frankincense actually relieves asthmatic bronchial constriction and other asthmas symptoms."

Rev. Lorfeld,

The only clinical test paper I found on the application of a component of Frankincense to asthma was "Effects of Boswellia serrata gum resin in patients with bronchial asthma, Gupta I, Gupta V, Parihar A, Gupta S, Lüdtke R, Safayhi H, Ammon HP, European Journal of Medical Research, Vol. 3, No. 11, November 17, 1998, pp. 511-4.

According to the abstract, 300 milligrams of gum resin of Boswellia serrata were given three times daily for a period of 6 weeks to forty patients in a double blind, placebo-controlled study. Seventy percent of the patients showed improvement compared to 27 percent of the patients in the plecebo group showing improvement.

It is not evident from this 1998 study that the breathing of vapors and particulates from the burning of the frankincense Boswellia resin would have similar beneficial effects on people with a history of asthma. Do you have some other more recent scientific references on which you based your statement?

Unknown said...

Even though antibiotics kill bacterial infections, for some people they cause deadly reactions. My point is that just because something is beneficial in one particular way does not preclude it from being harmful to some.

It is NOT psychosomatic. I love incense and the whole understanding of worshiping with all of our senses. I really wish that I could be around it, but for some reason my lungs have a sensitivity to it as they do with almost all smoke, beneficial or not.